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This glossary of numismatics is a list of definitions of terms and concepts relevant to numismatics and coin collecting, as well as sub-fields and related disciplines, with concise explanations for the beginner or professional.
Numismatics (ancient Greek: νομισματική, meaning "monetary") is the scientific study of money and its history in all its varied forms. While numismatists are often characterized as studying coins, the discipline also includes the study of other types of money, such as banknotes, stock certificates, medals, medallions, and tokens (also referred to as exonumia ).
Sub-fields or related fields of numismatics are:
A coin is a small, flat, round piece of metal or plastic used primarily as a medium of exchange or legal tender. They are standardized in weight, and produced in large quantities at a mint in order to facilitate trade. They are most often issued by a government. Coins often have images, numerals, or text on them. Obverse and its opposite, reverse, refer to the two flat faces of coins and medals. In this usage, obverse means the front face of the object and reverse means the back face. The obverse of a coin is commonly called heads, because it often depicts the head of a prominent person, and the reverse tails.
The quarter, short for quarter dollar, is a United States coin worth 25 cents, one-quarter of a dollar. It has a diameter of 0.955 inch (24.26 mm) and a thickness of 0.069 inch (1.75 mm). The coin sports the profile of George Washington on its obverse, and its reverse design has changed frequently. It has been produced on and off since 1796 and consistently since 1831.
Coins of the United States dollar were first minted in 1792. New coins have been produced annually and they make up a valuable aspect of the United States currency system. Today, circulating coins exist in denominations of 1¢, 5¢, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, and $1.00. Also minted are bullion and commemorative coins. All of these are produced by the United States Mint. The coins are then sold to Federal Reserve Banks which in turn are responsible for putting coins into circulation and withdrawing them as demanded by the country's economy.
1943 steel cents are U.S. one-cent coins that were struck in steel due to wartime shortages of copper. The Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints each produced these 1943 Lincoln cents. The unique composition of the coin has led to various nicknames, such as wartime cent, steel war penny, zinc cent and steelie. The 1943 steel cent features the same Victor David Brenner design for the Lincoln cent which had been in use since 1909.
Mint-made errors are errors during the minting process. Groups of coins with distinctive characteristics are known as varieties. The term variety applies to coins with both intended and unintended differences while the term error refers only to coins with unintended differences. Nevertheless, not all errors are varieties. Although there may be many identical examples of some errors, others are unique. For example, there may be many indistinguishable examples of coins with a specific die crack, while off-center strikes tend to be unique. Being unique does not mean that an error is valuable. Although no other coin may be similar to a coin with an off-center strike, off-center strikes happen often enough that buyers can choose from many examples each of which varies slightly from the other. Mint error coins can be the result of deterioration of the minting equipment, accidents or malfunctions during the minting process, or intentional interventions by mint personnel. Accidental error coins are perhaps the most numerous and in modern minting are usually very rare, making them valuable to numismatists. Intentional intervention by mint personnel does not necessarily include a deliberate attempt to create an error, but usually involves an action intended to improve quality that miscarries and creates error coins instead. Errors can be the result of defective planchets, defective dies or the result of mistakes made during striking. The planchet, die, and striking classification system happens to correspond with the mintmarks of the three largest U.S. mints, Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco. Not all errors fall neatly within the categories. Sometimes design elements are missing from coins because die crevices are filled with grease. Labels used to identify specific categories of errors sometimes describe the cause of the error. Other errors names describe what the viewer sees when looking at the coin while others have names that were adapted for use. The result is that some errors are known by multiple names. Filled die errors are also known as missing design element errors and as strike throughs. As is noted below under the discussion of missing design element coins, some errors have multiple causes. A rare error that sold for $5462.50 on Heritage Auctions in August 2010 is an undated U.S nickel struck on top of a 1960 5 centavos. Foreign coins struck on a U.S coin planchet or vice versa are very uncommon and hold a high value.
A nickel is a five-cent coin struck by the United States Mint. Composed of 75% copper and 25% nickel, the piece has been issued since 1866. Its diameter is 0.835 inches (21.21 mm) and its thickness is 0.077 inches (1.95 mm). Due to inflation, the purchasing power of the nickel continues to drop, and currently the coin represents less than 1% of the federal hourly minimum wage. In 2018, over 1.26 billion nickels were produced at the Philadelphia and Denver mints.
The dollar coin is a United States coin with a face value of one United States dollar. It is the second largest U.S. coin currently minted for circulation in terms of physical size, with a diameter of 1.043 inches and a thickness of 0.079 in (2.0 mm), coming second to the half dollar. Dollar coins have been minted in the United States in gold, silver, and base metal versions. Dollar coins were first minted in the United States in 1794.
Proof coinage refers to special early samples of a coin issue, historically made for checking the dies and for archival purposes, but nowadays often struck in greater numbers specially for coin collectors (numismatists). Nearly all countries have issued proof coinage.
The Eisenhower dollar was a one-dollar coin issued by the United States Mint from 1971 to 1978; it was the first coin of that denomination issued by the Mint since the Peace dollar series ended in 1935. The coin depicts President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the obverse, and a stylized image honoring the 1969 Apollo 11 Moon mission on the reverse, with both sides designed by Frank Gasparro. It is the only large-size U.S. dollar coin whose circulation strikes contained no silver.
The American Gold Eagle is an official gold bullion coin of the United States. Authorized under the Gold Bullion Coin Act of 1985, it was first released by the United States Mint in 1986. Because the term "eagle" also is the official United States designation for pre-1933 ten dollars gold coins, the weight of the bullion coin is typically used when describing American Gold Eagles to avoid confusion. This is particularly true with the 1/4-oz American Gold Eagle, which has a marked face value of ten dollars.
The Flowing Hair dollar was the first dollar coin issued by the United States federal government. The coin was minted in 1794 and 1795; its size and weight were based on the Spanish dollar, which was popular in trade throughout the Americas.
The Indian Head cent, also known as an Indian Head penny, was a one-cent coin ($0.01) produced by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1859 to 1909. It was designed by James Barton Longacre, the Chief Engraver at the Philadelphia Mint.
The United States large cent was a coin with a face value of 1/100 of a United States dollar. Its nominal diameter was 11⁄8 inch (28.57 mm). The first official mintage of the large cent was in 1793, and its production continued until 1857, when it was officially replaced by the modern-size one-cent coin.
The Flying Eagle cent is a one-cent piece struck by the Mint of the United States as a pattern coin in 1856 and for circulation in 1857 and 1858. The coin was designed by Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre, with the eagle in flight based on the work of Longacre's predecessor, Christian Gobrecht.
The Silver center cent is an American pattern coin produced by the United States Mint in 1792. As a precursor to the large cent it was one of the first coins of the United States and an early example of a bimetallic coin. Only 12 original examples are known to exist, of which one is located in the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Two more specimens exist but contain fabricated plugs added after minting.
The coinage metals comprise, at a minimum, those metallic chemical elements which have historically been used as components in alloys used to mint coins. The term is not perfectly defined, however, since a number of metals have been used to make "demonstration coins" which have never been used to make monetized coins for any nation-state, but could be. Some of these elements would make excellent coins in theory, but their status as coin metals is not clear. In general, because of problems caused when coin metals are intrinsically valuable as commodities, there has been a trend in the 21st century toward use of coinage metals of only the least exotic and expensive types.
US error coins are error coins produced by the US government. There are three categories of error coins as provided by the American Numismatic Association. Metal usage and striking errors referred to widely as planchet errors, die errors, and mint striking errors. This does not include the varieties that the US Mint has issued over the years.
The copper-nickel three-cent piece, often called a three-cent nickel piece or three-cent nickel, was designed by US Mint Chief Engraver James B. Longacre and struck by the United States Bureau of the Mint from 1865 to 1889. It was initially popular, but its place in commerce was supplanted by the five-cent piece, or nickel.
The three-cent silver, also known as the three-cent piece in silver or trime, was struck by the Mint of the United States for circulation from 1851 to 1872, and as a proof coin in 1873. Designed by the Mint's chief engraver, James B. Longacre, it circulated well while other silver coinage was being hoarded and melted, but once that problem was addressed, became less used. It was abolished by Congress with the Coinage Act of 1873.
A gold coin is a coin that is made mostly or entirely of gold. Most gold coins minted since 1800 are 90–92% gold, while most of today's gold bullion coins are pure gold, such as the Britannia, Canadian Maple Leaf, and American Buffalo. Alloyed gold coins, like the American Gold Eagle and South African Krugerrand, are typically 91.7% gold by weight, with the remainder being silver and copper.