In the world of coins, abbreviations are almost a language unto themselves. For someone not familiar with the terms, it can seem like a foreign language. Yet, to truly master the art of coin collecting, understanding what each acronym or abbreviation stands for is critical.
This coin abbreviation guide for collectors is designed to help you understand what all of the common abbreviations, acronyms and definitions in coin collecting mean. Each list covers common terms and abbreviations that will be encountered during any average interaction with collectors or dealers.
Learning every little abbreviation is not critical to being able to enjoy coin collecting, but it makes it much easier. Being able to converse with other collectors and dealers on their level will make transactions run smoother and discussions more fun. Read on to learn the lingo of coin collecting!
Coin Grade Letters Explained
Coin grade letters are probably the easiest part of “coin talk” you will encounter. Each letter stands for one word and defines the condition of the coin at the point the coin was evaluated. Each letter designation is attached to a number, which establishes the number grade of that coin.
MS: Mint State
Coins graded as this level are struck in the same format as regular circulation issues. These coins receive a grade number between 60 to 70 (more on grade numbers below).
Coins in this condition were struck in a special format for collectors.
These coins are a hybrid between mint state and proof.
Coin Strike Characters Explained
Strike characters are letter designations that explain how well an area of a coin was struck and other details pertaining to the appearance of a coin. These are only applied to coins with special features.
RD And RB
Coins with this designation have a full mint red luster or a mix of red luster and brown patina.
The BN designation describes a coin with significant brown patina.
This applies only to PF coins and indicates that the fields are mirrored and frosted for contrast on both sides of the coin.
This also only applies to PF coins and indicates a coin that is mirrored and frosted for moderate contrast.
This designation means a coin is deeply mirrored but is not a proof coin.
Coins in this state only have mirroring.
Coin Release Designations Explained
In addition to coin status and strike designation, some dealers will assign codes pertaining to the types of release the coin has had. Examples of this are:
- ER: Early Release
- FR: First Release
- FDI: First Day of Issue
These designations always pertain to an event that is tied to the coin. The coins are also usually assigned an official release label by dealers that commemorate the release event. These designations are dealer and collector assigned and can vary based on the business selling the coins.
No dealer or collector designation is a substitute for the official language and certification by the US Mint. Most dealers and collectors will use designations assigned by the Numismatic Guarantee Corporation (NGC,) which is the official coin grader of the American Numismatic Association and the Professional Numismatists Guild.
Coin Grading Codes Explained
Coins also have grading codes that indicate the type of coin, its status and even its condition.
FDC – Fleur du Coin
FDC designates a proof coin that is as close to perfect as is possible. This coin would have no blemishes, abrasions, soft points, marks, or signs of wear.
Unc – Mint State Or Uncirculated Coins
Unc means the coin is uncirculated and has zero signs of wear.
AU – Almost Uncirculated Coins
AU coins show some wear on any ridges or high points.
XF Or EF – Extremely Fine
Coins with this designation show some wear at the high points.
VF – Very Fine
These coins show light wear, but all the features are crisp.
F – Fine
A coin with an F grade has moderate to heavy wear but the image on the coin is clear.
VG – Very Good
These coins have a lot of wear, but the design is clear although it lacks any details.
G – Good
G grade coins are very worn with a design that is visible, but very faint in spots.
AG – About Good
With an AG grade, you can see an outlined design, but the coin has extensive wear on the date and legend.
Fair – Fair State
A Fair grade means the coin is visible as a specific type of coin.
Basal – Basal State
With this grade, you can tell it is a coin, but that is all.
Coin Grade Numbers Explained
Coins are graded by their assessed condition and are assigned a number that reflects that assessment. The number range is 1 through 70. The higher the number, the better condition the coin is in. Uncirculated coins begin at number 60. Coins graded below that number are not usually considered to be collectible based on their condition.
Here is an example of how the coin grading system works:
A grade of MS/PF 70 means Mint State Proof with a numeric grade of 70. Coins with this grade are considered as close to perfect as is possible.
These are coins with no postproduction flaws when viewed at a 5x magnification.
This would be a fully struck coin with almost no imperfections that are also barely able to be seen.
A coin with this grade is sharply struck and only has miniscule imperfections.
This grade of coin would be sharply struck with a few imperfections.
This grade means the coin was very well struck with minimal marks or hairlines.
Coins of this grade are well struck with moderate marks or hairlines.
At this level, a coin would be average or better struck with several marks or miniscule imperfections.
A coin with this grade is slightly weak or average struck with obvious marks and imperfections.
This coin would have a slightly weak or average strike with no signs of wear and abrasions that exceed the size of a 63 grade.
This is a weak or average strike with no wear and multiple marks or large abrasions.
A coin with this grade is a weak or average strike, no obvious wear, but numerous abrasions and marks. At this point, all coins graded fall under the designation of “circulated.”
Less than 50% of the design has wear and all details are visible.
Slight wear on more than 50% of the design and all the details but with slight wear on any high points.
Details are clear but the coin shows some wear, primarily on any high points.
These coins show minor wear on the high points.
Coins at this grade show all the details but have wear on every high point.
Almost complete details with some softness on the design.
These have almost complete design but are soft throughout it.
The design is moderate, but letters and numbers are sharp.
Softness in the recessed areas but letters and digits are sharp.
Wear across the design but letters and numbers are soft but readable.
Letters and numbers are full, but the rims are sharp.
The rims on these coins are flat but the date and type are identifiable.
Coin Abbreviations Defined
Coin abbreviations are very descriptive. Each one works with the others to help define the type, condition, and other identifying details of the coin.
Some common coin abbreviations and what they stand for are:
- 5FS: Five Full Steps designation
- 6FS: Six Full Steps designation
- ANA: American Numismatic Association
- DCAM: Deep Cameo
- DPL: Deep Proof-Like designation
- FB: Full Split Bands designation
- FBL: Full Bell Lines designation
- FH: Full Head designation
- FS: First Strike
- FT: Full Torch designation
- GAE: Gold American Eagle
- NGC: Numismatic Guarantee Corporation
- OGP: Original Government Packaging
- PAE: Platinum American Eagle
- PCGS: Professional Coin Grading Service
- R1, R2…R8: Measure of rarity – R1 is common while R8 is exceptionally unique
- SAE: Silver American Eagle
- TF: Tail Feathers on Morgan dollars containing 7 or 8 Tail Feathers
35 Key Coin Collecting Terms Defined
1. Collector Value
This is the value of a coin to someone that collects coins and is defined as any coin with a value greater than its “face value.” Face value is the denomination of the coin, meaning, for example, that an American quarter has a face value of 25 cents.
The collector value of a 2022 quarter is 25 cents or the value of the coin as it was struck. The value of a 1943 uncirculated quarter minted in Denver is around $5. The collector value of a circulated 1943 quarter would be somewhere in between 25 cents and the $5 value.
2. Face Value
The face value of a coin is the currency denomination that the coin was struck as. The face value of the 2022 quarter, for instance, is 25 cents.
3. Bullion Value
The bullion value of a coin is the value of its precious metal content. In most cases, uncirculated coins that have high silver or gold content exceed the bullion value of the coin’s precious metal due to the collectability of the coin itself. In circulated coins, depending on the market value of the precious metal in question, a bullion value of a coin can exceeds its face value.
4. Fair Market Value
This is the value a coin that both the buyer and seller agree is appropriate. Fair market value can set the market for similar coins via an appraiser that investigates selling prices for coins. Bullion coins are usually given a fair market value of the value of the precious metal in the coin.
5. Key Coin
A key coin is the standard by which other coins are compared. So, for example, if that $5 1943 quarter mentioned before is the quality example for that coin from that year in that condition, it is a key coin.
6. Minting Variety
This is the variation within coins that are part of the same series in the same year. The design can vary if it is modified, a die is degrading, the striking consistency is off, or if the machinery used has performance issues. Minting variety often has no impact on coin cost at all but, occasionally, coin variety can result in an error that is very valuable.
The surcharge is a charge to a coin to provide funds for an issue related to that coin. For example, a Special Olympics coin may have a surcharge that goes directly to that organization. The surcharge is applied to the overall value of the coin.
This is a fake coin made to look like a genuine collectible piece. Before making any coin purchases, it is best to have an expert verify the coin’s authenticity. A certificate of authenticity from a reputable coin grader works as well.
9. Intrinsic Value
This is the current market value of a coin, were there no other mitigating circumstances. A good way of looking at it is the following:
- A 1943 quarter without government backing is worth the value of the metal used to make the coin
- A 1943 quarter with government backing is worth its denomination, or 25 cents
- A 1943 quarter is a collectible, so would be worth its denomination value and the value placed on it by collectors
This is a blend of two or more metals. Technically, all modern US coins are an alloy as even high content gold and silver have hardening metals within them.
These are coins comprised of two different metals that are bonded together. Examples of this are clad coins, which have a metal sheathing and a different metal interior.
This is a solid, pressed piece of metal on which a coin design is imprinted. A blank is also called a planchet.
13. Business Strike
Business strike coins are general circulation coins.
14. Clad Coins
Clad coins are coins that have one metal as a core and another metal as the outer layer with the design printed on it.
A die is an engraved stamp that imprints a design on a physical surface. In coin production, that surface is the outer metallic layer of the coin.
The edge is the outer layer of the coin. It is not the rim of the coin. It is sometimes referred to as the “third side” of a coin.
In coin lingo, an error is a mistake made to a coin while minting it.
These refer to extremely small scratches on a coin’s face. They are usually caused by cleaning or polishing the coin.
An ingot is a metal lump that is pressed into a specific shape.
20. Legal Tender
Any coins backed by a government and regarded as official money is known as legal tender.
This is the lettering on a coin.
A coin’s mint luster is the dull, frosted shine on some uncirculated coins. It is an affectation designed to enhance the coin’s appearance.
Mintage is the specific quantity of coins produced in one mint run.
An obsolete coin is one that is no longer in production although it still may be legal tender.
The obverse is the front side of a coin.
This is a coin that has been struck by a press that was off-center. The most common result with this type of coin strike is missing features.
An overstrike is when a previously struck planchet is struck a second time.
A proof is a coin struck on a highly polished planchet. Proofs are often struck more than once to create a deeper strike appearance.
29. Proof Set
This is a complete set of proof coins for each denomination struck in a year.
A restrike is a coin is struck with its original dies, but during a later mint run.
The back side of the coin.
A series is a set of coins with date and mint markings for a specific design and denomination.
A slab is a protective sheath for a coin. It is usually permanently sealed, rectangular in shape, and, if sealed properly, it will preserve a coin in its current state indefinitely.
The strike is the stamping of the coin that imprints the image of the coin on the obverse and reverse.
35. Type Set
A type set is a set of coins based on a specific denomination.
These are the most common terms you will encounter in the world of coin collecting. There are many other terms that are used less often that you will get to know as you continue on your collecting journey. However, this list of abbreviations, acronyms and definitions should be enough to get you started!