The language of the coin collector

In the world of coin collecting, words are often thrown around that may seem foreign to those not in the know.  The terminology can make the hobby of coin collecting seem intimidating.   Follow me, as I reveal some of the mystery behind words such as numismatic and planchet.

Numismatics:  The study or collecting of coins.  This word is also used to describe the collecting of currency, tokens and paper money.  A person who studies coins is called a Numismatist.  Around here we like to call coins “numismatic material.”

Mint: The industrial facility where coins are made.  The US government is in charge of minting (producing) any and all coins that are to be used as money.  There are mints in the following cities: Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and West Point.

Reverse: The back side of a coin.  Also called “tails”.


Obverse: The front face of a coin.  Also called “heads.”


Reeded Edge: The groved lines that go around the perimeter of some coins (mainly quarters and dimes).  The edge of a coin is the space between the obverse and the reverse and is sometimes referred to as the third side of a coin.

Photo Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of

Mint Mark: A small letter or symbol on a coin that indicates what mint a coin was produced at.  Mint marks can be found on either the obverse or reverse a coin, depending on which coin you are referring to.

Image courtesy of CCF Numismatics [CC BY-SA 3.0 (],

Image courtesy of CCF Numismatics [CC BY-SA 3.0 (],

Circulated: A coin is called circulated if it shows any sign of wear. Generally this word describes coins that have been used as “money”.  There are varying degrees of wear and tear that a coin may have and many different grades that could be used to describe this wear, but that is a blog all its own.


Uncirculated: Also referred to as Unc.  Uncirculated coins are coins that have been released to the public, but not for general circulation.  Although they have monetary value, they are generally purchased directly from a mint or coin dealer.


Proof: A coin made from a highly polished press.  Proof coins are often struck twice, giving them extra detail and a mirror like finish.  They are generally made for numistmatic purposes, presentations, or souvenirs and not for general circulation.


Planchet:  Smooth discs, cut from larger rolls of metal, that eventually become coins.  Also called “blanks.”

By Dqfn13 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Dqfn13 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Strike: The process of stamping a coin design on a planchet.

Toning: This word is used to describe any coloration a coin may have.  Toning generally occurs over time when a coin has come in contact with the air.  Certain materials found in some metals used to make coins are more likely to become toned. Toning can give the coin a unique coloring, making it more desirable to collectors.

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Whether you want to start a coin collection of your very own, or just sound really smart at your next party, this list of words will definitely get you started.  Check out all the coins we have listed on Ebay and see if you can apply some of these terms yourself!

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  1. Pingback: 7 Life Skills You Can Learn From Collecting Coins

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