Coin Guide

lots of coins xxChard (1964) Ltd is a leading UK coin and bullion dealer (and jeweller) based in Blackpool, England. We have been dealing in coins and bullion for over 50 years and have been awarded bullion dealer of the year 4 times running! 

Coin collecting can be daunting so we have put together a no-nonsense guide to help you learn and enjoy collecting coins from across the world.  


Chard (1964) Ltd is a leading UK coin and bullion dealer (and jeweller) based in Blackpool, England.  Lawrence Chard is an expert numismatist who likes to share his knowledge with visitors and customers, helping them to increase their understanding and make informed decisions when buying and selling. Since the creation of our various websites (from 1999), Lawrence Chard has spent a great deal of time and effort, writing and compiling a vast catalogue of information that allows him to pass on his experience and knowledge to all who read it. 


We are asked many questions daily, and decided to compile some of this information into an easy to read and informative guide to collecting coins. Even for those that have had an active interest in coins, we are sure there will be something new. For the beginner or active amateur, we hope that this guide will provide the basis which will help you to build a collection that you will be proud of. If you are completely new to collecting or buying and selling coins, then we hope you will gain a good understanding of this fascinating and deeply rewarding subject. We are passionate about coins and will do our upmost to help and advise you to the best of our ability.

bullion-dealer-year-2018-badgeWe have been dealing in coins and bullion for over 50 years and this year Chard was voted UK BULLION DEALER OF THE YEAR 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018! It is our aim to provide honest and informative material. Please take advantage of the many links provided in this guide, as they will provide you with further information available on our websites. There is much more to know about the subject, and this guide is meant to be a starting point while providing you with enough information for you to want to dig a little deeper and learn more. Please enjoy this guide, pass it on to friends and family and feel free to provide us with feedback, we would love to hear from you.

- Lawrence Chard

Our Story

Our Director, Lawrence Chard, is a numismatist who has been dealing in coins all his life. The Chards are an old Blackpool family and his grandma used to own an amusement arcade on Blackpool's Golden Mile. It was when Lawrence was earning his pocket money at the arcade sorting coins that he noticed dealers would come in looking for a particular dated penny. He realised that there was a market for certain coins and that he could find that coin for them at a cost, and thus the idea of Chard Coin and Bullion Dealer was formed. In 1964 Lawrence began trading as R&L Coins in Dale Street Blackpool with his cousin Robert who has since moved on.

Picture6In 1969 Lawrence moved to premises in Lytham Road and Roy Castle opened the showroom. Lawrence recalls overhearing two elderly ladies passing by saying that there was no way the shop would stay in business – yet here we are over 50 years later, with new larger modern premises in Harrowside, Blackpool as well as the Lytham Road branch. The business has grown from a sleepy provincial one man coin business, to one with nearly £13 million turnover. 

Famous for his enthusiasm about coins, his knowledge of the industry and his passion for providing information, Lawrence is often the first person called upon for authentication and identification of rare and unusual coins. With over 50 years of experience, Lawrence has built up a reputation for dependable grading, honest dealings and has created over 20,000 webpages which are crammed full of information, specifications and anecdotes. At Chard, we have a continuous aim to provide a higher standard of service and product, whilst remaining highly competitively priced. This ensures that our customers travel from far and wide to buy and sell coins. Chard’s company motto is ‘Inform, Educate and Inspire’ and we have a huge range of coins which can build and expand a collection.

We are proud to have been in business for over 50 years and are continually reinvesting in the growth of the company. We deal in coins, but we also sell gold and silver bullion, buy scrap gold and other precious metals, coin gift ideas, foreign currency for your holidays and sell and manufacture jewellery.

What We Do

Picture2Coin Dealers - Dealing in coins was our original business and is one that still plays a large part in the day-to-day trade. Coins appeal to different people for different reasons, to some they are an interesting piece of history, to others a gift for a new-born or special birthday or anniversary, but whatever your reason they can make a fabulous collection or a unique gift. We have an huge selection of coins from Greek to this year, from the UK and from all over the world, we have coins which will help to make your collection very special. We can help you to start, upgrade or complete a collection. You may have a collection that has been passed down to you and you no longer need, we will assess the coins and make a fair offer based on the content of the collection. Our collectors, who we buy from and sell to, are large and small, professional and amateur, national and international – we all share one passion, a love and interest of coins, medallions and all types of exonumia.

Picture30Picture15Bullion Dealers - We use the term bullion to describe a precious metal bought primarily for its intrinsic value, and we deal in gold, silver, platinum and palladium. It can be bought in various forms such as bars or coins, medallions and tokens and is widely bought by investors, large and
small. We also buy scrap gold and other precious metals at very competitive prices.

Jewellery - We do not like to think of ourselves as an ordinary jeweller. During the 1980′s we started to manufacture our own diamond rings to enable us to become more competitively priced. Our Jewellery Manager is able to help you design your ring, choose
the perfect stones and mount and then have it manufactured. We just have a showroom that happens to sell high quality jewellery at prices substantially lower than retail. We do not sell watches, cutlery or giftware and although we no longer have a working jeweller, we can outsource your repairs.

Foreign Exchange - we can also offer foreign exchange for your holiday in US dollars or Euros

A Brief History of Coins

There are many arguments regarding when and where the first coins originated. Lydia in Turkey is accepted by most experts as having issued the first coins which date from 650BC but in China a tomb from the Shang Dynasty in 11th century BC was discovered with what could be the first copper money. Coins are generally a round piece of metal which is used as money; a means of purchasing goods and services. Nowadays, coins are produced by mints all over the world for both circulation and for commemorative purposes. Every coin tells a tale and can provide a fascinating insight into our history.


Coin Collecting - Collecting coins was once called the hobby of kings, as historically it was only the wealthy who could afford to indulge in this pursuit. Nowadays, everyone can partake in this fascinating pastime no matter what the budget. A coin is not just a piece of metal, there are so many more elements to consider; design, historic period when struck, monarch/country’s leader, mint mark, metallic composition and the condition of the coin. From collecting coins in your change or holiday-money, to specialising in a particular coin or coins from a particular historic era, to modern
commemorative issues; collecting coins is an interesting hobby that will soon become a passion.

Picture13Coin collecting for enjoyment or investment - Ask yourself what you are hoping to achieve? Are you collecting coins for pleasure and enjoyment or do you have an investment plan to sell them for a profit in the future? If you are hoping to make a great investment this may not be the best
reason to collect coins. The majority of coins will have a premium on top of their intrinsic value; however, there will be a smaller number of coins which will be highly sought after and which can achieve astronomic figures. Others may be worth more due to their rarity or have a higher intrinsic value especially if they are made from gold or platinum. Others may be valuable due to an error or a low mintage. The condition (grade) of the coin will probably be the highest factor when buying or selling. It is possible to invest successfully in rare coins, but there are pitfalls, and it needs time and effort to avoid problems and maximise potential gains. Of course, you may by chance come across one of the rarest coins for a bargain – it does happen and huge gains can be made. Before parting with your money, or committing it, do your research and get as much information as you possibly can from websites, internet searches, catalogues and books. Ask the seller or coin collectors and forums. It’s a fairly obvious tip, but unfortunately, there are companies and dealers out there who want to make as much money as possible. Try searching our sites for the coin you’re
interested in and compare our prices with other dealers to know you are getting a good deal. You can compare the price with the one in a coin book such as the Krause or Spink catalogues. We often refer to coin books and catalogues from previous years to compare
prices which may have been previously offered or achieved. At Chard, we say that an informed customer is a better customer, as we can aim to meet their expectations and requirements.

How to Get Started?

Depending on the type of coin collection you are going to assemble, it can be as easy as looking at the coins you already have around the house. Look at the change in your purse or wallet, empty your money jar and drawers and you will be surprised at the variety of coins that you have already amassed. Bagmarks and scratches will mean that most of them will have very little additional value but they will be rich in information. Sort them into countries, by year and by denominations; you will see many different designs and portraits.


If you have already decided on the type of coin or historic era that you want to collect, it is time to start doing some research. You will soon see what is available within your budget. Make notes on coins that you want to add to your collection and find out what is on offer. It is a very rewarding hobby and you will get a great deal of pleasure as you see your collection grow.


If you are building on a collection that you may have been given by a relative it is worth checking what the collection contains. They may simply be a historical record of coins that were available at the time but you may also discover a hidden gem.

What Should I Collect?

Is there a particular area that attracts you - it could be the design, or a historical era, a monarch/leader, a country, a type of coin? The value of historic coins will depend on the mintage, availability and condition of the coin. Modern coins may be more easily found and can be a good entry point to coin collecting; those of a lower mintage and those with errors can realise higher prices. Other considerations are gold, silver or base metals such as bronze or cupro-nickel or maybe the finish of the coin; uncirculated or proof.

Here are some ideas and examples for coin collections:

Denomination - Collect one coin which is issued each year, you may find that in some year several designs were struck

Type Set - This could be a selection of years when a coin was issued with a particular portrait or a selection of a coin which was issued by a variety of mints, for example, the George V sovereign was struck in London, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Canada, South Africa and India during his reign.

 Picture18          Picture20

Theme - Often mints will issue a series of coins which feature a variety of one subject e.g. Britannias, Kookaburras, Maples, Pandas or Lunar Series.


British Coins - Each year the Royal Mint issues a series of coins for circulation and as commemorative coins. These are often struck in uncirculated and proof finishes in various metals.

Date - Ideal for a birthday or anniversary. For a particular year e.g. 1965 British Coin Set - All nine pre-decimal coin types; crown, half-crown, florin, English shilling, Scottish shilling, sixpence, threepence, penny, and halfpenny.

medCommemorative - Mints all around the world will often issue their own commemorative coins or medallions celebrating or honouring a specific event, e.g. World War I, the death of the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee.

Monarch/Ruler - This can be extensive when you consider all the coins that were issued in Queen Victoria’s reign both in Great Britain and for colonial use or struck to a limited mintage for King Edward VII prior to his abdication.

Foreign Coins - Each year the country’s mint will issue a series of coins for circulation and as commemorative coins. These are often struck in uncirculated and proof finishes including gold and silver.

Ancient - Egyptian, Greek and Roman coins, these are often collected by individual ruler or emperor. With ancient and old coins you need to be aware of forgeries and replicas.


What Should You Look For in a Coin?

Initially look at the coin with your naked eye; you will soon be able to start to see key elements which are:

Condition – is it worn, scratched, or damaged with bagmarks or edge knocks? If the coin is damaged it will generally affect the value. Depending on the condition of the coin it may be graded. The higher the grade, the higher the value of the coin.

toningCertain toning is desirable to collectors and some wear may be expected.

Corrosion will decrease the value of the coin. If the coin has retained its original mint lustre or not – once the lustre has faded it cannot be restored.

Do you find the coin attractive? If it doesn’t appeal to you it probably will not appeal to other collectors. There are many more coins at scrap face value than those which will fetch the highest prices in uncirculated condition.

Looking After Your Collection

As mentioned earlier, bagmarks and scratches can affect the value and can reduce them to face value or even scrap. This may be expected in older coins but even then, collectors will be looking for the highest grades they can find and afford. You can start simply by placing coins in individual paper envelopes*. If you are keeping them in a tin, wrap the coins individually in a small piece of felt or soft fabric. As your collection grows and hopefully becomes more valuable you can place them in albums, plastic capsules or purpose made coin trays and cabinets. Keep them in a dry environment as moisture can tone and corrode coins.

* We do not recommend the individual plastic pouches as the chemicals may affect the coin as the plastic ages.

Handy Tools - The following list is not essential but will be handy when you are buying coins and developing and organising your collection.

  • Magnifying glass or eye glass
  • Jeweller’s tray or piece of soft cloth that you can place the coins on when you are looking at them
  • Ruler, plastic is best as a metal one may scratch the coin
  • Cotton gloves – particularly if you are handling bronze and copper coins
  • Good lighting
  • Reference books
  • Coin envelopes, capsules, albums or trays to store your coins

Identifying Coins

Most coins are or were designed to be easy for people to recognise and identify when used in transactions. Unfortunately, foreign coins and old coins can be more difficult to identify. To be able to identify any coin completely, you will need to know most if not all of the following:-


  • Country of Origin
  • Metal
  • Denomination or Face Value
  • Date
  • Coin or Medallion
  • Design or Variety
  • Finish - Proof or Uncirculated
  • Genuine, Original, Restrike, or Forgery
  • In addition, to help you work out which your coin is, you may find it helpful to determine each of the following:-
    • Language
    • Diameter
    • Thickness
    • Weight
    • Colour
    • Magnetism

The Country - If you can tell which country the coin is from, you are already about half way to identifying it. What language are the inscriptions (they are sometimes referred to as legends) in?

Metal and Colour - Several millennia ago, it was easy to tell the metal a coin was composed of. A silver colour indicated silver, while a gold colour indicated gold, and a red or brown colour indicated copper, bronze or brass. The only real confusion could be caused by brass which looks yellow. In modern times, most silvery coloured coins will not be silver, but cupro-nickel, an alloy of copper and nickel, most yellow coins will be nickel-brass, usually an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc. Lightweight silvery coins will be aluminium; other silvery coins could be made of steel. Red and brown coins were until recently usually made of bronze, but most people call them coppers. In the last decade, many countries have switched to using copper plated steel. When the plating wears off, or is removed chemically, people then assume their coins are silver. Some collector coins are made from other precious metals such as platinum or palladium.

datesDates and Numerals - If you can read the date, it makes identification much easier. You may need a conversion chart; the Krause catalogues have excellent tables of numerals in all eastern languages. You may need to convert the date from the local calendar to the western system, again Krause can help. Knowing the date can help to decide which catalogue to use, and combined with other clues from the inscription, such as the monarch's name, can help to decide the correct country.

Coin or Medallion - If the "coin" has its face value inscribed on it, then it usually will in fact be a coin. Some coins do not have their face value written on them, but if they have a king's or emperor's head, and the name of the country then they are also usually coins. Medallions, however, do not usually carry a mark of value, as they are not legal tender coins.

Design - Look at all the other design features of the coin. Most countries have national symbols, rather like trademarks. Often these include the coats-of-arms of their ruling families; sometimes they picture native flora and fauna. Once again Krause contains about 170 photographs of insignia or symbols on coins. It calls this section its "Instant Identifier". Other important symbols are the "Toughras" used on many coins of Islamic or Ottoman influence, Although most toughras look rather similar, they are all different, because a toughra is a monogram of the rulers' name and titles.

Genuine - One of the hardest things for the beginner to determine is whether their coin is genuine or a fake. This is not quick or easy to learn. We have over 50 years of experience and are familiar with the genuine article. We have spent a lot of time studying the difference between the genuine and the counterfeit – we also have many genuine and fake coins to compare side by side. Various different metals and alloys are used to create fake or counterfeit gold coins, depending on the reason for, and nature of, the particular fake. We use various methods to detect a fake or forgery. The alloy we see most frequently used for fake gold coins is substandard gold, for example, fake sovereigns are made in the middle east and marked 21ct (but in Arabic), as opposed to 22ct gold. We also see sovereigns which appear to be around 18 to 20 carat gold, as well as
some made of copper or bronze.

Language - The inscriptions on many coins are in the native language of the issuing country; however, there are some important exceptions. There are some languages which are almost universal. Many coins have Latin inscriptions, English and British coins, for example, in fact, it's almost correct to say that if the main inscriptions on a coin are in English, the coin is almost certainly not English. They could be American, Canadian, Australian, Indian, New Zealand, or from one of many African or Asian countries. Latin was used on most European coins until the last few centuries, including Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (Great Britain). Coins with French inscriptions may be Belgian, Canadian, or from a former French colony. Those with Spanish inscriptions could be from one of the South American Countries, and Portuguese could indicate Brazil.

Diameter and Thickness - The diameter of a coin is easy to measure, and is a very reliable tool in helping to identify a coin. The thickness is harder to measure, and generally a less useful guide, but it won't do any harm to know.

Weight - If you can weigh the coin accurately, not using kitchen scales, this may help. Many coin catalogues, but not all, list the weight of coins, usually in grams. Another aspect of weight is that it can help to identify the metal. A yellow coin which feels surprisingly heavy may be gold, but if it feels light then it is more likely to be brass. Similarly, a lightweight silvery coin may be made of aluminium.

Magnetism - If a coin is strongly attracted to a magnet, it is probably made of steel, but may be plated with another metal such as copper. Many modern "copper" coins are actually made of copper plated steel.

bits (1)Heads (Portraits) - A portrait is usually the ruler or leader of the country. The inscription will usually help to clarify who this is. Many commemorative coins have the portrait of famous people. Some famous personalities, however, end up on the coins of a large number of countries. In some republics and the USA, the coins do not carry the head of a living person, originally for anti-monarchy, democratic or socialistic reasons.

Picture48Catalogues and Books - A good coin catalogue will help to identify most coins. Obviously, the difficult part is to know which catalogue to start searching first. For world coins, the Krause series of World Coin catalogues are excellent. There are now four main catalogues, each covering a different century, starting with the 20th, and working back to the 17th. Each of these contains approximately 2,000 pages, 40,000 to 50,000 illustrations, and 200,000 coin listings with prices. If you already know the country, you may be best using a specialised catalogue for that country. Good catalogues do cost money but are worth the investment. If you only have a small number of coins to identify, borrow one from your local library.

Magazines - Some coin magazines, and possibly archaeological and historical ones offer identification services, but this is often only for more unusual coins, most of the scans and rubbings which get sent to magazines are probably 80% the same ones time after time.

Internet - One very successful way is to enter the inscription of the coin into a search engine, do this in its entirety and with quotation marks around it. The chances are that there will be a page about a coin similar to yours in the first few results found. If not there may be a clue as to its country of origin, or whose portrait is on the coin. Check both web pages and images.

Coin Grading

As for most coins, collectors generally prefer coins in higher grades of preservation. Precious metal coins such as gold, silver and platinum, contain an intrinsic value based on the content. Their desirability, and therefore their premium value to a collector, will depend also on the condition or grade. The better the grade, the higher will be the value of its premium over its gold content. We are generally known for erring on the side of conservative with our grades and coins bought from us are often graded higher by less scrupulous dealers.

2005goldsovereignproofrev1400-A-2Fleur-de-Coin / FDC - Only applied to proof coins. Literally means "Fleur-de-Coin", absolutely perfect, without any marks, wear or blemishes.

Uncirculated / Unc - In new condition as issued by the mint, but owing to mass production methods, not necessarily perfect.

Almost Uncirculated/AU - Almost uncirculated condition as issued by the mint, but owing to mass production methods, not necessarily perfect. Possibly downgraded from uncirculated due to heavy bagmarks. edge knocks, or some other undesirable feature, but without the slight signs of wear which would render it as only in EF grade. Due to "grade inflation", there may nowadays be some very slight abrasion or "cabinet polish" on the high points.

Picture54Extremely Fine / EF - Showing few signs of having been in circulation, but may exhibit slight surface marks or faint wear on close inspection. As for most coins, collectors generally prefer coins in higher grades of preservation. Precious metal coins such as gold, silver and platinum, contain an intrinsic value based on the content. Their desirability, and therefore their premium value to a collector, will depend also on the condition or grade. The better the grade, the higher will be the value of its premium over its gold content. We are generally known for erring on the side of conservative with our grades and coins bought from us are often graded higher by less scrupulous dealers.

Picture67Very Fine / VF - Some wear on the raised surfaces having had only limited circulation, but still very sharp and pleasant.

Fine / F - Considerable signs of wear on the raised surfaces, or design very weak through faulty striking.

Fair - Badly worn, but with the inscriptions and main features of the design still distinguishable, or a piece which is very weakly struck.

Poor (or Worn) - A very worn coin, with some lettering worn away, or parts of the design not visible. Of no value to collectors unless extremely rare.

Below we show coins from FDC through to poor:

all grades

Some supplementary or alternative terms. 

  • Almost or About When combined with one of the above descriptions, means what it says, almost but not quite as good as
    the grade itself.
  • Good When combined with one of the above descriptions, means what it says, better than the grade itself.
  • Good When used on its own, an American grading term meaning poor.
  • Very Good / VG An American grading term, roughly equivalent to fair to good fair in English or International grading.
  • Extremely Fine / XF An American grading term, showing few signs of having been in circulation, but may exhibit slight surface
    marks or faint wear on close inspection.

Grades continued....

Since 1986 there have been independent professional coin grading services, originally in the USA, but now elsewhere. These are principally the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America (NGC). They use a letter/number system to grade coins; the lowest grade being PO-1 and the highest grade being MS-70. Here is a brief list of their codes and definitions:

Grade Description
PO-1 Identifiable date and type
G-6 Rims complete with flat detail, peripheral lettering full
VG-8 Design worn with slight detail
F-12 Some deeply recessed areas with detail, all lettering sharp
VF-20 Some definition of detail, all lettering full and sharp
EF-40 Detail is complete with most high points slightly flat
AU-50 Full detail with friction over most of the surface, slight flatness on high points
AU-58+ Full detail with the barest trace of friction on the highest points. Superior eye appeal.
MS/PR-60 No wear. May have many heavy marks/hairlines, strike may not be full
MS/PR-70 As struck, with full strike

Proof Vs Uncirculated

We are always being asked the difference between proof and uncirculated coins. One very brief explanation is that proofs are shinier, minted to a higher finish and come with a certificate of authentication and box but of course, this oversimplifies the matter slightly.

proof vs uncUncirculated - The word "uncirculated" means exactly what it says, the coin has not been in circulation, however "ordinary" uncirculated coins often have bagmarks, edge knocks and other small scuffs and imperfections. Uncirculated "specimen" coins issued specially for collectors are often more carefully produced and handled, so they may be better than ordinary coins mass produced for circulation, but may still have some small imperfections. 

Proof - Proof coins are specially produced to a much higher standard of finish. Originally intended as pre-production samples, a printer would produce a small number of "proof" copies for checking and approval and the mint would produce proofs for approval by the mintmaster, the monarch, and for other purposes. When coin collecting began to become popular about two centuries ago, a larger number of proofs were sometimes made for sale to collectors. This has developed enormously in the past few decades, and most countries, but not all, produce proof coin and sets every year or on special occasions. 

different proofsDifferent proof finishes - Not all proofs are the same. The most common understanding of proof is that the field of the coin has a highly polished mirror finish, and the raised parts of the design have a matt finish, giving a higher level of contrast between the two. This is achieved by sand-blasting the die, the hardened steel punch with which the blank coins are struck, to give a matte finish, followed by giving the raised parts of the die a highly polished surface, usually by polishing them with diamond powder. The coin blanks themselves are usually produced to a higher quality of finish before striking. Proof coins are usually double struck, some may be struck six or seven times, at lower striking speeds, to give a higher and sharper definition. They are usually produced on a special machine and may be hand, rather than mechanically fed into and extracted from the
coining press. They are usually individually inspected and packaged. A proof coin should provide an excellent specimen, and its quality should approach perfection. 

Which is the better buy? 

  • Some collectors only collect proof coins, others only non-proof coins - For the non-collector, it can be difficult to decide which is the better coin to buy. We are often asked for advice when people wish to buy a sovereign as a gift. Our general advice here is that it depends what you think the recipient will wish to do with the coin. For use in jewellery, it is better to use ordinary non-proof coins, as proofs would be spoilt. If the recipient is likely to keep and display the coin in its original box, then a proof one may be better
  • Investment and future value - Normally proof coins will sell for higher prices than non-proof ones, however, this does not always apply. Our advice is to buy coins for the pleasure you will obtain by owning them, wearing them, or giving them. If you follow this advice, any future value will be a bonus. Brilliant uncirculated is a more recent term which the Royal Mint has introduced to signify a slightly higher grade than uncirculated. Usually, Brilliant Uncirculated coins have been struck twice, whereas Uncirculated coins are struck once. Dealers will rarely pay more to buy a Brilliant Uncirculated coin than they would to buy an Uncirculated coin.


Cleaning Coins

The best advice we can give to most people about cleaning coins is...don't! Cleaning coins rarely improve them and often ruins them. It is certainly impossible to improve their condition by cleaning the coin and doing so can considerably reduce its value.

If You Really Must........

  • It depends on the metal:
    • Gold Coins - Gold is a noble metal and is unlikely to become discoloured. Wash carefully in warm, even boiling, soapy water. Be careful, if there is any grit present it will make minute scratches on the surface.
    • Silver Coins - Silver acquires a tone through tarnishing. Some toning has rich blue, green, indigo, and violet "oil effects which are appreciated by most connoisseurs. Do not clean any silver coin with this type of toning. If a silver coin is so dark brown or black that its design can hardly be seen, then it may be worth dipping, usually in a proprietary solution, such as Goddard's Silver Dip. If in any doubt, don't! Even if silver coins are carefully cleaned, they end up looking artificially bright and silvery and will no longer appeal to most collectors.
    • Copper and Bronze Coins - The best advice is do not clean copper or bronze coins, they develop a brassy unpleasant colour when they have been cleaned.
  • Drying after cleaning - Dabbing or patting dry with a clean towel will be the best. Any rubbing action will scratch the coin’s surface
  • How harmful is cleaning coins? - Over 90% of the coins brought in to us by non-collectors are junk. Even so, junk has a value, and the value will be greater if the coins have not been cleaned. If you found a mint condition 1869 penny with its original mint lustre, for a coin of this great rarity, we would be happy to pay close to £1,000. However, if you cleaned the same penny we would be reluctant to pay more than £100 for it. You would have destroyed about 90% of the coin's value by cleaning it.

The Anatomy of a Coin

When you start collecting coins you will be introduced to the language of numismatics. By using the correct numismatic terms to describe the parts of a coin it will make it easier to communicate, understand and identify the particular elements of the coins under discussion. Most of us grew up saying heads and tails or front and back, however the proper terms are obverse and reverse – our Numismatist always likes to point out to the misguided amongst us that the monarch’s head always appears on the obverse of the coin, as you would never put their face on the back side and anyone suggesting otherwise to the monarchy would most likely lose their head!

Picture39Here is a list of some of the most frequently used terms together with a brief explanation:

Date - Usually the year in which the coin was minted, and which normally appears on the coin.
Denomination - The nominal or face value of a coin, for example, cent or pound.
Designer’s Initials - The initials of the artist, engraver or creator of a coin’s design.
Edge - The outer part of a coin, usually at right angles to the main two sides of the coin. There are four types of edges; lettering, reeding, plain or ornamental designs.
Field - The flat background part of a coin from which the main design stands, or occasionally into which the main design is cut.
Legend/Inscription - Main inscription on a coin, the lettering is usually placed close to the border of a coin surrounding, but is not part of the main design.
Motto - Inspiring or motivational phrase.
Obverse - The main side of a coin, usually denoting the issuing authority, often by portraying the monarch or head of state. Commonly called the “head” side or front (see Reverse). Normally the lower die which is embedded in the anvil.
Portrait or Bust - A head and shoulders likeness, usually of a monarch, on a coin.
Reverse - The secondary side of a coin, often called the “tail” side. The upper die during striking.
Rim - The raised edge of the design along the edge of the coin which helps to protect it from wear. It also makes it easier for the coins to be stacked.

You will find more numismatic terms and explanations in the Numismatic Glossary section below.

Glossary of Terms

  • AGW Actual Gold Weight, we usually quote the actual fine gold content of most coins in troy ounces. The price per troy ounce
    is the most widely quoted price for precious metals. To convert gross weight in grams to actual intrinsic gold content:
    • Gross weight in grams / 31.1035 = Gross weight in troy ounces.
    • Gross weight in troy ounces x Fineness (alloy) = actual fine content in troy ounces. Alloy A metal made by combining two or more metallic elements so that the finished metal is stronger and is less likely to corrode.
  • Aluminium A lightweight silvery-grey metal, atomic number 13, atomic weight 26.981538, specific gravity 2.7; discovered in 1825,
    and used for coins, usually as an alloy, since about 1900.
  • Annealing By heating blanks (planchets) and allowing them to cool slowly this strengthens the metal.
  • Anvil The block of metal or wood used to hold the lower (obverse) die during striking.
  • Assay The analysis and testing of a metal to establish the purity of metal and its metallic elements.
  • Au Chemical symbol for gold, a yellow metallic element, and comes from the Latin word aurum meaning gold.
  • Aurichalcum A brass alloy containing copper and zinc, used in ancient coins; also called aurichalcum, orichalcum. Its name literally means gold copper, because of its yellow colour resembling gold.
  • Bag mark A mark on a coin from knocking against other coins.
  • Base Non-precious metal such as copper, bronze, tin or steel.
  • Beading An elevated dot border around the rim of a coin.
  • Billon A low-grade silver alloy, usually below 50% purity, used for coins. Often naturally occurring.
  • Bi-metallic A coin made of two different metals which are bonded together.
  • Blank A flat piece of metal, usually a disc, before it is struck to apply the designs, thereby converting it into a finished coin.
  • Border The area between the main design and the rim or edge of the coin.
  • Brass An alloy of copper and zinc, usually yellow in colour, therefore sometimes mistaken for gold. Brass was used by the ancient Romans for some of its base metal coins and frequently used for counters and jetons in the late 18th century. Brassage The production or labour cost of coins, possibly from the French word bras meaning arm, as coins were originally hand
  • hammered, and minters needed a strong arm.
  • Bronze A base metal alloy of copper and tin, but other metals such as zinc are sometimes added. Bronze was the first high-tech alloy known to man. It was used from ancient Greek times, through ancient Rome, and is still used in modern times, although many modern "bronze" or "copper" coins are nowadays made of copper plated steel to reduce costs.
  • Brockage A mis-struck coin showing two heads (or two tails), caused by failure to remove the previously struck coin from the dies before striking. A second coin receives an indented impression of the same side of the first coin.
  • Bullion Any coin used at or close to its intrinsic metal value. Relating to a coin used in such a way.
  • Business strike A coin manufactured for the purpose of general circulation.
  • Bust A head and shoulders portrait, usually of a monarch or leader of a country, on a coin.
  • Cash A Chinese unit of coinage, usually base metal. Also any money in the form of notes or coins.
  • Cast Made by pouring molten metal into a mould, rather than by striking. Some authentic coins (such as Celtic potins) have been cast, but it is a technique often used for low-quality forgeries. Chop Chop marks are "privy" marks applied by bankers and other merchants, usually in or near China, denoting that the merchant has examined, tested, or otherwise accepted the coin. Usually applied using a small punch.
  • Circulate To be used in trade, the purpose for which most coins are made. To be passed from hand to hand.
  • Clad Clad coins are made from (usually) three sheets of metal, typically a base metal core with silver outer layers.
  • Clash Dies are said to clash when they are allowed to come into contact with each other without a coin being present between them. Usually damages the dies, and leaves an impression of one upon the other.
  • Clipping The act of removing the outer edges of precious metal coins, done for fraudulent or dishonest purposes with the intent of passing on the original coin at its full value while retaining the clipped part as a profit. This act was almost always illegal and was often punishable by draconian measures such as death.
  • Coin Any round token, usually made of metal, usually with distinctive marks, a fixed weight and value, and issued by a government to be used as money. To make pieces of metal into coins, usually by stamping them.
  • Coin Alignment The obverse (head) and reverse (tail) sides of the coin appear upside down compared with the other side, when the coin is held at the top and bottom, then turned round; as opposed to Medal Alignment.
  • Collar A retaining ring of metal used to stop the coin from spreading when struck by the dies during minting.
  • Condition The state of preservation of a coin, also known as its grade.
  • Conjoined Joined together, usually used to describe two or more portraits, one behind the other.
  • Commemorative A coin struck especially to commemorate a particular person or event. Originally most commemorative coins were issued for circulation; nowadays many commemorative coins are produced to sell to collectors.
  • Copy Any coin produced with great similarity to another. Some countries produced their own copies of the successful coins introduced by other states. Also used to describe forgeries and counterfeits. Sometimes applied to genuine original coins, for example, it could be said that the Royal Mint produced over 13 million copies of the 1997 two pound coin.
  • Copper A metallic element. Since ancient times, it was one of the three main metals used for coins, along with gold and silver. It is also used in alloys of both gold and silver, to improve their working properties and their durability. Copper is also used with other base metals to form other alloys, such as bronze and brass, used for coins. Many "copper" coins issued during the past two centuries were actually made of bronze. Recently many "copper" coins have been made of copper plated steel.
  • Counter A metallic disc resembling a coin, often used as a token in games of cards, see jeton.
  • Counterfeit A false coin made in imitation of the real thing. Usually made at or about the same time as the original, and usually with the intention of being passed as the real original item at its full face or intrinsic value.
  • Countermark A mark applied to an older coin to modify its value or validity. A countermark will usually cover only a portion of the original coin, which can therefore clearly still be identified.
  • Counterstamp A stamp which has been applied to the coin after it has been produced.
  • Cowrie A species of marine mollusc, whose shells were used in Ancient China and elsewhere as a medium of exchange in a way similar to coins. Later, imitation cowrie shells made of porcelain or bronze were also used as currency. Today, their function has been replaced by other currency mediums, including coins.
  • Crown A British coin originally valued at five shillings, later 25 pence, and since 1990 £5. Also, any crown or dollar sized coins. Named because the original crown coins had a crown as a major part of its design.
  • Crown gold 22 carat gold. The standard gold fineness used in British gold coins, including the sovereign.
  • Cupro Nickel An alloy of copper and nickel which is silvery coloured, and since the early 20th century used to replace silver in coins.
  • Currency An exchange medium used to facilitate trade. This term generally only applies to those forms of money used in the present, rather than coins and other forms of money which are no longer legal tender and/or are no longer used as an exchange medium.
  • Date Usually the year in which the coin was minted, and which normally appears on the coin. On gunmoney, the month of issue was also shown on the coin.
  • Debase To reduce the amount of precious metal content in an issue of coins, thereby increasing the proportion of base metal contained.
  • Decimal Monetary system whereby there are ten minor denominations to a major denomination. Also applied incorrectly to systems which have a hundred minor units per major unit. For example, there are 100 cents in an American dollar.
  • Definitive For general use and of standard design.
  • Demonetise To remove the currency status of a coin or banknote. This is usually done when an old coin design is replaced by a newer coin of the same type, which is usually cheaper to make as inflation increases production costs in relation to the old coin's face value.
  • Denomination The nominal or face value of a coin, for example, cent or pound.
  • Designer The artist who creates the design for the coin.
  • Devalue The official value of the currency is reduced.
  • Device A design which has emblematic or heraldic elements.
  • Diameter The dimension of a coin across its widest part in a line through its centre. Non-circular coins may have more than one value for their diameter.
  • Die A piece of hardened metal engraved with a mirror image of a coin's design, used in pairs to produce coins by striking (pressing the coin between two dies).
  • Die number Usually a small mark in the form of a number on a die, and therefore any coins struck from it, to show which die produced the coin. Dies are expensive to produce, but can frequently break or wear causing delays and extra cost in the production of coins.
  • Dodecagonal Having twelve sides, for example, the British brass threepences issued between 1937 and 1967.
  • Dump In numismatic terms, this word is used to describe certain small, thick coins such as the early halfpennies and farthings of George I, and also the central disc punched out of a Spanish Dollar for use as currency in the Australian colonies.
  • Duodecimal A coinage or monetary system having twelve minor denominations per major denomination, for example, there used to be twelve British pennies to the shilling.
  • Edge The outer part of a coin, usually at right angles to the main two sides of the coin. Some coins may feature reeding, lettering, or designs on their edges.
  • EF or Extremely Fine A description of the grade or state of preservation of a coin, being lower than uncirculated but better than very fine. Americans abbreviate this to XF.
  • Effigy A likeness of a person on the obverse of a coin, this can also be described as a Portrait.
  • Electrum A naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver, used in the very earliest Greek coins. Its name comes from the Greek word elektron meaning amber, because of its pale yellow colour.
  • Electrotype In numismatic terms, a replica coin, manufactured by electroplating metal on to a mould taken from a genuine coin.
  • Electrotyping sometimes serves a legitimate purpose in creating a replica of a genuine coin but is also used as a method of manufacturing fakes.
  • Engraving A reverse process of carving a design into a metal die.
  • Engraver The person who cuts the coin's design into the metal die.
  • Error Any mistake in the design of a coin or a coin on which the mistake occurs which has not been noticed during production and has been released into circulation. Sometimes caused by mispairing of dies to create a mule.
  • Essay An experimental or trial design of a coin.
  • Exergue The part of a coin between the ground and the edge of a coin, often containing the date.
  • Exonumia Medallions, tokens, and any similar objects resembling coins, which are not in fact coins.
  • Face Usually short for 'face value', the normal currency, monetary, or denominational value of a coin.
  • Facing The direction a portrait looks towards on a coin. As most are shown in profile, this means it faces left or right. When this direction is not stated, it usually means that the head or figure looks towards the viewer and away from the coin.
  • Fake Any non-genuine coin made in imitation of the real thing, usually with the intention to deceive. The term fake does not apply to pattern or replica coins.
  • Fantasy piece A pattern coin or one made in approximate imitation of a coin, sometimes of a non-existent coin, usually produced for sale to collectors, and often very elaborate, artistic and attractive.
  • Field The flat background part of a coin from which the main design stands, or occasionally into which the main design is cut.
  • Fine A description of a coin's grade or condition, coming below 'Very Fine', but above 'fair'.
  • Fineness A measure of the proportion of precious metal in alloys. Sometimes expressed as a percentage, sometimes millesimally, it is otherwise understood to be a proportion of a unit. For example, .999 means 0.999 out of 1, which is the same as 99.9% or 999 parts per thousand.
  • Flan The whole of the coin, sometimes used, erroneously in our opinion, to describe the blank or planchet from which a coin is made.
  • Forgery An imitation coin made to copy and be sold as an original, often later than the period of the original, and usually intended to deceive a collector for its rarity value in excess of its face, intrinsic or bullion value.
  • Frosted Having a textured surface as opposed to a polished one. Also called matte finish.
  • Ghosting The faint appearance on one side of a coin of the design from the other side, usually caused by poor design or production methods. The amount of metal displaced by the design of one side is greater than that displaced by the other side so that when the blank is struck by the dies, the metal tends to flow towards the "heavier" side, and away from the lighter side. A faint negative of the main features of the heavy side can be seen on the lighter side. Ghosting is noticeable on many British coins of George V, particularly in the earlier part of the reign. The portrait on the obverse of the coin was very large and can be seen on the reverse of the coin.
  • Gold A bright yellow metallic element used from the earliest days of coin production through to the present. It is inert to most chemical and atmospheric reactions so that it does not normally tarnish or corrode.
  • Grade A measure or description of the condition or state of preservation of a coin.
  • Grain The grain was an ancient unit which was originally based on the weight of a grain of cereal.
  • Ground The baseline on which figures or other parts of a coin's design stand.
  • Gunmoney A term used to describe the currency issues produced in the name of James II in Ireland from 1689 - 1691. So-called because the metal was partly derived from melted down cannons.
  • Hairlines Very light or fine lines or scratches on coins can be caused by cleaning or polishing.
  • Hammered A method or producing coins by holding a blank coin between two dies, and hitting the upper die with a hammer, usually with a single blow. Most ancient and medieval coins were produced by hammering. Later coins were made by the more efficient use of specialised machinery, and are usually known as milled coins.
  • Head Usually used to describe the main (obverse) side of a coin; in most countries, this carries the portrait of the ruler. As the space available on coins is limited, this portrait is often limited to the head or bust rather than full length.
  • Hoard A quantity of coins, usually deliberately concealed or stored at some time in the past, and the same when it is subsequently discovered.
  • Imitation A forgery, counterfeit or replica coin which has been made to appear similar to another original coin.
  • Incuse Incuse means "cut into", so that incuse lettering is lettering which is sunk into the coin as opposed to raised.
  • Inflation A phenomenon whereby money loses its purchasing power relative to its face value over time, causing the prices of most goods and services to increase. When inflation occurs rapidly, it is usually referred to as 'hyperinflation'. The opposite of inflation is known as 'deflation'.
  • Ingot A bar of metal as cast before it is rolled, cut, and stamped into coins. Ingots themselves have also been used as coins or money.
  • Inscription Any writing on a coin, but particularly as part of the main design rather than in the surrounding space near the border.
  • Intrinsic The bullion value of the metal from which a coin is made. The intrinsic value will vary with fluctuations in metal prices.
  • Investment Gold According to HM Customs & Excise: - Investment gold (other than investment gold coins) is defined as “gold of a purity not less than 995 thousandths that is in the form of a bar, or a wafer, of a weight accepted by the bullion markets”.
  • Iron A metallic element sometimes used for coins.
  • Issue A coin or set of coins distributed at one time also applies to medallions.
  • Jane A small silver coin of Genoa imported into England by foreign merchants, especially in the fifteenth century. Also written jean; from Middle English jane, (cf. Middle Latin januinus), a coin, from Jean, Old French Genes, Jannes, etc., modern F.Génes, Italian Genova. Also the wife of Lawrence Chard!!
  • Jeton A metallic disc similar to a coin or token, made for use in games, rather like a casino chip or board game "piece", possibly also used for accounting or tallying.
  • Key date A scarce date required to complete a collection, usually more difficult to find and afford.
  • Knife A type of money, usually cast bronze and knife-shaped, used in Ancient China.
  • Laureate Being shown with a wreath of laurels on the head or in the hair.
  • Layered A euphemistic word for plated.
  • Leather Leather money issued in China.
  • Legal tender A precise legal term which is often misunderstood. It means a means of payment which a creditor should not refuse in payment of a debt. For most coins and banknotes there is a maximum amount which a creditor or other person is obliged to accept.
  • Legend Lettering usually placed close to the border of a coin surrounding, but not part of the main design.
  • Lettering Any inscription or legend on any part of the coin, including the rim or edge, usually excluding lettering which forms the main design such as a cypher or monogram.
  • Lustre The sheen or particular colour or appearance seen on a new or as new coin as a result of it being struck during the minting process. Often referred to as "mint lustre".
  • Manilla An ingot of metal often copper formed into an armband and used as money, mainly in parts of West Africa.
  • Margin The difference between the spot price and the buying or selling price, usually expressed as a percentage.
  • Medal A metal object which is often the size of a large coin, the disc bears an inscription or design and has usually been struck to commemorate an event, place, person or group, or awarded as a distinction to someone such as a soldier or athlete. There is no stated value and is not be intended to be used as money.
  • Medal Alignment When the coin is held at the top and bottom and then turned around, the obverse (head) and reverse (tail) sides of the coin are both right way up when both sides are compared, as opposed to Coin Alignment
  • Medallion A piece of metal resembling a coin, but with no monetary value. Often issued as a commemorative piece. The term is often used interchangeably with the word "medal".
  • Medium of Exchange Something that people agree has a certain monetary value.
  • Metal Any of a class of elements, or a mixture of metallic elements, generally characterised by physical and chemical properties, including high conductance of heat and electricity, ductility, malleability, and lustre. Metallic elements can be replaced by the hydrogen of an acid to form a salt and can form a "base" with a hydroxyl (OH) radical. Most coins are made of metal.
  • Milled Made by specialised coining machines as opposed to hand hammering.
  • Mint The name for a place where coins are made. Also used to describe an unused coin, or a coin in perfect or near perfect condition, as though it had just been manufactured - mint condition.
  • Mintage The quantity produced of any particular coin.
  • Mintmark Any letter or other symbol placed on the design of a coin to identify the mint where it was manufactured. May also be used to describe other marks used by a mint for control purposes, such as the dating the coin (before coins had their year of issue inscribed on them) or identifying the mint officials responsible for its issue.
  • Mint Condition The condition of an uncirculated coin.
  • Mint Lustre The dull bloom or satiny shine found on uncirculated coins.
  • Mint Set A set of coins of every denomination produced by a mint.
  • Motto A short sentence or phrase chosen as a special meaning.
  • Mule A coin produced using an abnormal and erroneous die pairing.
  • Nickel A hard silvery coloured metal often used as an alloy with copper known as cupro-nickel. Also the name of a US five cent coin which actually contains about 24% nickel.
  • Numismatic Relating to coins or the study of coins and things that are used as money, including coins, tokens, banknotes and medals.
  • Numismatist A person who collects, studies or deals in coins, an expert in the subject.
  • Obsolete A coin or design that is no longer in production.
  • Obverse The main side of a coin, usually denoting the issuing authority, often by portraying the monarch or head of state. Commonly called the "head" side or front (see the reverse.). Normally the lower die which is embedded in the anvil.
  • Off-centre Describes a coin that has received a misaligned strike from the coin press and has portions of its design missing.
  • Ornament Decoration added to embellish something.
  • Ounce The name for several units of measurement. The main ones are the avoirdupois and troy; 28.3495231g and 31.1034768g respectively. The troy ounce is used internationally as the standard unit of measurement when weighing precious metals.
  • Overdate One date struck over another on a coin, by repunching one date over the original date on the die. Usually to economise on die use at the end of a calendar year, but also to correct errors.
  • Overstrike -uck When a coin is struck on the flan of an existing coin, rather than a blank flan. Evidence of overstriking is sometimes seen on coins such as the 1804 Bank of England Dollars, which were struck over imported Spanish Dollars.
  • Patina A thin film existing on the surface of a coin as a result of a chemical reaction of the surface metal to the outside environment. This often has the effect of increasing the aesthetic appeal of a coin and protecting it from further corrosion.
  • Pattern A coin, official or otherwise, produced as a suggestion or trial for a new or replacement design denomination, size or some other innovation.
  • Pellet A small, rounded, compressed mass of a substance
  • Penny A sub-unit of the pound sterling, of which there were 240 old pennies to the pound sterling before decimalisation, and 100 new pennies to the pound sterling after decimalisation. Also a slang term for a US cent.
  • Pennyweight A unit of weight equal to one-twentieth of a tower ounce.
  • Piedfort A specially struck coin which is much thicker and heavier than normal, often exactly twice the normal weight. From French, literally means heavy weight.
  • Planchet The American word for blank, applied to a piece of metal before it is struck by the dies to convert it into a coin.
  • Plaster A three-dimensional design for a coin or medal.
  • Plated A thin coating of a different metal.
  • Platinum A dense (heavy) silvery-grey metal, atomic number 78, atomic weight 195.078, used by pre-Columbian South American Indians, and rediscovered in the 18th century. Its first use for coins was by Russia in 1828, following the discovery of large platinum deposits in the Ural mountains in 1822.
  • Plug A coin which has had a hole or holes filled with a similar material to lessen the damage and increase the value.
  • Portrait A likeness of a person on the obverse of a coin, this can also be described as an Effigy.
  • Potin A bronze alloy with a high percentage of tin. Used in the manufacture of some low denomination coins by British Celts prior to the Roman Conquest.
  • Pound A term used to refer to several units of weight as well as a unit of value or currency. The currency unit 'pound sterling' is so called because it was originally equal to the intrinsic value of one tower pound of sterling (0.925 fine) silver.
  • Premium The percentage over and above the current gold value at which an item trades.
  • Privy mark Originally a small mark or differentiation in the design of a coin for the purpose of identifying the mint, moneyer, or some other aspect of the coins production or origin, for control purposes. Nowadays mainly used as a design and marketing
  • Proof A specially struck coin of superior finish, originally produced for approval of design and quality but also for retention by the monarch, the mint, museums or other interested parties, nowadays produced mainly for sale to collectors. Most proof coins have a highly polished mirror finish background contrasted against a matt finish on the raised parts of the design. The dies are specially prepared, as are the blanks, and the coins are often produced on special machines at slower speeds, with higher pressure, and double or triple struck to produce sharper definition. Some proofs are struck in different metals compared with the normal issue.
  • Proof Set A complete set of coins of each denomination made in a year which are struck to a superior finish, may often be a matte and shiny finish.
  • Provenance mark A mark which shows the origin of the metal, usually gold or silver, from which the coin was produced.
  • Punch A tool which us used to stamp a design on a planchet (a flat piece of metal or coin blank).
  • Pyx A wooden box which contains, in England, coins produced by the mint, to be tested for weight and purity by the Goldsmiths Company of London in the annual "Trial of the Pyx".
  • Reeding A design made up of vertical striations, which is applied to the coin’s edge. Reeding can help to deter clipping.
  • Regnal year The date as calculated from the start of a reign. On some coins this is shown on the edge, on others including some Islamic coins, all coins are dated with both the commencement date of the reign, and the regnal year, so the actual issue date of the coin can be found by adding the two together. As the start of a reign seldom coincides with the calendar year, there are often two regnal dates for each calendar year, and vice versa.
  • Relief The design that is raised above the surface, opposite of incuse.
  • Replica A realistic and relatively faithful copy of a genuine original coin, usually produced for collectors, educational use, or other legitimate purposes, and usually differentiated in some way from a forgery intended for fraudulent use.
  • Reproduction As for replica, except that a reproduction may be of inferior metal, or less realistic in some other way.
  • Restrike A coin struck after the original date of issue, and backdated, usually by the original issuer as an official issue, but also unofficially. Also usually identical to the original, but sometimes differentiated by mintmarks or other small design changes. The term restrike is often used euphemistically, misleadingly or fraudulently referring to a counterfeit, also to a fantasy near-copy.
  • Reverse The secondary side of a coin, often called the "tail" side. The upper die during striking.
  • Riddler A machine that screens out blanks (planchets) that are the wrong size or shape.
  • Rim The raised edge on both sides of a coin that helps protect the coin's design from wear.
  • Roll A stack of coins of the same denomination which is wrapped in paper.
  • Seigniorage The tax or charge made by a government or mint for minting and supplying coin.
  • Series A set of coins that contains all date and mint marks of a specific design and denomination.
  • Serrated A toothed, rather than plain edge. The use of edge serrations in coin manufacture is intended chiefly to discourage clipping and counterfeiting.
  • Siege money A term used to describe currency issues produced for circulation within besieged towns or cities when access to a supply of official issues was cut off.
  • Silver A shiny grey reflective precious metal used from the beginnings of coinage to the present day, although now largely replaced by base metal.
  • Slab A plastic holder which encapsulates the coin and protects it.
  • Spade Referring to the shape of a shield occurring in the design of a coin. British "spade', sometimes 'spade ace' guineas are so called for this reason.
  • Specimen An example of a coin, often a specially produced coin with a superior finish produced for sale to collectors. The Royal Mint prior to 1970 called its proof sets "Specimen sets"; nowadays this causes confusion.
  • Spread The difference between the buying price and the selling price.
  • Steel An alloy of iron with other metals and carbon, having a range of properties, and usually very durable. During the last century, steel coins were often introduced as emergency economy measures, but are increasingly being used for low-value coins, often copper plated.
  • Sterling Used to describe the British pound. Also a standard for silver which is 92.5% pure silver used in coins and jewellery. The two meanings are closely associated as sterling silver has long been the standard alloy used for British silver coins. The term 'pound sterling' has and still is used to refer to British money made of gold or paper.
  • Strike/Struck Relating to the method of production of coins by pressing them between dies as opposed to casting. Originally the (reverse) die, or the trussell holding it, was struck by a hand held hammer. The strength of the imprint - full, average, or weak - affects the value of rare coins.
  • Tael Chinese and East Asia weight, issued in varying amounts but fixed in China at 50 grams (1 3/4 oz.).
  • Tail The popular term for the reverse side of a coin, as opposed to the head or obverse side.
  • Tarnish, Tarnishing Another word for toning, which occurs naturally to most coins, except that tarnish has a slightly more negative overtone.
  • Tin A soft grey metallic element which has occasionally been used for coins, and is also a constituent of bronze which has often been used as a coin alloy, and often wrongly called copper.
  • Token Any item, but often resembling a coin, with an exchange value, usually privately issued as opposed to an official government issue. At times issued by businesses to relieve the shortage of official coinage for small change. Tone, Toning Another word for tarnishing, which occurs naturally to most coins.
  • Touch piece A coin pierced for suspension around the neck as an amulet, often presented by a monarch to the recipient. This arose from the belief that monarchs could cure certain diseases including scrofula. The coin would normally bear the portrait of
    the monarch so that the piece could take the place of the monarch. It is likely that a touch piece would have become a status symbol as it showed that the wearer had received the monarch's touch. It is also likely that the wearing of mounted coins was copied as a fashion item.
  • Tournois Of or relating to the French city of Tours. The terms livre tournois, gros tournois, and denier tournois, therefore mean a
  • Tours pound, "large", and penny respectively, or a coin struck to the same standard. The Scottish denomination turner is undoubtedly a corruption of tournois.
  • Trade coin Any coin intended for foreign trade rather than domestic circulation, often intended to circulate based on its bullion value, usually in foreign countries rather than its country of issue.
  • Treasure Any old gold or silver coin or other object which has been found together with others in a hoard. In Britain, to qualify as "old" an item usually needs to be over 300 years old, occasionally 200. The precious metal content can be as low as 10% by weight. Single items are excluded. There is a precise legal definition in the "Treasure Act 1996", which replaces the old "Treasure Trove" laws.
  • Trial Usually as in "trial piece", any coin often including patterns, made in a different metal from the normal production metal, and produced to test the dies or preview the design. Lead is often used as it is very soft, and trial pieces are normally struck before the dies are completed and hardened so that minor changes can still be made before the dies are hardened.
  • Troy A system of weights used for precious metals. A troy ounce weighs 31.1035 grams, and there are 12 troy ounces per troy pound.
  • Truncation A cutting off point, often where the neck of a portrait slopes sharply to join the flat background part (field) of the coin.
  • Trussel The upper die which is placed over the blank and struck with a hammer, and bears the design for the reverse of the coin.
  • Type A coin with a particular combination of obverse and reverse designs and descriptions. ignoring minor variations, mintmarks and dates.
  • Uncirculated Literally, this means that a particular coin has not been in circulation, but normally it describes the grade of a coin, a coin which is in mint condition. Please note this does not mean perfect, as most coins have scuffs and minor scratches, knocks and imperfections through the mass production methods used to produce them.
  • Uniface Having a design on only one side, the other side being absolutely plain.
  • Variety A coin which has a slightly different design from other coins of its type. The difference is often imperceptible without close inspection. Any coin which has such a design difference.
  • VF or Very Fine A recognised description for the grade of a coin, being between 'Fine' and 'Extremely Fine'.
  • XAU XAU is the ISO 4217 currency code for gold, denoting one troy ounce of gold.
  • Year Set A collection of all coins issued by a country for any one year (does not necessarily include every mint mark)
  • Zinc A metallic element sometimes used in the manufacture of coins, either as part of an alloy, or as a coating to galvanise a coin made of a metal or alloy which is particularly susceptible to corrosion (e.g. steel).

This guide and its content is copyright of Chard (1964) Ltd - © Chard (1964) Ltd 2018. All rights reserved.
Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in any form is prohibited other than the following:

  • you may print or download this guide for your personal and non-commercial use only
  • you may copy the content to individual third parties for their personal use, but only if you acknowledge Chard(1964) Ltd as the source of the material

You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content. Nor may you transmit it or store it in any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system.