Coin Collecting Glossary

The who's who and what's what of coin collecting.


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Capped Bust to Left Quarter Eagle

A United States $2.50 gold coin minted in 1808. This coin is the key stopper for any early gold type collectors due to it being a one-year type coin with a mintage of only 2,710.
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See also - - Quarter Eagle

Capped Bust to Right Quarter Eagle

A United States $2.50 gold coin minted from 1796 until 1807. Early gold specialists focus on some major varieties within the type. Key date varieties in the type include the 1796 No Stars Obverse and the 1804 13-Star Reverse. The 1808 is a one-year type coin making it key to type collectors, although some type collectors try to include a 1796 No Stars Obverse which in essence also makes it key for type collectors.
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See also - - Quarter Eagle

Capped Head to Left, Large Diameter Quarter Eagle

A United States $2.50 gold coin minted from 1821 until 1827. Mintage of quarter eagles resumed in 1821 after being stopped in 1808. Minting again stopped in 1822 and 1823 before resuming once again in 1824. This type ended in 1827 with the introduction of the close collar in 1828. This type is referred to as Large Diameter in contrast to the Reduced Diameter type of 1829 to 1834. The diameter of this type was the same as earlier quarter eagles at about 20mm. In 1829 the diameter was reduced to about 18.5mm.
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See also - - Quarter Eagle, Capped Head Left Reduced Diameter, Close Collar

Capped Head to Left, Reduced Diameter Quarter Eagle

A United States $2.50 gold coin minted from 1829 until 1834. This type is referred to as Reduced Diameter in contrast to the Large Diameter type of 1821 to 1827. The diameter of the previous Large Diameter type was about 20mm while the diameter of the Reduced Diameter was approximately 18.5mm. The Reduced Diameter type of quarter eagle was also the first to receive its reeded edges via a close collar.
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See also - - Quarter Eagle, Capped Head Left Large Diameter, Close Collar, Reeded Edge


Slang referring to large American silver dollars, especially the Morgan dollar. The term originated from the more pronounced "cartwheel effect" of reflected light on silver dollars due to the larger size of the coin and the heavy flow lines created when the coin was struck.
See also - - Cartwheel Effect, Morgan Dollar

Cartwheel Effect

This is the term used to describe the windmill-like effect of reflected light off a coin when it is rotated under a light. This occurs due to the light reflecting off the flow lines created when the coin was first struck. This effect occurs on all uncirculated coins but is more pronounced on silver dollars such as the Morgan dollar due to the larger size and heavier flow lines of the coins. These lines wear down with circulation or repeated cleaning and eventually cause the effect to disappear giving coins a dull, lifeless look.
See also - - Luster


This is a term used by coin collectors to refer to the "art" of picking a rare or valuable coin from among what is believed to be more common coins. It is usually practiced by collectors that specialize in some area of the hobby where specific knowledge of lesser known varieties can pay off. For example, a collector of $20 gold double eagles might examine 1854 pieces looking for an unattributed large date variety which can easily be worth four times the price of a more common small date example.


A counterstamp made on genuine coins by bankers or merchants after eliminating fakes or counterfeits. Chinese merchant chopmarks are frequently found on U.S. trade dollars of the 1870's.
See also - - Counterstamp


Term used to describe a coin that has seen circulation and therefore shows signs of wear on the coin. Circulated covers the grades AG-3 to AU-58 on the ANA grading scale.
See also - - ANA Grading Scale, Uncirculated

Civil WarToken

A non-government issued piece that was used as a substitute for currency. Issued privately during the United States Civil War in response to the scarcity of coins due to hoarding by the public. They are normally grouped into patriotic, political, and store card themes.
See also - - Token, Hard Times Token, Store Card Token

Clad Coinage

In August of 1965, a law was passed in the U.S. authorizing production of "clad" coinage. These consisted of coins with a core of pure copper sandwiched between outer layers of copper-nickel or silver that were bonded to the core. This layering of clad coinage is easily seen by looking at the edge the coin and noticing the change in color between the layers.

Clash Marks

Occurs when the obverse and reverse dies strike each other without a planchet being inbetween. The result is an impression from the obverse die left on the reverse die or vice versa. Coins subsequently struck with a clashed die will exhibit the clash marks on the coin.
View clash marks on an 1859-O $20 double eagle >>

Classic Head Quarter Eagle

A United States $2.50 gold coin minted from 1834 until 1839. This is the first type of quarter eagle to be produced at a branch mint. Prior to this quarter eagles were struck only at the Philadelphia Mint. In 1838, the Charlotte Mint began minting quarter eagles. In 1839, production began at Dahlonega and New Orleans.
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See also - - Quarter Eagle


The act of clipping bits of metal from gold and silver coins and melted for profit. Clipping made the coins lighter weight and debased their value. During the 13th century, England fought clipping by redesigning coins to have a large cross that extended out to the edge of the coin. A royal edict by King Henry III stated that any coin with part of the cross missing would no longer be legal tender. In the U.S., the introduction of the reeded edge was meant to stop clipping.
See also - - Reeded edge

Close Collar

The close collar was added to the U.S. minting process in 1829 in order to ensure that coins were struck to a uniform diameter. It basically kept the metal from spreading outward at the time the coin was struck. It also allowed edge reeding to be done by the collar. Previously any edge reeding was done in a separate process after the coin was struck.
See also - - Reeded Edge

Coin Alignment

Refers to the top of a coin, or die rotation, when a coin is flipped over. When a coin, medal, or token with a coin alignment is flipped over from top to bottom, the reverse remains upright in relation to the obverse. When flipped from side-to-side, the reverse is upside down in relation to the obverse.
See also - - Medal Alignment


See Close Collar.

Condition Census

A ranking of the finest known examples of a specific issue. Although there is no fixed number of coins in a condition census, it generally refers to the top five or six known examples.


See Counterstamp.


This is a stamp or mark punched into a coin by someone other than the government that issued the coin. Merchants and bankers would weigh coins to eliminate the underweight fake or counterfeit coins and then counterstamp the genuine coins. In addition, some countries would counterstamp another country's coins to help eliminate a coin shortage of their own coins. The counterstamps helped merchants to use the coins for change.
See also - - Chopmark

Crack Out

This is a coin that has been "cracked out" of its hard plastic holder or slab. Coins are authenticated and put into these holders by third party grading services such as PCGS or NGC. Many collectors and dealers, if they think a coin has been graded too low, will crack out the coin from its holder and resubmit the coin to be assigned a higher grade. This is the main reason that third party population censuses tend to be over inflated when there is a large price gap between grades.
View videos - - How to crack out coins from PCGS and NGC slabs


These are the individual reeds or ridges on reeded edge coins.
See also - - Reeded Edge

Crime of '73

This term refers to the Coinage Act of 1873. The term originated years later from the western mining interests and others of the Free Silver Movement. The Act put the United States on the gold standard and effectively demonetized silver with the omission of the silver dollar from our nation's circulating coinage.


A lump of metal on the surface or edge of a coin that results from the coin being struck with a broken die or broken collar.


A form of money that is issued by a government as a medium of exchange. Coins and paper money are both currency.

Currency Code

See ISO 4217.