Coin Collecting Glossary

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


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Saint Gaudens Double Eagle

A United States $20 gold coin minted from 1907 until 1933. St. Gaudens double eagles are grouped intothree types, Without Motto and Roman Numerals (1907), Without Motto and Arabic Numerals (1907-1908), and With Motto (1908-1933). Gold type collectors usually seek an example of each of the types. The 1907 Roman Numerals type is also known as the High Relief of which there are two varieties, wire rim and flat rim. The 1933 double eagles were supposed to have all been melted before being released. There are at least eleven known of which all but one is currently illegal to own.
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See also - - Double Eagle, Liberty Head Double Eagle

Saltwater Etching

A term used to describe impairments caused by saltwater on the surfaces of coins. Gold coins from shallow water shipwrecks tend to be most effected by this impairment. Shallower seawater sites, with a mostly sand or silica seabed, have a highly acidic environment. This acidic environment, combined with a more turbulent environment, causes damage to gold coins in the form of corrosion and/or "sandblasting" from the surrounding sand. Microscopic granularity or cracks form on the surface of the coins. This apparently was the case with the SS Yankee Blade and other shallow water shipwrecks in the past. Any 1854-S double eagle with saltwater etching is generally assumed to be pedigreed to the S.S. Yankee Blade shipwreck.
See also - - Shipwreck Effect.

Sandwich Coins

See Clad Coinage


American slang referring to a $10 bill. The term was popular during the 1940s and 1950s. Often found in contemporary literature of that time period such as Mickey Spillane's The Big Kill, "I let him see the corner of a sawbuck. . . . He took the sawbuck and made it vanish." (p.164)


Low denomination or fractional currency notes that were privately issued and used to help alleviate coin shortages during the 19th century. Shinplasters were not highly regarded by the public and tended to be poorly secured and depreciated heavily in value. You could argue that in our current system of fiat money, the U.S. dollar could be called a shinplaster.
See also - - Fiat Currency, Fractional Currency, Postage Stamp Currency

Shipwreck Effect

This is a term used to describe coins that could not be assigned a numismatic grade due to the fact that the coins showed some signs of having been in a shipwreck. Generally, this impairment consists of microscopic coralline structures embedded in their surfaces or etching of the surfaces due to being immersed in saltwater. The term was originally coined by John Albanese to describe many of the silver Seated Liberty half dollars recovered from the S.S. Republic shipwreck and included on coins encapsulated by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). More recently, the term can be found describing coins recovered from the S.S. New York shipwreck. NGC has since divided into their shipwreck effect designation into subdivisions, in essence, giving the coins a grade.
See also - - Saltwater Etching, S.S. New York, S.S. Republic

Silver Certificate

United States paper money in denominations ranging from $1 to $1000. Originally redeemable in silver dollars and later redeemable in silver bullion.


A term referring to a $50 gold piece. Also used to describe an object that is improperly inserted into a coin vending machine as a substitute for an actual coin, bill or token.


Definition coming soon.


Coined money as opposed to paper money. Usually gold or silver coins.

S.S. Brother Jonathan

The S.S. Brother Jonathan was a sidewheel steamer that on July 28, 1865 departed from San Francisco, California headed for Portland, Oregon with over 200 passengers and crew, and an unknown number of crates filled with $20 gold double eagles. On July 30, 1865, after a stop in Crescent City, the ship sank in heavy seas after striking an uncharted reef. Only one lifeboat of 19 passengers and crew survived. On October 1, 1993, a group led by Don Knight discover the shipwreck. Recovery operations in 1996 and 1997 recover 1,207 near mint state gold coins. Most of the coins are 1864-S and 1865-S double eagles. In 2000, a final recovery effort led by Dwight Manley recovered another 58 gold coins. The value of the treasure is estimated to have been over $6 million dollars.
Read story - - Shipwreck and Treasure of the S.S. Brother Jonathan

S.S. Central America

The S.S. Central America was a sidewheel steamer that on August 20, 1857 departed from Panama headed for New York with over 400 passengers and crew, and about $2.6 million dollars worth of gold onboard. On September 12, 1857, the ship sank about 200 miles off the coast of North Carolina during a hurricane. It is believed that only 153 of the passengers survived which included all of the women and all but one of the children. The only child to die was a boy who refused to get into a lifeboat without his older brother being allowed to go also. In the late 1980s, a group led by Tommy Thompson recovered over 5,000 mint state 1857-S double eagles, hundreds of gold ingots, and numerous other coins. The value of the treasure is estimated to have been over $100 million dollars.
Read story - - Shipwreck and Treasure of the S.S. Central America

S.S. New York

The S.S. New York was a sidewheel steamer that on September 5, 1846 departed from Galveston, Texas headed for New Orleans, Louisiana with 53 passengers and crew, and about $40,000 dollars worth of gold coins onboard. On September 7, 1846, the ship sank in a hurricane killing 17 of the passengers and crew including five children. During 1990s, a group led by Avery Munson discovered the wreck and treasure. By 2007, they had recovered over 400 gold coins and over 2,000 silver coins. The value of the treasure is estimated to have been in the million of dollars.
Read story - - Shipwreck and Treasure of the S.S. New York

S.S. Republic

The S.S. Republic was a sidewheel steamer that on October 19, 1865 departed from New York's Staten Island headed for New Orleans, Louisiana with about $400,000 dollars worth of gold and silver coins onboard. The numismatic value of the treasure is estimated to be worth about $180 million today. On October 25, 1865, the ship sank in a hurricane off the coast of Georgia. In 2003, Odyssey Marine Exploration (OME) discovered the wreck and recovered an estimated 40% of the treasure. They recovered over 51,000 coins of which all but about 3,400 were silver. Amazingly, there were several thousand Type 1 double eagles that consisted of every date and mint mark in the series except the rare 1856-O and 1866-S. There was also a smaller quantity of gold eagles ranging in date from 1838 through 1858. However, the vast majority of the treasure was Seated Liberty half dollars. A little known fact is that Capped Bust half dollars were also recovered although OME has not released a census on those coins. Hopefully some of those coins may one day enter the market.
Read story - - Shipwreck and Treasure of the S.S. Republic


See Pound Sterling.

Store Card Token

Merchant issued pieces that were used as a substitute for currency during times of coin shortages throughout the 19th century. They primarily carried advertising for the merchant who issued the tokens.
See also - - Token, Civil War Token, Hard Times Token