A Few Commonly Used Terms in Numismatics

Accented Hair:  Is a grading attribution for a 1964 proof Kennedy half dollar variation, named so for the extra hair accentuation above the ear.  About 3% of all 1964 proof Kennedy half dollars are of the accented hair variety. 

Bag Mark: These are marks often acquired by mint state coins when dumped into mint bags and shipped to their destination point.  Bag marks are one of the most common problems with uncirculated coins.

Brilliant Proof: A proof with no discernible contrast between the devices and fields.

Cameo: A coin whose devices have a frosted, white appearance that is contrasted by the surrounding brilliant fields.  There are many levels of cameo, for more information click here.

Carbon Spots:  Small, pinprick-sized black spots on a coin's surface.  On silver proof and SMS coinage, the spots are typically caused by an impurity in the metal, or by some foreign contaminant.  

CC Mint:   A coin struck at the Carson City Mint.

Certified Coin:  Is a coin graded by a third-party grading service.  Certified coins generally are encapsulated and sealed inside an inert, air tight plastic holder. 

D Mint:  A coin struck at the Denver Mint.

Devices:  The raised portions of a coin.  For example, on the Franklin half dollar, the devices would be the bust of Franklin, lettering, and date on the obverse, and the Liberty Bell, eagle, and lettering on the reverse.

Die:  The physical incused images on a sheet used for pressing coins. 

DMPL:  Abbreviation for deep-mirrored proof-like.  A mint state coin that possesses the mirrored fields similar to proof coins as well as deeply struck fields.

Fields:  The recessed, flat portions of the coin surrounding the devices.  The fields on a proof coin typically have a mirrored appearance. 

Full Bell Lines:  A designation given to mint state Franklins with a  full or nearly full strike, with uninterrupted horizontal bell lines along the bottom of the bell.

Grade:  The relative quality of a coin.  The system used today was originally proposed by Dr. William Sheldon.  A numerical system spanning from 1-70 is used, the higher the number the higher the relative quality of the coin.  Numbers 1-59 are used to express the various degrees of wear of circulated coinage.  Numbers 60-70 are used for uncirculated mint state and proof coins.  The higher the grade, the fewer the surface imperfections. 

Hairlines:  Very fine, light scratches typically found in the mirrored fields of proof or special mint set coins.  Halogen lighting and magnification are often required to detect these imperfections. 

Milk Spots (also Glue Spots):  White spots generally attributed to 1958-1964 silver proof coins, believed to be caused by soap residue left on the planchet prior to striking.

Mint State (MS) Coins:  An uncirculated coin originally intended for commercial use.  On the Sheldon scale, mint state coins range from a low grade of 60 (very heavily abraded, lowest possible uncirculated quality) to a high of 70 (perfect, nigh impossible for a mint state coin).

O Mint:  A coin struck at the New Orleans Mint.

P Mint:  A coin struck at the Philadelphia Mint.

PF or PR:  Abbreviation for a proof coin.

Pitting:  Strike imperfection common in early 1950s Proofs.  Typically occurs on the high points of the Proof planchet.  Generally caused by inadequate metal flow into the deepest recesses of the die during striking.  

Planchet:  A round metal disk ready to be struck into a coin.

PL:  Abbreviation for proof-like.  A coin which is not a proof, but a commercial business strike, yet exhibits the highly polished, mirrored fields similar to a proof coin. 

Proof Coin:  A coin minted specifically for collectors and intended to be the highest expression of the coin minter’s art.  Proofs are made from highly polished dies and planchets and are individually handled once struck so as not to get abraded.

Proof Minor:  A proof quarter, dime, nickel or cent. 

Raw Coin:  An uncertified coin that has not been graded by a third-party grading service.

S Mint:  A coin struck at the San Francisco Mint.

Special Mint Set Coin:  A coin minted specifically for collectors.  Unlike proof coins, which are also minted for collectors, special mint set planchets and dies were not as highly polished as proof planchet and dies.  1965 to 1967 SMS coins were dumped into bins instead of being individually handled after minting.

Star Coin:  A designation given by NGC for coins that display exceptional eye appeal for their date and grade.

Striations:  Similar to hairlines in nature, except that striations occur during the minting process, while hairlines are the result of mishandling after the coin is minted. 

Struck Through:  A coin that had some foreign material on the planchet during the striking process.  A struck through coin can refer to many different materials and many levels of damage to the surface of the coin.  

Toning or Discoloration:  Coloration on the surface of the coin caused by many factors.  A coin is considered "discolored" when it displays dull brown or black toning over its surface.  Conversely a "color toned" coin is a coin that displays vibrant or subdued colors with desirable eye appeal.