Glossary of Terms

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An abbreviation for Good.


The large metal relief used in the portrait lathe from which a hub is made.

Garrett, John Work

Son of T. Harrison Garrett, he entered the ambassadorial service and served in a number of posts over a long period of years. In the late 1910s he acquired the family collection from his brother Robert, and added to it with auction and regular purchase. After his passing it was bequeathed to The Johns Hopkins University. Selections from the Garrett Collection were sold by us in 1976 and 1979 through 1981, creating a sensation at the time.

Garrett, Robert

Son of T. Harrison Garrett, Robert was a medalist in the first modern Olympics held in Athens in 1896. He was heir to the Garrett coin collection, which he kept through the 1910s, then passed it along to his brother John Work Garrett. In 1942 it was gifted to The Johns Hopkins University. Selections from the Garrett Collection were sold by us in 1976 and 1979 through 1981, creating a sensation at the time.

Garrett, T. Harrison

A scion of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad fortune, Garrett developed an interest in numismatics while a student at Princeton circa 1864. By the time of his death (due to a boating accident in Chesapeake Bay) in 1888, he had the largest collection in private hands in America. This passed eventually to his son Robert then to another son John Work Garrett, who added to it. In 1942 it was gifted to The Johns Hopkins University. Selections from the Garrett Collection were sold by us in 1976 and 1979 through 1981, creating a sensation at the time, the total prices realized exceeded $25,000,000.


A descriptive term applied to coins of exceptionally high quality, typically considered Mint State-65 or Proof-65 or better.

Gem BU

An abbreviation for Gem Brilliant Uncirculated.

Gem Unc

An abbreviation for Gem Uncirculated.

Gem Uncirculated

A grading term reserved for coins of exceptional quality, grading Mint State 65 or 66.

Generic Coin

A typical or common coin of its type, in average or below average grade. The type of coin for which sight-unseen bid prices are often given.

German Silver

No one has ever been able to define “German silver,” although the term is widely used in numismatics. Variations have been called argentan, packfong, Feuchtwanger’s Composition, and American silver. This alloy found its main use in providing a cheap substitute for silver in tableware, ornamental articles, etc., and in several proposals for coinage. Generally, German silver contained large proportions of nickel and copper, but also sometimes zinc, lead, and tin. Elemental analysis of certain “German silver” tokens has reveals that some actually contained a small amount of silver. There were no standards.


An shortened term for “Gobrecht dollar.”

Gobrecht Dollar

Silver dollars designed by Christian Gobrecht, at the time "second engraver" at the United States Mint. In 1840 he became chief engraver at that facility and remained in that position until his death in 1844. These were struck in 1836, 1838 and 1839 and were later restruck from the late 1850s to the 1870s.


Basic elemental metal. Gold coins were first minted for circulation in 1795 and last struck for circulation in 1933. From their inception copper was added for strength, standardized by the Act of January 18, 1837, as 90% gold and 10% copper. The copper added a warm rosy orange hue to the gold. Sometimes, silver was present as an “impurity,” particularly for metal brought from California after the Gold Rush, and such pieces have a generally lighter color. The specification of 10% allowed for copper allowed amounts of other metals as well, so long as the gold content remained at 90%.

Gold Certificate

Notes redeemable in gold coins including the denominations $10 to $10,000 in both large-size and small-size formats. The backs of the large size notes were printed in a gold color and the backs of the small-size notes were printed in a green color.

Gold Commem

A shortened term for gold commemorative.

Gold Commemorative

Two groups of coins are considered gold commemoratives. The first group is comprised of the 11 gold coins from the classic commemorative series, struck from 1903 to 1926 to honor a person, event or place. The second group is any of the modern United States commemorative gold issues, sometimes called modern gold commemoratives.

Gold Dollar

Small gold coins with a denomination of $1 struck from 1849 until 1889.

Gold Dust

Technically, raw or native gold in powdered or granular form, as mined or processed. Sometimes used in newspaper accounts to refer to gold bullion in general.


A grading term that describes a coin with little detail but outlined major devices. On some coins the rims may be worn to the tops of some letters. This is also abbreviated as G. The numerical equivalents associated with Good are G-4 and G-6.


The condition or amount of wear that a coin or piece of paper money has received. Generally, the less wear a coin has received, the more valuable it is.


An expert who evaluates the condition of coins or paper money.


The method of numerically quantifying the condition of a coin or paper money.

Grading Service

A commercial enterprise that, for a fee, will encase a coin or piece of paper money in a holder or capsule and affix a notation as to an opinion of grade. Synonym: Certification service.


A metric unit of weight representing 1/1000 kilograms. There are 31.1033 grams per Troy ounce.

Grand Watermelon Note

A common term for the $1,000 Series of 1890 Treasury Notes. So-called for the three zeros on the back that resemble watermelons.

Green Bean

A nickname for the CAC acceptance sticker.


A term for a piece of paper money that is printed in green on the back with a face value of $1 or higher. This is also an unofficial popular term for paper money from the United States in general, popularized by the Legal Tender Notes of the 1860s with green backs (but not the first to be printed in this color), and widely used since.


A common name for Coin Dealer Newsletter.

Guide Book

The Guide Book of United States Coins, a favorite single-volume source for combined historical and price information of a general nature. This volume made its first appearance in 1946, bearing a cover date of 1947, with Richard S. Yeoman listed as author. Yeoman was an executive of the Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin, which since 1941 had enjoyed success with the annual Handbook of United States Coins, a slim volume listing dealer buying prices.