Glossary of Terms

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The area of a coin that displays hair, which can be an important aspect of the grade.


A series of minute lines or scratches, usually visible in the field of a coin, caused by cleaning or polishing. Often, these are not described, but are factored into the grading process. Thus, a Proof-63 coin is one that has hairlines and was cleaned at one time.


A shortened term for half dollar.

Half Cent

Struck from 1793 until 1857, half cents are the lowest-value coin denomination ever issued by the United States, representing one-two hundredth of a dollar.

Half Disme

The original spelling of half dime, with a face value of five cents. The 1792 half disme is widely considered the first United States coinage struck under authority of the Mint Act of April 1792 and was supposedly struck in John Harper’s basement with newly acquired mint presses.

Half Dollar

The denomination with a face value of 50 cents that was first struck in 1794. It is still issued today.

Half Eagle

The first gold coin actually struck for the United States. It had a face value of $5 and was struck from 1795-1929. Half eagle means half the value of an eagle, the name for a gold coin with a face value of $10.

Halogen Light

A powerful light source that enables a viewer to examine coins closely. This type of light reveals even the tiniest imperfections.

Hammer Die

The non-stationary upper die, typically the obverse. However, on certain issues with striking problems, the reverse was used as the upper die.

Hammer Price

The price at which an item is sold at an auction, not including any additional fees.

Hard Times Tokens

Tokens or monetary substitutes, most of which are the size of large copper cents, issued from 1832 to 1844 inclusive, as cataloged by Lyman H. Low, who published Hard Times Tokens in 1899. Strictly speaking the Hard Times era began in 1837 and ended in the spring of 1843, so the numismatic definition is somewhat different. In modern times Russell Rulau has added to the Low number, to the point at which several hundred tokens are now included. This has been a very popular collecting specialty for many years.


A cloudy film, which may occur naturally or be added, seen on the surface of both Proofs and circulation strike coins.

Heraldic Eagle

An emblem of Liberty that resembles the eagles of heraldry, also called the large eagle.

High End

A coin given a grading number designation, but which an informed observer believes is an exceptional specimen within that grade or may be a candidate for a higher grade.

High Points

Areas of highest relief in a coin design used to help determine the grade of a coin. These are the first small parts to show evidence of wear or abrasion, and also the last areas to strike up fully.

High Relief

A coin on which the design features very deep concave fields. This requires extra pressure to achieve a full strike. Only a few coins were struck in High Relief for the U.S. Mint before their designs were reduced to offer better striking capabilities. An example is the MCMVII (1907) Saint-Gaudens High Relief double eagle.


Mythical animal displayed on the 1915-S Panama-Pacific International Exposition $2.50. Usually pictured as having the fore part of a horse and the hind part of a fish, the tail sometimes shown in a curl.


A group of coins usually held over a long period of time for either monetary or numismatic reasons.

Hoard Coin

A coin that exists, or existed, in a quantity held by an organization or an individual. An example would be the Randall Hoard of copper cents. A wooden keg filled with as-new copper cents was found under an old railroad platform in Georgia sometime after the Civil War. It contained thousands of coins dated 1816-1820, and accounts for most of the Mint State examples we have today.


An person who gathers and holds onto a large quantity of numismatic items.

Hobo Nickel

An Indian Head (Buffalo) nickel which has been engraved with the portrait of a hobo or other character, often by hoboes themselves. These are popular with certain collectors. Some have features so distinctive that they have been attributed to particular "hoboes."

Holder Toning

Toning acquired by a coin as a result of being stored in a holder.


A positive-image punch used to impress a coin's design into a die for striking coins.