Glossary of Terms

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A mintmark used to indicate coins struck at the San Francisco, California branch mint.


An abbreviation for the 1909-S V.D.B. Lincoln Head cent.


A common name for the Saint-Gaudens designed double eagle gold coin that was struck from 1907 until 1933.


Used to refer to Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the preeminent sculptor of the late 19th and early 20th century. Chosen by Theodore Roosevelt to redesign the coinage of the nation, he redesigned the eagle and double eagle in 1907. Many consider his $20 gold piece, also called the Saint-Gaudens, to be the most beautiful U.S. coin.

San Francisco Mint

A branch of the United States Mint, located in San Francisco, California, that struck coins from 1854 until 1955, and again from 1965 to the present day. This mint uses the “S” mintmark.

Satin Finish

An experimental Proof surface used after 1907 on U.S. gold coins. The dies were treated to create a silky surface on the coins.

Satin Luster

A silky, fine finish seen mostly on copper and nickel business strikes. Coins with satin luster have almost no "cartwheel" effect.

Scarce, Rare, etc.

The terms scarce, rare, etc., are relative. A Morgan or Peace dollar considered scarce or rare may be much more plentiful than a Liberty Seated dollar described as such. A street car token of 1880, of which 500 are known to exist, would be considered to be common in the context of street car tokens. However, the 1895 Morgan silver dollar, of which about 500 are known, is recognized as a classic rarity within the Morgan dollar series, as many thousands are known of all other dates and mintmarks.


A deep line or groove in a coin caused by contact with a sharp or rough object.

Screw Press

The U.S. Mint's first type of coining press invented by Donato Bramante. The press had a fixed lower die and an upper die attached to a rod with screw-like threads. Weighted arms attached to the rod would be rotated and the screw mechanism quickly moved the rod with the die downward, striking the planchet placed into the lower die. The struck coin was then ejected and the process was repeated.


An abbreviation for small date.

Sea Salvage Coin

A coin recovered from the ocean, usually from a ship wreck.


A shortened term for the Liberty Seated design on United States silver coinage.

Seated Coinage

Coins bearing the Liberty Seated design.

Second Charter Note

A common term for Series of 1882 National Bank Notes, with no basis in Treasury documents.

Second Generation Rattler

The second generation PCGS holder, which is a rattler holder with a separate outer ring.

Second Toning

Toning that occurs after a coin is dipped or cleaned, whether by natural or artificial means.


A term to identify coins that are neither scarce nor common.


Coins that have a significant bullion value and some numismatic value. The most recognized examples are common date Liberty Head and Saint-Gaudens double eagles.


A coin that has some mirror-like surface, but not enough to be called "prooflike" because some satin or frosty luster is evident.


A specific motif or design used over a period of time. This can refer to a single denomination, or in some cases, several denominations. For example, the Peace dollar design was only used for silver dollars, while the Liberty Seated series included multiple denominations (dime, quarter, half dollar, dollar, etc.).


A shortened term for "Sesquicentennial" which refers to the gold quarter eagle or silver half dollar commemorative coins.


A collection of coins in a series, a collection of types or a collection from a specific mint.

Set Registry

A listing of graded sets of coins specific to the third party grading service by which they were graded. Example: PCGS Set Registry.

Sharp Strike

Refers to a coin with all of its minute design details sharply defined.

Sheet of Notes

An uncut group of notes, as printed. Large-size paper money of 1861-1929 contained four notes, early small-size paper money of the late 1920s contained 12 notes cut apart into two 6 note sheets and modern size paper money sheets have 36 notes.


The last name of Dr. William H. Sheldon, a numismatist who wrote the seminal work on 1793 to 1814 large cents.

Sheldon Book

The major reference book on large cents, first published in 1949 as Early American Cents, written by Dr. William H. Sheldon. The book was updated in 1958 and included Walter Breen and Dorothy Paschal as authors under a new name, Penny Whimsy.

Sheldon Numbers

The reference numbers assigned to 1793 to 1814 large cents in the Sheldon books, Early American Cents and Penny Whimsy. These are typically abbreviated and listed as S-1, S-2, etc.

Sheldon Scale

A system designed by Dr. William H. Sheldon for grading large cents that first appeared in his 1949 book, Early American Cents. The Sheldon Scale incorporates numerical grades ranging from 1 to 70 and corresponds with a range of descriptive grades. Poor-1 is the lowest grade and Mint State 70 is the highest grade.


A design featured on certain series of coins that have vertical and horizontal lines in the shape of a shield.

Shield Nickel

The common name for the Shield 5-cent United States coins that were struck from 1866 until 1883.

Shiny Spots

Areas on Matte, Roman, and Satin Proof coins where the original surface, which is supposed to appear dulled, has been disturbed.


The common name for a bourse, coin convention, or coin show.

Sight Seen

A term meaning that the buyer of a specific numismatic item in a specific grade wants to view the coin before committing to its purchase.

Sight Unseen

A term meaning that the buyer of a specific numismatic item in a specific grade will pay a certain price without having to examine the item first.


A precious metal. It also refers to coins struck in silver, which are generally comprised of 90% silver and 10% copper, with exceptions.

Silver Certificate

Note issues in large-size and small-size formats, redeemable in silver dollars, later in silver bullion, in the denominations $1 to $1,000.

Silver Commem

A shortened term for silver commemorative coins.

Silver Commemoratives

Coins issued to recognize or honor a person, place, or event. These 90% silver and 10% copper alloy coins were struck at various times from 1892 until 1954, and again after 1982.

Silver Dollar

Silver coins with a denomination of $1 that were struck from 1794 through 1935, in a composition of 90% silver and 10% copper.

Silver Dollar Note

A common name for the $5 Series of 1886 Silver Certificates. The design on the back is printed in green and contains the images of five Morgan silver dollars.

Silver Nickel

A common name for a Wartime nickel.

Silver Plug

In order to bring a planchet to the proper weight, a silver plug was inserted into a hole in the center of the planchet on certain early American coins. This was then flattened out when the coin was struck.


A coin that is comprised of 40% silver and 60% copper, such as the Kennedy half dollars, which were struck from 1965-1970.

Skirt Lines

On Walking Liberty half dollars, these are the lines that represent the folds in Liberty's flowing gown.


An abbreviation for small letters.


Universally used nickname for a sealed plastic holder issued by a third party grading service and labeled with a grading opinion.


Sending a coin to a third-party grading service to have it authenticated, graded, and encapsulated in a sonically sealed holder.


A numismatic item that is undervalued or underpriced.


A term used to describe a coin that looks like a higher grade. The term is most often used to describe an AU coin that appears Uncirculated.


A common term for the octagonal and round $50 gold coins struck during the California Gold Rush. These large two-and-one-half ounce gold coins supposedly got their name because criminals used them as weapons and would wrap these in cloth and "slug" their victims on the head. The 1915 Pan-Pac $50 gold commemorative issues are also referred to as slugs.

Small Cent

The reduced-size cents that replaced the large copper cents in 1857.

Small Date

A term used to describe the size of the numerals of the date on a coin. Using this term implies that there are other varieties for the coin or series, such as large or medium dates.

Small Eagle

The coin design showing a plain eagle on a perch, first used on the 1794 half dime and half dollar.

Small Letters

A term used to describe the size of the lettering used in the design on a coin. Using this term implies that there are other varieties for the coin or series, such as large or medium letters.

Small Motto

A common name for the 1864 two-cent piece with the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" in small lettering. This motto was first used on the 1864 two-cent piece. Congress mandated this inscription for all coinage and it has been used nearly always since 1864.

Small Size

A term used to describe a coin's particular diameter in a series. When this term is used it implies that there is a large size or diameter with the same motif.


An abbreviation for coins struck at the San Francisco, California, branch mint.


An abbreviation for Special Mint Set.


An abbreviation for Specimen Strike.

Spark-Erosion Die

A die that is made by the electrolytic deposition technique has surfaces that are very rough, with almost rust-like pimples. The surfaces must be polished to remove the surface imperfections.

Spark-Erosion Strike

A coin made from spark-erosion dies. These are distinguished by the “pimples” or pitting in the relief areas.

Special Mint Set

A set of unique coins that were neither circulation strikes nor Proofs. First struck in limited quantities in 1965 and officially released in 1966-1967, these were intended to replace Proof sets, which had been discontinued as part of the U.S. Mint’s efforts to stop coin hoarding. The Mint then resumed issuing Proofs in 1968.


Special coins struck at the mint from 1792-1816. These coins display many characteristics of the later Proof coinage. Abbreviated as SP and also referred to as specimen strikes.

Specimen Note

Another term for proof note.

Split Grade

The practice once widely employed, including extensively by the American Numismatic Association Certification Service (ANACS), to grade each side of a coin separately. Accordingly, a Morgan silver dollar might be graded MS-63/65, meaning that the obverse is 63, the reverse 65. Today, this informative method is rarely used.

Splotchy Toning

Color, uneven in shade and composition, on the surface of a numismatic item.


A general term for the discolored area on a numismatic item. A spot or spots can affect the grade of a coin depending on size, severity, placement, and other factors.

Spot Price

The market price of precious metals in bullion form at the moment a transaction is finalized.


The difference in price between bid and ask.

St. Gaudens

A shortened term for Augustus Saint-Gaudens or for the Standing Liberty double eagle he designed.

Standard Dollar

Regular silver dollar, as the Morgan type. Term used to differentiate the 412.5 grain silver dollar from the 420 grain trade dollar.

Standard Silver

The Mint Act of 1792 established the official composition of U.S. silver coinage at approximately 89% silver and 11% copper. It was later changed to 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper, which is the composition seen in most U.S. silver coins.

Standing Liberty

A design motif with Miss Liberty in an upright front-facing position.

Standing Liberty Quarter

The common name used for the Liberty Standing silver quarter that was designed by Hermon MacNeil. These were struck from 1917 until 1930.

Staple Scratch

A line on a coin caused by removing it improperly from a stapled cardboard holder.


A design element on many U.S. coins depicting a five-pointed or six-pointed motif.

Star Note

A note with a start next to the serial number to indicate that it is a replacement note, which means it was printed as a substitute for a defective note that was immediately destroyed. This process began with Silver Certificates of 1910. The serial number of the star note does not match that of the note being replaced.

State Quarter

Washington quarters struck with unique reverse designs for each state. First issued in 1999, subsequent issues followed in the order of a state's admittance to the United States. The order for the original 13 colonies was determined by the date each state ratified the Constitution.

Steam-Powered Press

A coining press powered by a steam engine.

Steel Cent

A name for the 1943 cents, struck in steel and plated with zinc. Certain 1944 cents were struck in steel with the left over blanks.


A common name for 1943 steel cents.


A common name for the experimental $4 gold coins struck by the U.S. Mint from 1879-1880. The name is derived from the large star on the coin's reverse.

Stock Edge

A counterfeit edge collar used to produce counterfeit coins.

Store Card

A metallic (usually) token issued by a merchant or other commercial entity to advertise goods or services. Same as merchant’s token. Example: the tokens issued in 1837 by Smith’s Clock Establishment, New York City.

Store Cards

During the nineteenth century there was a shortage of small change. Merchant tokens were created to help alleviate this shortage. These were typically composed of copper and were widely accepted in their immediate areas.

Stress Lines

Another term for "flow lines."


Raised lines on coins that are caused by the incuse polish lines on a die. These tend to be fine, parallel lines, although they can be swirling or even criss-crossed. Planchet striations are burnishing lines that are not struck away by the minting process and appear as incuse lines on the coins.


The act of minting a coin. Also the intended sharpness of detail for a particular coin.


Refers to the process by which a coin is minted. Also refers to the sharpness of design details. A sharp strike or strong strike is one with all of the details struck very sharply; a weak strike has the details lightly impressed at the time of coining.


A flat piece of metal, rolled to proper thickness, from which coin planchets are cut.


A term used to describe a coin or numismatic object, produced from dies and a coining press.

Struck Copy

A replica of a coin made from dies, but not necessarily intended to deceive.

Struck Counterfeit

A counterfeit coin produced from false dies.

Surface Preservation

The condition of a numismatic item's surface.


The entire obverse and reverse of a coin.


A process whereby coins are placed in a bag and shaken vigorously to knock off small pieces of metal. The bits of metal are gathered and sold, producing a profit as the coins are returned to circulation at face value. Done primarily with gold coins, leaving their surfaces peppered with tiny nicks.