Coin Collecting Glossary – The In’s and Out’s Part 2

Following on from our blog ‘Coin Collecting Glossary – The In’s and Out’s’, we take a look at some more of the terms that you may find useful if you are starting out in the wonderful world of numismatics.


This is a combination of two or more metals, usually to create something stronger and more resistant to corrosion. For example, if you combine silver with copper, it produces sterling silver. An alloy will retain all the properties of the individual base metals in the resulting material such as luster, electrical conductivity and ductility.


A blank, which can also be referred to as a planchet or a flan, is a small disc of metal which is put into a coin press to strike into a finished coin. In ancient times the dies used were not as hard as they are today, so blanks needed to be heated up before being struck. As todays more modern coins have a much lower relief this is not needed, although coins are heated and then slow cooled which does soften the coin.


Bullion refers to physical gold and silver of high purity that is often kept in the form of bars, ingots, or coins. It is often held as reserves in central banks and can sometimes be considered as legal tender.


This is an extremely hard stamping tool designed to withstand high pressure. Each die bears a mirror image of a coin’s design used in pairs pressing the coin between two dies, to obtain the obverse and reverse designs on the coin simultaneously.


The background area of a coin not used for a design or inscription. It is the flat area of the coin that hasn’t been raised off of the coin during the striking process.


This relates to the condition of a coin or the amount of wear that a coin has received. Common grade terms used in coin collecting in the UK are Fine, Very Fine, Extremely Fine and Uncirculated. In the UK coins can also be graded from 1 to 10 and in the USA grading can be from 1 to 70.


This refers to a coin’s ability to reflect light and the way light interacts with it. The word can be traced back to the Latin word lux meaning light, and generally implies radiance, gloss, or brilliance.

Milled Edge

This refers to the grooved lines at the edge of the coin around its perimeter. Also known as a Reeded Edge. Originally coins had a smooth edge and hundreds of years ago there was a common practice of “shaving” a coin and keeping the residue for profit without noticeably changing the shape of the coin. To prevent this happening, in the late 1600’s the Master of the Royal Mint, Isaac Newton, brought in mechanically milled coins, so it could be physically visible to see if the coin had been tampered with.


A term used to describe the scientific analysis and study of money and its uses in history. It can also refer to the coin collecting, currency, tokens and paper money. When coin collectors use the word numismatic though, they refer primarily to the study of coins in particular.


Pronounced ‘pee a fort’, the word comes from the French compound of pied meaning foot and fort meaning strong, great, or heavy; but the idiomatic meaning is heavy weight. A piedfort coin is a coin struck that is thicker than normal, typically twice as thick. These coins are not normally circulated and are usually only struck for commemorative purposes.


The literal definition of this word is the act of making something shorter or quicker, especially by removing the end of it. In coin terms it refers to how the image of a monarch’s head on a coin is cut off at the bottom. You will often also find that the designer of the coin has placed their initials either in or just below the truncation.