Numismatic Lexicon

A list of useful terms to decrypting numismatics!



Copper or bronze. Usually used in conjunction with ancient coins.


A small circle.


Silver (from argentum)


Gold (from aurum)


BCW: coin reference

Coin Reference: The Hammered Silver Coins Produced at the Tower Mint During the Reign of Elizabeth I (I D Brown, C H Comber, W Wilkinson). A detailed study of dies, punches and die pairs for Elizabethan silver coins. The definitive reference. (2006)

Article: Commonly used coin references


Low grade silver alloy where the silver content has been reduced to a few percent.


A coin made of two different metals or alloys.


The piece of metal placed between the dies to make a coin.


A mint error where a coin gets trapped against one die face after striking and so becomes the die face for a subsequent strike. This results in one side looking normal, whilst the other has incuse (recessed) detail and is a mirror image about the vertical axis.


An alloy typically of 95% copper, 4% tin and a small amount of another element such as aluminium or zinc, added to impart hardness.


Brilliant Uncirculated. A coin as struck with full untoned lustre.


Gold or silver coins worth only their intrinsic value.



Made in a mould. Occasionally used to make official coins, it is more likely to be encountered with reference to old coinage.


A method of acquiring illicit silver by shaving a little metal from the edge of a coin. This was prevalent during the period when hammered coins circulated.


A style of busts presented side by side, usually on the obverse


A piece of metal, resembling money, but usually used for gaming. Also known as a Jetton.


A mark stamped on a coin to change its denomination or place of issue.



Coins with a reduced precious metal content than found in previous issues.


The tool on which the coin detail is engraved.


Usually applied to the first copper coins of George I

Dxxxx: coin reference

British Silver Coins since 1816 (Peter J Davies). A list of silver coins struck since 1816 which includes proofs and patterns together with more detailed die varieties than ESC. (1st Ed. 1982)

Article: Commonly used coin references



An alloy of gold and silver originally used by the ancient Greeks and other cultures.

ESC xxxx: coin reference

English Silver Coinage since 1649 (Maurice Bull). A list of silver coins from 1649 onwards with patterns and proofs included together with a number of varieties, mainly legend or major design differences. The 6th edition published in 2015 resulted in a complete restructuring of the numbering system. We have used the revised ESC references and included those found in the first 5 editions in parentheses for collectors’ convenience. 6th Ed. 2015, (5th Ed. 1992))

Article: Commonly used coin references


An imitation of an official coin, usually with different legends to avoid being classed as forgeries.

Everson: coin reference

The Galata Guide to The Farthing Tokens of James I & Charles I (Tim Everson). The best reference for this coinage. (2007)

Article: Commonly used coin references


An area at the base of a coin’s field, often where the date is seen.



The flat areas of a coin where there is no engraved design.


The whole coin.


Fleur de Coin. A perfect coin, usually used for proof coins.

Fxxx: coin reference

The Bronze Coinage of Great Britain (Michael J Freeman). A list of die varieties found in the bronze coinage from 1860 which is more detailed than that found in Peck. It includes proofs and patterns. (2nd Ed. 1985, Reprinted 2006)

Article: Commonly used coin references



An effect whereby an outline of the other side of a coin’s detail is seen due to metal flow, robbing the affected side of sufficient metal to be fully struck up.


The lines on the edge of a coin. Also known as milling.



Coins struck manually whereby a blank is placed between two dies and one die is hit with a hammer to impart the design onto the blank.



Used to describe recessed design, either on a coin or on a die.

Initial Mark

A symbol typically placed at the beginning of the legend on a hammered coin. Used for identification purposes, particularly for trials of the pyx. Also known as a privy mark.



see Counter.


KM: coin reference

Standard Catalog of World Coins (Chester L Krause & Clifford Mishler). An American reference that has become the standard reference for World Coins. Published annually with updated entries.

Article: Commonly used coin references



The words, numbers or stops around the edge of a coin. Usually containing details of the monarch’s titles, the date, or a motto.

Love Token

A coin, deliberately defaced with a message for a loved one. The coin may also be folded.



A striking, usually in higher relief and larger size than a coin to commemorate an event or person. It may be given as an award.


Coins struck using machinery.


see Graining


A place where coins are produced

Mint Mark

Mark on a coin that identifies its origin of production

Model Coins

Unofficial pieces, usually smaller and often toy money.


The person whose name appeared on hammered coins, usually the reverse, to indicate he was responsible for their quality.


Interwoven letters forming a complex pattern, often containing all the letters in a name.


An obverse and reverse die pairing that was not supposed to happen. Usually involving one current and one obsolete die, the latter of which found its way back into use.

Mxxx: coin reference

The Gold Sovereign (Michael A Marsh) and The Gold Half Sovereign (Michael A Marsh). A list of varieties for sovereigns and half sovereigns -2 vols. (Jubilee Ed. 2002 and 2nd Ed. 2004 respectively).

Article: Commonly used coin references


Nxxxx: coin reference

English Hammered Coinage vol.1 c600 – 1272 & vol.2 1272-1662 (J J North). Two volumes that used to be the standard reference for hammered coinage, but have been superseded in certain areas by more detailed reference works. Still useful for identification and for the early Saxon in particular as it lists moneyers, mints and the issues they had been recorded as striking. (3rd Ed. 1994 and 3rd Ed. 1991)

Article: Commonly used coin references



The side of the coin with the monarch’s bust, their titles, or in their absence, the most important side of the coin.



A trial piece produced as a possible coinage, which may or may not have been accepted for general issue.


A coin of double thickness


A coin, holed for suspension


A precious metal occasionally used for coins, mostly patterns

Privy Mark

A mark on a coin used for identification purposes. See also initial mark.


A coin struck from polished dies on a specially prepared blank.


An historical record of previous owners of a con or other object.

Pxxxx: coin reference

English Copper, Tin & Bronze Coins in the British Museum 1558-1958 (C W Peck). This is still the definitive reference for much of the base metal coinage of this country. It includes all the currency, proof and pattern issues known to the writer. For pre-1860 coinage, there is little alternative. This is also referred to as BMC (British Museum Catalogue). The 2nd edition was augmented with a few pages of previously unrecorded varieties in the British Numismatic Journal 1967. (2nd Ed. 1964).

Article: Commonly used coin references


Raw Coin

A coin that hasn't been slabbed.


A coin made from original dies at a later date


Legend that reads backwards, often with the letters reverse too.


The less important side of a coin. Known as tails.


Sxxxx: coin reference

Coins of England & the United Kingdom (Spink) The Standard Catalogue of British Coins, also referred to in numismatic literature as SCBC. Published annually with updated entries. This is the reference book with the largest chronological range of British coins coupled with the number of varieties, from Celtic to the present day.

A second volume, Coins of Scotland, Ireland and the Islands is also published by Spink. It uses reference numbers in the range 5001 onwards.

Article: Commonly used coin references



A privately issued piece with no official status or monetary value.


The manual enhancement of design features, usually using a sharp tool to scrape away the metal in order to enhance the relief

Touch Piece

A coin or medal issued for the ‘Touching’ ceremony performed until the early 19th century, whereby the king was considered to have the power to cure scrofula (Tuberculosis) by laying on his hands.



A coin struck with a design on one side only.


A coin that has not entered circulation and shows no sign of wear, though may have tiny contact marks arising from modern production methods when the cons are ejected from the press into a hopper.


With: coin reference

Small Change I – V Farthings and Halfpennies (Paul & Bente R Withers), a series of 5 books covering halfpennies and farthings for the period from Edward I to the Commonwealth. (2003-2005).

Article: Commonly used coin references