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Coin Collecting Terms

The field of numismatics is very detailed. Not only are there thousands of coins to study, but there is a lot of jargon as well. It can be intimidating for a novice coin collector to take in so much information. Here’s a list of terms that can help you find and preserve rare coins:

Bag marks – Nicks and dings on a coin caused by banging against other coins when stored in bags. Gold coins are particularly susceptible to bag marks.

Billon – An alloy of copper and silver that is very popular for making coins and medallions. The ratio of copper to silver can vary in a sample of billon, but copper always makes up the majority of the alloy.

Electrotype – A copy of another coin made by electroplating. Be careful not to mistake an electrotype for a genuine collectible coin.

Coin Grading – A method of measuring quality to help assign value to collectible coins. There are different systems for coin grading that measure different aspects of a coin, such as quality or rarity.

Gresham’s law – A law that applies to the circulation of collectible coins. When two coins with the same face value, but different intrinsic values, are in circulation at the same time. The one with the lesser intrinsic value will remain in circulation while the other is collected. The law is named for Sir Thomas Gresham, a 16th century English financier.

Mule – A coin with an obverse design and reverse design that comes from two different coins (e.g. a coin with the Sacagawea dollar design for the obverse, and the design for a Washington state quarter for the reverse). Mule coins are often considered to be extremely rare and valuable.

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