Glossary | The Royal Mint

Bag Mark
Surface mark, or nick, on a coin usually from contact with other coins in a mint bag. More often seen on large gold or silver coins. Also called "contact marks".

Beading
Raised dot border along the rim of a coin.

Cameo
Strong distinction in the surface appearance of foreground devices relative to the field. Proof coins often exhibit this feature.

Cast Coins
Coins produced by pouring metal into a mould. Used for the first Ancient Roman bronze coins and Chinese "cash" coins, but rarely used today. Modern counterfeit coins are often cast.

Circulated
Term used to indicate a coin that has wear.

Edge
Rim of a coin often containing a series of reeds, lettering or other decoration.

Encapsulated Coin
A coin that has been authenticated, graded and enclosed in plastic by an independent service.

Exergue
A segment of the coin design separated by a line (usually indicating the ground in the design) in which a legend is placed/inscribed.

Field
Background area of a coin not used for a design or inscription.

Fleur de coin (FDC)
Coin of exceptionally high quality, where quality is determined not just by wear of the coin in circulation but also by the wear and artistic quality of the dies from which it was minted. These factors are crucial for ancient coinage where variability was higher than in modern mints. See also Grade.

Grade
The condition of a coin or amount of wear that a coin has received. Common grade terms used in the UK are Fine, Very Fine, Extremely Fine and Uncirculated. These grades can be split into divisions, Nearly and About are sub-grades and Good is an over grade e.g. “About Very Fine” is just below “Very Fine” and “Good Very Fine” is just above “Very Fine”.

High Relief
A coin with the raised design high above the field. Coins struck in high relief often have problems with details not coming up sharp enough and dies having a shorter than usual lifespan. If the design is higher than the rim, the coin may not be stackable, and the highest points of the design will wear away very quickly.

Laureate
A style of coin portraiture started in Ancient Rome whose coins often showed the Emperor's head crowned with a laurel wreath. The first portrait of Queen Elizabeth II used in Great Britain from 1953 to 1967 is a modern example.

Legend
Principal inscription on a coin.

Lettered Edge
The outside edge of a coin containing an inscription.

Low Relief
A coin with the raised design not very high above the field.

Luster
Appearance of a coin's ability to reflect light; brilliance.

Milled Edge
Edge of a coin with grooved lines around the perimeter. Also known as a Reeded Edge.

Mint Mark
Small letter (or other symbol) indicating which mint the coin was struck at. Examples are "S" for Sydney or “C” for Canada on sovereigns.

Obverse
Front or heads side of coin.

Piedfort
Pronounced “Pee A Fort”.
A coin struck on a planchet that is thicker than normal, typically twice as thick.

Proof
Coins specially struck for collectors using polished dies and planchets. The resulting coins usually have a mirror field and raised areas are frosted in appearance.

Re-strike
Coins struck from genuine dies at a date later than the original issue.

Reverse
Back or tails side of the coin. Opposite of 'Obverse'.

Rim
Raised portion of the design along the edge that protects the coin from wear. It also makes the coins stackable and easy to roll by machine.

Toning
Surface film caused by oxidation, usually green or brown, mostly found on older silver, copper or bronze coins. Also known as Patina this characteristic can enhance the detail on silver coins and therefore increase their desirability

Truncation
Sharply cut off bottom edge of a portrait or bust. The coin engraver's initials are often found on the truncation.

Uncirculated
Coin that has never been used, thus retaining all or most of its original luster.

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