Coin Collecting Decoded: 10 Essential Terms Every Collector Should Know

Numismatics

The study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects. Numismatics encompasses the collecting aspect and the academic study of money​​.

Mint Mark

A small letter or symbol on a coin indicating the mint where the coin was produced. Common U.S. mint marks include D (Denver), P (Philadelphia), S (San Francisco), and W (West Point)​​.

Proof Coin

A coin struck with a special process to produce a mirror-like surface and exceptional detail. Proof coins are made for collectors and are usually struck more than once​​.

Obverse

The front or "heads" side of a coin, typically featuring a portrait or primary design. The obverse is considered the "face" of the coin​​.

Reverse

The back or "tails" side of a coin, which often displays a design that complements or contrasts with the obverse theme​​.

Grade

A numerical or descriptive rating assigned to a coin based on its condition, with higher grades indicating better condition. Grades help determine a coin's value and collectibility​​.

Key Date

A coin from a particular year or mint that is rarer than others in its series, often sought after by collectors to complete a set​​.

Clad

A coin made of multiple layers of metal, such as a copper core sandwiched between layers of a nickel-copper alloy, common in many modern U.S. coins​​.

Commemorative

A coin issued to honor a significant person, event, or anniversary. These coins are often produced in limited quantities and can be legal tender or collectible items​​.

Mint State (MS)

A term used to describe a coin that has never been circulated and retains its original mint luster. Mint State coins are graded on a scale from MS-60 (lowest) to MS-70 (perfect condition)​​.