[The following excerpt is published courtesy of DLRC Press and its author, Gloria Peters & Cynthia Mohon. This information was originally published in 1995 in The Complete Guide to Shield and Liberty Head Nickels
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ALTERED COIN - A genuine coin that has been deliberately changed, usually to make it resemble a rare or more valuable piece. Addition or removal of a mintmark, altered date on coin to a 1913 are examples.
ANAAB - The American Numismatic Association Authentication Bureau. It is managed by the American Numismatic Association and maintains files on counterfeit and altered coins. It also renders opinions as to the authenticity of coins. Located in Colorado Springs, C0.
ANACS – A commercial service which authenticates, grades and encapsulates coins. Service will verify and label varieties, on request. Located in Columbus, Ohio.
ARTIFICIAL TONING - A coin that has had its surfaces altered and colored (toned) by chemicals, gasses or other induced means which affects the coin’s originality.
ATTRIBUTION - The identification of a numismatic item by characteristics such as issuing authority, date or period, mint, denomination, metal in which struck and by a standard reference. Can also be designation of a variety or die.
BASINING – Describes the process of preparing a working die for placement into the press. The die face is held against a rotating grinding surface and angled at various degrees to impart the proper contour or die face radii. Successful basining allows for a smooth flow of metal into all recesses of the die during coining. This preparation is made at the mint of use, rather than being limited to the Philadelphia Mint where dies are initially created. As a result, coins struck at different mints will often possess a unique character which identifies their origin nearly as well as the mintmark does.
BODY BAG - A slang term for coins returned from a grading service as not acceptable for grading and encapsulation. Coin is returned in a plastic flip and a sticker will state the service’s reason for the No Grade status.
BROADSTRUCK - An error coin. Collar was missing as coin was struck and dies came down on the wrong part of the planchet. Broadstrikes are oversize in diameter and may show a partial collar strike, known as a “railroad rim.”
BROKEN HUB - Letters on coin are incomplete; ie, motto, legend.
CARBON SPOTS - Most so-called carbon spots (small dark specks) on Shield and Liberty Head nickels are probably due to environmental factors and perhaps a few by improper alloy blending, not carbon per se. See Flaking Dies.
CAST COUNTERFEITS - Usually made by sand casting using a genuine coin to make an impression in some form of metal. Normally made to defraud.
CIRCULATED COIN- A regular issue coin which shows wear.
CLASHED DIES - Part of the design from the coin’s opposite side appears on a coin. The dies struck each other without a planchet between them at some earlier time and transferred part of the design to the new planchet — along with the correct design. A fairly common occurrence on some older series and early date Buffalo nickels.
CLEANED - This term used in numismatics describes a form of abuse, usually with some form of an abrasive cleaner; ie, ajax, silver cleaner, etc., to scrub the coin. There is a distinction in value between lightly cleaned and harshly cleaned.
CLIPPED PLANCHET - Planchet when punched out of blank strip that overlapped part of a hole left by punching out a different planchet. Not culled on inspection process and was struck as a coin.
COLLAR - The steel ring which surrounds the coining chamber between obverse and reverse dies. Modern coins are struck within a “closed” collar in which the expanding edge of the planchet is forcefully restrained against the collar’s inner surface. Shield and Liberty Head nickels were coined within a “plain” closed collar, and they have no design on their edge.
CERTIFIED COIN DEALER NEWSLETTER (CCDN) - (Blue Sheet) Dealer to dealer publication. Reports current “sight unseen” wholesale market Bids for coins certified by the most active grading services. Published in Torrance, CA.
COIN DEALER NEWSLETTER (CDN) - (Grey Sheet) A dealer to dealer wholesale market publication monitoring transactions and offers to buy and sell coins “sight seen”. Coins may be “raw” or certified. Published in Torrance, CA.
COUNTERFEIT COIN - A coin made outside of the U.S. Mint to imitate a genuine numismatic piece with intent to deceive or defraud, irrespective of whether the intended fraud is for monetary or numismatic purposes.
CUD - Error variety in which a portion of the die has broken away, usually as the result of a progressive die crack. This missing portion appears as a blank or filled in area on the coin and is known as a cud.
DENTICLES/DENTILS - A design element that encircles the inside of the rim of a coin. To the eye they appear as evenly spaced small loafs.
DENVER MINT – D mintmark.
DOUBLED DIE OBVERSE – DDO - When a working die is not accurately in register between multiple impressions from a working hub, a slight doubling or shifting of the image is imparted to the die. In this case on the obverse.
DOUBLED DIE REVERSE – DDR - See above for explanation.
DIE – A steel cylinder which bears on one end a negative or incuse image of a coin design. Master dies are used to raise working hubs, while working dies are used to strike coins. All dies for the Shield and Liberty Head nickels were made at the Philadelphia Mint.
DIE CRACK/DIE BREAK – Cracks in the working die resulting in one or more raised, usually irregular lines on the coin. Shield nickels are noted for die breaks. Extreme breaks which allow raised metal to form on the coin’s surface are called Cuds — an error coin.
DIE STATE - The condition of a die from new to worn, which is evidenced in the coins it produces.
DIE STRIATIONS/DIE POLISH LINES - Fine raised lines on the coin caused by polishing the working die.
DIE TRIALS & HUB TRIALS/TRIAL PIECES - Usually struck on one side and bearing an impression of either a die or hub. Sometimes referred to as -Splashers- where the engraver or other mint employee, in a preliminary testing of the die, poured some fusible alloy onto a piece of paper and before the metal hardened it was struck by hand with the die. Different metals were sometimes used to lower the cost. Mint regulations required these pieces to be destroyed. However some passed into collectors’ and/or dealers’ hands.
DIPPING – A slang term for immersing a coin into an invasive chemical solution (usually acidic, but may be alkaline based) which affects the coin’s original surfaces. Usually done to brighten, whiten and/or remove spots-stains. In some cases, to roughen a coin’s surface to permit environmental or artificial toning.
ERROR - A coin evidencing a mistake made in its manufacture at the mint.
ESSAY/ESSAI - Formal name for Patterns and Trial Dies.
EXPERIMENTAL PIECES - Struck for mint purposes from regular coinage dies in an experimental metal or alloy.
FLAN - Another name for a planchet.
FALSE-METAL PIECES – Replicas or copies of coins in a metal or alloy or of a weight and fineness other than that prescribed by law.
FALSE DIES - Dies made outside the mint to copy a mint produced coin. Such dies are made illegally to counterfeit coins and defraud.
FANTASY PIECES - An impression with intentionally individualistic characteristics such as deliberately unfinished dies or incorrect edge devices.
FILLED DIE - Results when dirt or grease pack into the letters or numbers of the die preventing the coin metal from entering that part of the design as the coin is struck.
FLOW LINES - Microscopic patterns in a coin’s surface caused by the movement of metal under striking pressures.
FLAKING DIES - Dies which were improperly annealed. Carbon left on dies may flake off on a planchet being struck. Not a common occurrence and carbon on a die usually burns off on the first hundred or so struck. The carbon will appear as a raised spot or area on a coin.
GOOP – Impurities of machine grease, dirt and metal dust that accumulate on the striking dies and are imprinted in the coin. More commonly collects in devices, dates and other crevasses.
HAIRLINES - Fine scratches in the surface of a coin caused by mishandling or light cleaning
HUB – A steel cylinder which bears on one end a positive or relief image of a coin design. A master hub is used to sink master dies, while working hubs are used to sink working dies.
IMPAIRED PROOF – A proof issue coin which has seen circulation or has been damaged. Will be graded with regular circulated grades, ie, AU etc.
LAMINATION ERRORS – Caused by impurities such as slag, scale and ash entrapped in blanks/planchets. Surfaces or rims will split, peel and/or flake on portion of the coin when struck.
LINT MARKS - Threads and even pieces of material impressions sometimes imbedded into the coins surface during striking. Caused by fragments and threads in wiping of the dies with a rag.
LUSTER - The sheen or bloom on the surface of an uncirculated numismatic object resulting from the flow of metal caused when struck by the dies.
MASTER DIE - The die made from the master hub in which the year is engraved and used to produce the working hub. The working hubs are then used to produce the working dies utilized by the mint presses.
MECHANICAL or STRIKE DOUBLING/SHELF DOUBLING - This occurs when one or both dies bounce back against the struck coin at the moment of striking or when one or both dies moves laterally as they separate from the coin. The result is a slightly blurred or doubled image which is flat and shelf-like, rather than being contoured as with a true doubled die variety.
MINTMARK - Letter or symbol identifying the mint of origin of a coin. The mint marks were punched by hand (Shield and Liberty nickels) into each working die at the Philadelphia Mint.
MINT STATE (MS) - Used interchangeably in this book. Uncirculated coins minted for use as regular circulating coinage. A business strike which has not been circulated — as opposed to a proof.
MULE-PIECES/“HYBRIDS” - Pieces struck from a regular coinage die or dies, of which the obverse or reverse, or both, is other than authorized by law for coin of the same denomination, or other than employed in the regular coinage of the same denomination of the same date.
NGC - The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America. A commercial service which authenticates, grades and encapsulates coins. Will not encapsulate cleaned, altered, questionably toned, artificial toned or damaged coins. Located in Parsippany, NJ.
OBVERSE (Obv.) – The “heads” side of a coin. The Shield and date for Shield nickels. Liberty and date for Liberty Head nickels. OMM – Overmintmark, an example being D over S, or D/S.
ORANGE PEEL - A term describing semi-rough metal flow lines on a coin’s surface that radiate towards the coin’s rim. Caused by worn dies.
OVERDATE - A variety in which at least one digit of a date has been changed either for mint economy or to correct a blunder.
PATTERN - Proposed coin design not adopted. Often comes in other than the proposed metal, such as copper or aluminum patterns of silver coins.
PEDIGREE – A recorded or known line of origin and owners.
PCGS - Professional Coin Grading Service. A commercial grading service which authenticates, grades and encapsulates coins. Will not encapsulate cleaned, altered, questionably toned, artificial toned or damaged coins. Located in Newport Beach, CA
PCI - A commercial service which authenticates, grades and encapsulates coins. Service will verify varieties and so label the encapsulated coin. “No problem” coins receive a green label. Cleaned and/or damaged coins will also be identified and encapsulated, but with a red label which states the problem. Located in Chattanooga, TN.
PHILADELPHIA MINT - No mintmark for Shield and Liberty Head nickel series PLANCHET – The blank disc of metal on which the dies of the coins are impressed. Also called blank, flan or disc.
PRIVATE-ISSUE RESTRIKES - Made privately from sold or discarded official dies. Dies were often rusty and/or retooled. Possible only by a most flagrant violation of the coinage laws and mint regulations, involving not only failure to deface obverse dies at the expiration of the year of date, but in the act of reproduction, falsification of dates.
PROOF (PR or PF) – A special minting process. Usually from a polished planchet and double struck. Minted in the Medal Department during the Shield and Liberty Head nickel production years. Made for collectors and therefore usually better preserved than the business strike.
PROOF-LIKE (P/L) - Mirror finish. Results from coins being struck from brilliantly polished dies. The planchet may or may not also have been polished before striking. Sometimes mirrored fields and frosty devices. Early business strikes will sometimes be P/L.
PROVENANCE – Origin; derivation; source. PUNCH – Tool for impressing a date or mintmark into a die. May be a “gang punch” containing 2 or more date numerals or single, as used for a mintmark.
PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) - There is more than one form of PVC. The corrosive type is green and moist appearing. Professional removal is recommended. White cloudy PVC may or may not be unsightly but is not considered active. The white spots seen on some issues, Peace Dollars for instance, are not PVC Rather they seem to be in the planchet (planchet bath?) and are not removable.
RACKETEER NICKEL - An altered, by gilding, 1883 N/C nickel. Produced in 1883 to pass in commerce as a $5 gold coin. May be reeded edge or plain.
RARITY RANKING-OVERALL - Each date compared, evaluated and ranked in all grades within the series and within each respective category ie., Proof or Mint State. For example, in a sample of 20 coins a Rarity Ranking of 20/20 would be the lowest ranked, and the most common by comparison. A Rarity Ranking of 1/20 would be the rarest. Auction records, NGC Census Reports and PCGS Population Reports were complied as raw data. The Authors’ evaluation of raw data was used to arrive at this rating. See Date Analysis Section.
RARITY RANKING-GRADE - Same criteria as above except each date is evaluated within a designated grade and then ranked within that grade.
RARITY RANKING: PCGS, NGC - Only Population Reports of July, 1994, were used in ranking the dates with the designated grade and category (Proof or Mint State). A Rarity Ranking of 1/20 (1st) would be the rarest in a series of 20 total dates within a designated grade while 20/20 (=20th) would be the most common.
RED BOOK - “A Guide Book of the United States Coins” by R.S. Yeoman. Edited by Ken Bressett. Published by Western Publishing Company, Inc., of Racine, Wisconsin. A retail price guide. However, it is complied prior to the year it is issued. Prices may vary up or down compared to the actual marketplace. Used extensively as a reference guide for the different series.
REPUNCHED MINTMARK-RPM - D over D or S over S for example.
REVERSE - or Rev The “tails” side of a coin. Large 5 for Shield nickels. V for Liberty Head nickels.
SAN FRANCISCO MINT – S mintmark
SET UP PIECES – Earliest impressions from a new pair of dies to find the lowest pressure possible required to fully bring up a design. Pieces are sometimes confused with mint errors. The Chief Engraver made the final determination as to when the dies and the pressure being applied were correct. (Taxay)
SLAB - Slang term for a coin encapsulated by one of the certification services. After grading, the coins are enclosed in an inert plastic holder. The holders are tamper resistant.
SLAG - Impurities in the form of ash, metal oxides, scale and other impurities are combined with the metal poured into the ingots. Ingots that contain slag when rolled into blank strips for planchets will show spots and/or streaking. See Lamination errors.
SLIDER - Current slang for a coin that is close to uncirculated but has high point wear under careful inspection. Sometimes sold as a “commercial” uncirculated or Uncirculated coin.
SPLIT PLANCHET - An error coin. Alloys in metal blank did not fuse properly. It splits in various degrees when struck for coinage.
STRIKE - The quality of the coins device detail transferred from the dies. Poor strikes can be caused by light striking pressures, worn dies or improper distant adjustments between the obverse and reverse dies.
TOOLING – A method used by the unscrupulous to alter a coin in some form. Usually by mechanized tool, but hand tooling is also known especially to disguise an added mintmark or date. (See Counterfeit/Altered Coin section.)
VARIETY – Any coin which is recognizably different from another of the same design, type, date and mint due to a difference in die characteristics.
WHIZZING – The severe polishing by mechanical means (usually wire wheel or brush) of a coin in an attempt to improve its appearance and salability to the uninformed. Metal is actually moved and the whizzing throws an unnatural look when tilted in the light. A form of alteration regarded as unethical to sell unless full disclosure is made.
WORKING DIE - The steel cylinder with coin design in one end used to stamp a design into a blank planchet so the devices and inscriptions will be in relief and readable. The die design is incuse on the Shield and Liberty Head nickels.
WRONG PLANCHET/OFF METAL - Error coin. Incorrectly made blanks or the wrong blanks used for an issue other than that intended. Not as common in Shield and Liberty Head nickels as in some issues.