NUMISPHERE - Glossary of Descriptive Terms and Abbreviations


In our coin descriptions we use a number of terms and abbreviations which are mostly familiar in North America but may be puzzling to visitors from other parts of the world. This glossary is a guide to interpreting those terms and abbreviations.

AH Hegira date. Islamic coins are typically dated with AH dates in Arabic numerals. A conversion of the AH date to a "Christian" or CE date may be obtained by adding 580, although this is not precise since the dates are not calculated using the same calendars. Some Islamic coins have both an AH and a regnal year. In this case the AH date is the date of accession (the year the ruler began his reign) and the regnal year is the year of the reign (starting from 1). The regnal year is usually written following the accession year, separated by a slash: AH 1327/5 is the fifth year of a reign begun in AH 1327, or approximately AH 1331 (there is no regnal year zero).
Al/Br Aluminum-Bronze alloy.
BN Brown. A term applied most often to UNC or BU copper or bronze coins that have predominantly a brown patina. See also RB and RD.
cameo High contrast between the devices of a coin and the fields, the devices usually being frosted and the fields highly reflective. The term is most often applied to proof or proof-like coins.
CD Cyclic Date. Used on Chinese coins of the late Qing dynasty and occasionally in the early Republican period also. The date is indicated on the coin by a combination of two Chinese characters.
chop A chop is a stamp or punch that was commonly used in China on silver coins for two purposes: first, to detect counterfeit or altered coins that were plated or hollowed out; and second, to identify the merchant or bank using the coins as payment, by means of the design of the stamp. The impression made on a coin by a chop is properly called a chopmark, but often the mark is simply referred to as a "chop". Coins that had wide circulation in China, such as Mexican 8 reales, Japanese yen, and USA trade dollars, are often found with chopmarks. Sometimes these are so numerous as to virtually obliterate the coin's design. The presence of chopmarks generally reduces the value of a coin, but in some cases can actually increase it if the chop happens to be an unusual one, or if a chop is present on a coin which is not known to have circulated widely in the Orient.
clnd Cleaned. At some time in the past, the coin has been cleaned in such a way as to alter the natural patina. Strictly speaking, it is virtually impossible to say that a coin has never been cleaned in some way. We can only note instances in which the cleaning has left clear, tell-tale signs. Obvious cleaning always diminishes the value of a collectible coin to some degree, but does not necessarily render it uncollectible.
crude Crude coins are produced under challenging conditions and/or without benefit of modern coin milling technology and quality control. Crude coins often exhibit low-quality engraving, poor strikes, planchet flaws, off-center strikes or rotated reverses, etc. Coins from the 20th century Mexican Revolution and temporary or wartime (e.g. siege) coinage of many types can be described as crude. Of course, the grading of such coins must take into account the conditions under which they were struck.
Cu/Ni Copper-Nickel alloy.
dipped Dipping is the removal of surface impurities on a coin through a chemical process. Because it is non-abrasive, dipping (if done carefully) is a way of cleaning a coin without risking damage to the surface. Dipping works best on uncirculated and proof coins to remove clouding, PVC film, unsightly or uneven toning, etc. and can actually improve the eye appeal and hence the value of such coins. On older circulated coins where the patina has built up over many years, dipping is usually less successful and may leave an excessively shiny or washed-out appearance. In such cases the natural patina is to be preferred and dipping can diminish the value of the coin. Dipping is most often done with silver and gold coins but can also be applied to copper, nickel, and other base metal coins. It works well on most natural impurities resulting from contact with chemical agents in the air or in storage materials, but is not very effective for handling-related impurities such as grease, oils, or dirt.
EE Ethiopian Era date. Can be approximately converted to C.E. date by adding 7: 1895EE = 1902CE.
hl Hairlines. Hairlines are very fine lines in the surface of a coin, generally in the fields but occasionally on the devices as well. They are caused by an abrasive process, usually cleaning or brushing but they can also be caused by careless handling or friction between a coin and a rigid enclosure. Hairlines may only be visible with the aid of magnification. They should not be confused with metal flow or die polish lines which are a normal by-product of the milling process.
ND No Date. ND in a description indicates a coin has no explicit date by design (it does not mean the date is worn off or unreadable). Sometimes an ND coin can be accurately dated but more often (as in the case of Chinese cash coins) the date given is just an estimate, or the accession date of the indicated monarch.
Ni/Br Nickel-Brass alloy.
obv Obverse. The obverse side of a coin typically features the portrait of a ruler or head of state, or other insignia identifying the nation or regime issuing the coin.
PL Prooflike. A prooflike coin is a business strike with some of the qualities of a proof coin, typically highly reflective fields and/or cameo-like devices.
pl Planchet. Also called a flan, this is the blank piece of metal stock on which the design of the coin is impressed by the striking process. A planchet may exhibit a variety of imperfections: improper size or thickness, delamination, gaps or pits in the surface, cracks, etc.
RB Red-brown. A term applied most often to UNC or BU copper or bronze coins. This term indicates that the coin has some brown patination but also retains a significant portion of mint red. See also BN and RD.
RD Red. A term applied most often to UNC or BU copper or bronze coins. This term indicates that the coin retains most of its original freshly minted coloration. (It does not mean that the coin is literally red in color - a freshly minted brass coin will be golden in color but could still be called "red".)
restrike A restrike coin is from a later striking of a particular type or date of coin, usually done for benefit of collectors and not for circulation. True restrikes are made with original coin dies and to the same specifications as the original, or they are issued by the minting authority of a state or government. Such restrikes are considered to have numismatic value, and although as a rule of thumb a restrike is worth less than an original coin this is not always the case. A restrike properly identified as such is considered to be authentic numismatically and must not be confused with a copy or counterfeit.
rev, rv Reverse. On modern coins the reverse side typically carries the denomination, although there are many exceptions to this.
rb Rim bruise. A flattened portion of the coin rim, usually due to the coin being dropped on a hard surface during circulation.
rn Rim nick. A V-shaped nick or cut in the coin rim.
rot rev Rotated reverse. Modern coins are usually struck in one of two alignments - "medal" alignment, with the reverse rotated 0 degrees with respect to the obverse; and "coin" alignment, with the reverse rotated 180 degrees with respect to the obverse. Reverse rotations other than these are considered minting errors (when caused by random defects in the process) or, in some cases, varieties. It is not unusual to find reverse rotation or "mis-alignment" errors, and most often they are insignificant and do not impact the value of a coin appreciably.
SH Solar Hegira date. Used on modern Iranian coinage. Similar to AH date but based on a solar rather than lunar calendar. Instituted by the Pahlavi dynasty. Can be converted to a "Christian" or CE date by adding 621, i.e. SH1311 = 1932. Iran also experimented with another ("monarchial") dating system (MS) for a few years in the 1970s.
UWC Unusual World Coins catalog. Certain coins considered fantasies, not legal tender, or otherwise not intended to circulate as currency are described in this publication. (Legal tender non-circulating issues authorized by a sovereign government are included in the standard catalogs.)