Glossary of Terms


The mixture of two or more metals, usually for purposes of strengthening the one which is the dominant part of the alloy. Gold is frequently alloyed with copper.


The price that a seller is willing to take in order to effect a sale.


Analytic test or trial to ascertain the fineness and weight of a precious metal in coin or bullion form.


Chemical symbol for gold.

Authorized Issue    

An issue by a governmental authority or by civilian or military authority in control of an area.

Bag marks    

Minor abrasions on an otherwise uncirculated coin, caused by contact between coins in a mint bag.


The price offered to buy a particular precious metal item.


Precious metal in negotiable or tradable form, such as a wafer or bar.

Bullion coin    

A coin that is purchased at a price close to its intrinsic or precious metal value. (Examples: U.S. Eagles and Canadian Maple Leafs.)

Business strike    

A coin which has been struck for circulation.


A piece of metal intended for use as legal tender and stamped with marks or inscriptions which show that it was issued by an authority that guarantees its weight and purity most often a government or bank.


The Commodity Exchange, Inc., in New York, where gold and silver, as well as other commodities, are traded on a daily basis.


A reproduction of a coin by someone other than the government legally authorized to do so.


A hardening metal punch, the face of which carries intaglio or incuse mirror-image of the device to be impressed on one side of a planchet.

Deliverable bar    

A precious metal (gold and silver, for example) with a weight that is approved as a tradable unit on one or more of the commodity exchanges.


The open area on a coin -its background.

Fineness or Fine    

The portion of a precious metal relative to base or other alloy in a precious metal. A U.S. gold coin is .900 fine, meaning that 90% of the coin is gold and the rest alloy. A British Sovereign is .916 fine, meaning that 91.6% of the coin is gold and the rest alloy.

Fine weight    

The actual weight of the pure gold in a coin, ingot or bar, as opposed to the items total (gross) weight, which includes the weight of the alloying metal(s). Example: a 1 ounce U.S. Eagle has a fine gold weight of 31.1033 grams and a gross weight of 33.933 grams.


The basic unit of weight in the metric system (31.1033 grams = 1 troy ounce).


Mark or marks which indicate the producer of a gold bar and its fineness or other characteristics.


Damaged or mishandled; an object which is in less than new condition through other normal wear and tear in circulation.

Intrinsic value    

The actual value of the precious metal within a coin.


The inscription on a numismatic item.

Lettered edge    

Intaglio lettering milled onto the edge of a coin before striking or raised lettering on the edge of a coin produced by the use of a segmented collar die at the time of striking.

London fix    

Price each day in London. Five old-line firms meet to set the price of gold. This is called the ‘fix’ and is a bench mark for market trading each day.

Market value    

The price a coin will fetch in the open market which may be greater than or equal to its intrinsic value.


A gold wafer in round form, resembling a coin. It is not legal tender and should not be confused with genuine “coin of the realm” of a specific government.

Mint luster   

The sheen or bloom on the surface of an uncirculated numismatic coin resulting from the centrifugal flow of metal caused by the striking of the dies. Mint luster is somewhat frosty in appearance as opposed to the mirror-like smoothness on the field of a proof.

Mint marks    

A letter, symbol or hallmark found on a coin that indicates the minting facility where it was struck. In the U.S., P (Philadelphia), D (Denver), S (San Francisco), and W (West Point) are frequently used for current coinage manufactured at those sites.

Modern issues 

Coins struck for current issue, either for collectors, investors or circulation.

New York close    

Because of the time differences, the New York gold market continues to sell precious metals for several hours after the London market has closed for the business day. Its last price has this name, and it may be higher or lower than the London fix depending upon market fluctuations.


The side of a numismatic item which bears the principal design or device.


A unit of weight equal to 1/16 avoirdupois pound or 1/2 troy pound.


The market value of a coin less the intrinsic value of the same represents the premium. A gold coin which contains $100 in gold (intrinsic value) and sells for $200 (market value) has a 100% premium.


A coin produced by a technique involving specially prepared dies and planchets and usually special striking (struck two times or more), resulting in particular sharpness of detail and a virtually flawless surface, usually mirror-like fields. A coin made specifically for collectors that is not for circulation.

Proof set    

A set of one proof coin of each current denomination issued by a mint for a specific year.


A numismatic item produced from original dies at a later date. (Example: Mexico 50 Pesos, 1947 coins are still being produced with the date 1947.)


The side opposite to that on which the head or principal figure is impressed. The side opposite the obverse.

Spot price   

The price quoted for a deliverable unit of a particular commodity, usually one ounce in the case of gold.


The difference between the buying price and the asking price of a precious metal coin or bar, sometimes referred to as ‘bid’ and ‘ask.’

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