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Silver Investing Glossary


Investing in silver gets a little simpler once you understand some of the terms used in the precious metals industry. This page is dedicated to providing you with definitions of the more common terms used.

About Good (AG): a circulated coin that shows heavy wear. The lowest grade assigned to a circulated coin

About Uncirculated (AU): a circulated coin that shows only a small amount of wear on the high area(s) of the coin's design in addition to possible contact marks (bag marks). AU is the highest grade assigned to a circulated coin

ANA (American Numismatic Association): the largest numismatic organization for coin collectors and those interested in learning more about money and its history

avoirdupois weight system: the common weight system used in the U.S. based on a pound of 16 ounces and an ounce of 16 drams or 437.5 grains (see also troy weight system)

bag marks: nicks or scratches appearing on a coin from having coming in contact with other coins in the original canvas bags used by the Mint

bid/ask: the bid price is what a dealer will pay for silver (or gold) bullion. Ask price is what the dealer is charging for silver or gold bullion using the spot price as a reference (see spread definition below)

Brilliant Uncirculated: an uncirculated coin having some mint luster with no wear marks but some contact marks are present in one or more areas of the coin. Usually associated with the lower Mint State grades of MS-60 to MS-62.

bullion coin: a coin whose value is based on the intrinsic value of the precious metal(s) it contains

certified coin: a coin that has been graded, certified and encased in a tamper-proof plastic case (a.k.a. "slabbed") by one of the recognized grading services (ANACS, NGC, PCGS, etc.)

Choice Uncirculated: a term generally used to describe a coin graded at or near MS-63 meaning some contact marks are present.

clad coin: a coin with a core of one metal and an outer layer of another metal. Used by the U.S. Mint for circulated coins beginning in 1965

coin grading: the process of determining how high or low a coin should be graded taking into account wear marks and bag marks among other factors

commemorative coin: a coin produced to recognize/celebrate a person or event

counterfeit coin: the reproduction or altering of a coin by someone other than the legitimate issuer

die: the metal mold that is used to strike/produce a coin

Extremely Fine (EF or XF): a designation for a circulated coin where the coin has light wear throughout the high areas but the details are still sharp

face value: the monetary worth assigned and stamped on a coin (can be different from the actual worth based on the value of the metals it contains)

fineness or fine: the percentage of the precious metal in a coin relative to all the metals that make up the coin. A silver coin with a fineness of .900 means that 90% of the coin is silver and the rest alloy

fine weight: the actual weight of the silver contained in silver coins (as opposed to gross weight which includes the weight of all the coin's metals)

Fine (F): a designation of coin grading just below Very Fine (VF) where the coin has more than the moderate wear of a VF coin. The design still shows reasonable detail.

Gem Uncirculated: an uncirculated coin having few contact marks that may not be visible to the naked eye. Usually used to describe a coin graded at or near MS-65

Good (G): a designation of coin grading where the coin has significant wear but main figures are still visible but with great loss of detail. The second lowest grade

gram: in the metric system this is the basic unit of weight (31.1033 grams equals one Troy ounce)

hallmark: the mark or imprint on a precious metal bar (or ingot) signifying the purity and maker of the piece

intrinsic value: the actual value of the precious metal (in this case silver) within a coin based on the current spot price plus any other metals the coin contains

legal tender: a coin (or currency) which a government or other national monetary authority declares to be acceptable as a medium of exchange, and can be used in the discharge of debts

luster: the sheen or brilliance of a freshly minted coin caused by the high pressure exerted when the coin is struck

market value: the going price of a coin on the open market (which may be equal to its intrinsic value or greater)

mint mark: a letter symbol on a coin that identifies where it was minted (Carson City, Denver, New Orleans, Philadelphia and San Francisco are the U.S. Mints mentioned on this site)

Mint State: used to describe a coin that has never been circulated and has no wear marks. Mint states run from 60 through 70

NGC: Numismatic Guarantee Corporation, one of the top coin grading and certification companies

numismatic coin: a coin whose value is based on scarcity, condition, strike and demand with little emphasis on the value of the metal it contains

obverse: the front of a coin containing the main image, also referred to as the "heads" side

PCGS: Professional Coin Grading Service, one of the premier companies which grades and certifies coins

Perfect Uncirculated: an uncirculated coin that has been graded MS-70 which is considered the "perfect coin" (having no flaws).

planchet: the blank (or coin disk) on which the die imprints a coin's design

premium: the amount over the spot price that the seller charges for (in this case) silver coins so s/he can realize a profit and remain in business

proof: a coin produced by specially prepared dies using special striking techniques resulting in a high degree of detail and usually a mirror-like field (the area surrounding the main image(s)). Proof coins are made primarily for collectors, receive special handling at the mint including no contact with other coins after being struck

proof set: a set consisting of one proof coin of each denomination issued by a mint for a specific year.

reverse: the side opposite the obverse, referred to as the "tails' side

spot price: the current market price at which, in this case silver coins, is used to establish buying and selling prices (see bid/ask). sometimes referred to as the cash price

spread: the difference between the buying price and the asking price for a coin

troy ounce: a unit of weight, equal to about 1.1 avoirdupois (ordinary) ounces. The word ounce, when applied to gold and silver, refers to a troy ounce.

troy weight system: the system used to weigh gold and silver based on 12 ounces to a pound and 20 pennyweights or 480 grains to an ounce

Uncirculated: a coin in new condition (as it has been issued by the mint) that has not been placed into circulation

Very Fine (VF): a designation of coin grading where the coin has light to moderate even wear on the high areas of the coin but still much detail

Very Good (VG): the designation for a coin that shows considerable wear with the main features still clear but with a somewhat flattened appearance

wear marks: marks that appear on the high areas of the obverse and reverse of a coin due to the coin's circulation


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