Coin Collecting- Coin Terminology

In order to discuss coins, coin collectors must be familiar with the terms used to describe the parts of a coin. The following is the standard vocabulary of the numismatist.


Date - The year when the coin was minted.

Denomination - The value of the coin as legal tender (this may differ from the intrinsic value, if it is composed of a precious metal, or the value of the coin to a collector).

Design/Device - The primary bas-relief image. If the design depicts a person, it may be referred to as the "portrait."

Edge - The side of the coin. The edge may be plain, fluted (grooved), lettered, or it may bear a design.

Field - The blank background on which the image and letters are stamped.

Legend – The main lettering on the coin.

Mint Mark – Letter(s) or symbol indicating where the coin was produced.

Motto – A short phrase stating a fundamental or guiding principle. Mottos on US coins are "In God we trust" and "E Pluribus Unum" ("from many one," indicating one nation formed from many states).

Obverse – The front of the coin. Also known as “heads.”

Reverse – The back of the coin. Also known as “tails.”

Rim – The raised outer border along the edge of the coin. The rim surrounds all other features on the front (obverse) and back (reverse) of the coin.