Coin Collecting A to Z

Coin Collecting Terms - Letter S

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S VDB - Synonym for the 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent.

Saint - Short for the U.S. $20 gold pieces minted between 1907-1933. Named after their famed designer, Augustus St. Gaudens.

Saint-Gaudens - Family name of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the preeminent sculptor of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. At the request of President Teddy Roosevelt, he began a redesign of the eagle and double eagle coins in 1907 although he died mid-production.

Sample Slab - A type of slab issued by a grading company to demonstrate what a coin looks like when encapsulated. Sample slabs almost always contain very common and low value coins and may or may not bear a grade. These are often given out free at large coin shows, and many numismatists consider them collectible.

San Francisco - The United States branch Mint located in San Francisco, California that struck coins from 1854 through 1955, and again from 1965 to today.

Sandblast proof - One made by sandblasting coins given the normal multiple blows from polished dies. Several variants of this finish appear on US gold coins minted in 1908 and 1911-1915.

Satin Finish - One with a surface more closely resembling Roman gold than to a matte finish; looks very similar to regular brilliant-proofs. Most common examples of Satin finishes include some 1921 and 1922 peace dollars.

Satin luster - Fine, silky finish seen mostly on copper and nickel business strike coins. Almost no “cartwheel” effect is seen on coins with satin luster.

Scarce - In short supply, but with more survivors accessible than of a coin labeled rare.

Sceat - A small but thick silver coin that circulated in southern and eastern England in Anglo-Saxon times.

Scratch - A deep line or groove in a coin caused by contact with a sharp or rough object. This type of contact is much more dramatic than a hairline.

Screw press - The first type of coining press used at the U.S. Mint. The screw press had a fixed lower die, and an upper die attached to a threaded rod. By rotating a series of weighted arms that were attached to the threaded rod, the screw mechanism drove the upper die downward to strike the planchet.

Scrip - Paper currency usually of denominations less than $1 issued as substitutes for currency to private persons or organizations. Also the tokens issued by coal mines and sutlers were called scrip.

Scripophily - The study and science of collecting financial documents, including stock certificates, shares, government and private bonds, and checks. A student of scripophily is a scripophilist.

SD - Acronym for small date.

Sea salvage coin - A coin retrieved from the ocean, often recovered from a ship wreck.

Seal - A device placed on paper money indicating authority of issue. Modern Federal Reserve notes have two seals, a green Department of Treasury seal and a black Fed seal.

Sealed Bid Sale - An auction-style selling of coins in which the bidder presents a closed envelop which contains his or her bids. The bids are not reviewed until after the sale has closed at a predetermined time. This highest bid wins.

Seated - Synonym for Liberty Seated silver coins issued from 1837 through 1891.

Seated coinage - Synonym for Liberty Seated coinage.

Second toning - Natural or artificial toning that occurs after a coin is dipped or cleaned.

Seigniorage - The profits resulting from the difference between the cost to make a coin and its face value, or its worth as money and legal tender. Most coins cost less to make than their face value; when it becomes too expensive to make a certain coin, size, weight and composition are often changed.

Semi - Key - Refers to a coin which is not the rarest issue in a series, but qualifies as one of the most difficult dates to acquire nonetheless.

Semi-common - A coin that is considered neither common, nor scarce.

Semi-numismatic - Refers to a coin that has a significant bullion value and some numismatic value.

Semi-prooflike - A coin that has almost enough mirror-like reflectiveness to be called “prooflike”.

Serial number - Number used chiefly on paper money and sometimes on limited-issue medals to indicate order of production.

Series - Related coinage of the same denomination, design and type, including modifications, or varieties, of design. Mercury head dimes of 1916 to 1945 represent a complete series.

Sesqui - Short for "Sesquicentennial" - either the $2.50 gold or 50c silver Commemorative.

Sestertius - An ancient Roman coin; plural, sestertii.

Set - A collection of coins in a series. This could be a collection of types, or a collection from a particular Mint.

Shaving - The process whereby someone fraudulently removed minor amounts of shaves & slivers of gold or silver from the edge of a coin - reducing its weight but making it "passable" and then profit from the absconded metal.

Shekel, Sheqel - Shekel is a silver coin of ancient Judea of various weights; sheqel is modern Israeli denomination, plural "sheqalim."

Sheldon - The late Dr. William H. Sheldon who wrote the seminal work on 1793 to 1814 large cents.

Sheldon Book - The large cent book, first published in 1949 as Early American Cents and reissued in 1958 as Penny Whimsy by W. Sheldon, W. Breen and D. Paschal.

Sheldon numbers - The reference numbers (S-1, S-2, etc.) for 1793 to 1814 large cents as documented in the books, Early American Cents and Penny Whimsy.

Sheldon Scale - A 70-point scale created by the late Dr. William H. Sheldon and adopted by the numismatic industry for coin grading purposes.

Shield - A design used on certain issues that has horizontal and vertical lines in a shield shape.

Shield nickel - Synonym for the Shield five-cent coin struck from 1866 until 1883.

Shilling - A British or British Empire coin about the size of a quarter and valued at twelve pence or one-twentieth of a pound. Some of the oldest shillings can be determined as such by the XII denomination appearing somewhere on the coin.

Shinplaster - Slang term for early United States paper money and fractional currency.

Shiny spots - Areas on Matte, Roman, and Satin Proof coins where the original dulled surface has been disturbed.

Short Set - Refers to a popular "sub-set" of the Walking Liberty half-dollars (1916-1947). Many collectors choose to complete a set of the later, less expensive dates - specifically, those issues between 1941 and 1947.

Show - Synonym for a bourse or coin show.

Siege Pieces - Emergency coins struck during battle, also called obsidional coins or money of necessity.

Sight seen - A term meaning that the buyer of a particular numismatic item in a particular grade may view the coin before buying it.

Sight unseen - A term meaning that the buyer of a particular numismatic item in a particular grade offers to pay a certain price without examining the item.

Silly Head - Another name for the 1839 Cent. Also nicknamed the Booby Head.

Silver - A precious metal.

Silver certificate - Paper money that was once redeemable for its face value in silver.

Silver clad - A clad coin with one layer containing silver, such as U.S. halves struck from 1965 to 1970.

Silver commem - Synonym for silver commemorative coins.

Silver commemoratives - Coins struck at various times from 1892 through 1954 and post-1982, to celebrate a person, place, or event.

Silver dollar - Silver coin that served as a cornerstone of U.S. currency from 1792 through 1935.

Silver eagle - A coin produced by the U.S. mint beginning in 1986 containing one ounce of silver and a face value of one dollar (not intended for circulation).

Silver nickel - Synonym for Wartime nickel.

Skirt lines - Lines representing the folds of Liberty’s flowing gown on Walking Liberty half-dollars.

SL - Acronym for small letters.

Slab - The sealed hard plastic holder used by 3rd-party professional grading services to house coins they have determined to be authentic. These holders or slabs have a label denoting the specific grading service, grade assigned to the coin and other information.

Slabbing - The process of encapsulating a coin in a sonically sealed holder.

Sleeper - Refers to a coin which appears undervalued when compared to it's peers.

Slide Marks - Marks that are caused by the plastic slides in many coin albums.

Slider - A coin with very slight traces of wear, such that it almost passes for an uncirculated specimen.

Slug - Slang term for the round or octagonal California private issue $50 gold pieces from the 1851-1855 gold rush period. Also, occasionally used in conjunction with the $50 PAN-PAC's.

Small cent - Cents of reduced size that replaced the large cent as of 1857.

Small date - Term referring to the size of the digits of the date on a coin. The use of this term implies that a large or medium date exists for that coin or series.

Small Eagle - Referring to the coin design with the plain eagle on a perch, first used on the 1794 half dime and half dollar.

Small letters - Term referring to the size of the lettering used in the design on a coin. The use of this term implies that large or medium letters exist for the coin or series.

Small Motto - Abbreviation for the variety of two-cent coin of 1864 with small letters in the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST”.

Small size - A term referring to the diameter of a coin in a series. The use of this term implies that there is a large diameter coin with the same motif.

S-Mint - Term applied to coins struck at the San Francisco, California branch Mint.

SMS - Acronym for Special Mint Set.

So-called dollar - A silver dollar-sized medal commemorating a special event.

Souvenir card - Popular collectible item, usually well-printed on heavy paper using an engraving used on paper money. They also contain information of a historical or commemorative nature.

Souvenir Mint sets - An issue of the U.S. Mint, containing the coinage of one Mint. It is generally sold only at the Mint represented by the coins.

SP - Abbreviation for Specimen Strike.

Spark-erosion die - A die made by an electrolytic deposition method. Because the surfaces of the die are very rough (a result of the process), they must be polished to remove surface imperfections.

Spark-erosion strike - A coin made from spark-erosion dies, often showing signs of pitting in the relief areas as a result of the die surface.

Special Mint Set - A set of special coins that were first struck in limited quantities in 1965 and officially released in 1966-1967. They were intended to replace Proof sets, which had been discontinued by the U.S. Mint in an effort to stop coin hoarding. In 1968, The Mint resumed the issuing of Proofs.

Specie - Precious metal used to back money, usually gold and silver.

Specimen - Referring to a special set of coins struck at the Mint from 1792 to 1816 that display many characteristics of the later Proof coinage.

Split grade - A coin whose obverse grade is different from its reverse grade. Examples: MS-63/65 or Proof 63/60.

Splotchy toning - Color that is uneven, in both shade and composition.

Spot - A discolored area on a coin. A spot or spots can have a small or large effect on the grade of a coin depending many factors such as size, severity, and placement.

Spot price - The market price for immediate delivery of a commodity, such as gold, silver or platinum.

Spread - Difference between buy and sell prices on the same coin(s) from the same party. Also, the degree of separation between impressions on a doubled die.

Standard silver - The official composition of U.S. silver coinage, determined by the Mint Act of 1792. Initially set at approximately 89 percent silver and 11 percent copper, it was later changed to 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper. Also called Coin Silver.

Standing Liberty - Design motif of Miss Liberty in an upright front-facing position.

Standing Liberty quarter - Synonym for the quarter dollar struck from 1917 until 1930. It was designed by Hermon MacNeil.

Staple scratch - A line on a coin resulting from its improper removal from a cardboard stapled holder.

Star - A five-pointed or six-pointed design element used on many U.S. coins.

Star notes - Mainly intended as replacements for notes that were damaged or produced with errors or mistakes at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. On modern Federal Reserve notes, a solid star appears at the end of the serial number; on earlier notes, the star appears at the beginning of the number.

State coinages or notes - Refers to coins issued by one of four state governments of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont between the Declaration of Independence and the ratification of the U.S. Constitution when the states' rights to issue coins were suspended. Among paper money, refers to notes issued between Declaration of Independence and Civil War by state governments.

State quarter - Synonym for the 1999 and later Washington quarters struck with unique reverse designs for each State. These quarters are to be issued in the order of admittance into the Union. The order for the original 13 colonies was determined by the date which each State ratified the Constitution.

Stater - Greek coin equal to two drachms or didrachm, or 12 obols.

Steam-powered press - A coining press driven by a steam-powered engine.

Steel cent - 1943 and certain 1944 cents struck on leftover steel blanks. These coins were struck in steel and plated with zinc.

Steelies - Synonym for 1943 steel cents.

Stella - A U.S. $4 gold coin pattern minted 1879-1880.

Sterling silver - Silver that is .925 fine. The name is derived from the British standard "pound sterling."

Stock edge - A counterfeit edge collar used for creating fake coins.

Store card - A token bearing a business name and/or address, and often intended as a local or adhoc medium of exchange as well as an advertisement for the issuer.

Stress lines - Synonym for flow lines.

Striations - Thin raised lines on the surface of a coin, caused by excessive polishing of the die.

Strike - The process of impressing a design into a planchet by force of the dies to create a coin. Also the sharpness of detail on the coin.

Strike doubling - Another term for machine doubling.

Strip - The flat metal, rolled and drawn to proper thickness, from which planchets are cut.

Struck - Term describing a coin produced from dies and a coining press.

Struck copy - A replica of a particular coin made from dies, possibly but not necessarily meant to deceive.

Struck counterfeit - A fake coin produced from false dies.

Surcharge - An extra charge placed on an item, the revenue of which is usually earmarked for a specific fund. It has been the recent practice of the United States Congress to place a surcharge on commemorative coins, sometimes to benefit a worthy organization.

Surface preservation - The condition of a coin’s surface.

Surfaces - The entire obverse and reverse faces of a coin.

Sutler Token - A type of Civil War Token issued by private military suppliers, or sutlers, to soldiers for use in their stores. Most mention a military regiment along with their denomination, ranging from 3 cents to $1.00.

Sweating - A procedure in which coins are placed in a bag and shaken vigorously to knock off small pieces of metal. The bits of metal are gathered and sold as scrap, leaving the original coins to be returned to circulation at face value. A practice mainly employed with gold coins, leaving their surfaces peppered with tiny nicks.

Syngraphics - The study of printed currency and related items; from "syngraph," a writing signed by all parties to a contract or bond.




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