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In general, coins can generally be classified as U.S., World, or as Ancient coins. There also exists numerous medals, tokens, coin books and exonumia, or those items such as coin buttons, glass with coin images, counterstampled coins, post cards with coin images etc., all of which are related to numismatics. Sometimes just figuring out what you even have can be a daunting task.
  To make matters more complicated, early coinage prior to 1836 in the U.S., required hand engraving and hand punching of design elements in both the obverse and reverse dies. The coins that resulted from these die pairs may have significant differences from one another and can be termed die varieties. In more modern coins, obverse and reverse die pairs were hand engraved, reduced and made into a master hub. These, in turn, were transferred to produce a number of working hubs, and consequently were impressed into many working dies. These working dies may have struck up to hundreds of thousands of coins before die wear or fatigue forced them into retirement.
In some cases a die would break early in its mintage due to the extreme pressure of striking. It would be replaced by another die, thus creating a coin with a different obverse and reverse die pair. These are referred to as specific die marriages. In addition, Mint engravers made mistakes while working on dies. That’s why today we can distinguish between coins that have a doubled die (or triple, or multiple punched die), an overdate, a repunched mintmark, a repunched date, a misplaced date, “micro”, oval or huge mintmarks, and doubled reeding to name a few.



Sometimes dies would clash together or begin to break resulting in coins of interest to collectors studying die states. Thus interesting die cracks, die breaks and cuds (huge die breaks) may be of interest and increase value to collectors. There are even a few instances in which coins were struck after clashing with a coin die from another denomination such as a clash between a Flying Eagle penny and a Liberty Seated half dollar. These are referred to as interdenominational dies clashes.


also resulted during the entire minting process. Thus, you might have coins struck off-center, broad struck, multiple struck, struck with different collars (and reeds), or broken collars, struck with rotated dies, struck on off-metals, struck with different die pairs than intended (mules) and more… One could spend a lifetime of study in this area of numismatics alone.


  Some coins were specially struck as patterns, while others were specially struck for collectors as proofs. These coins generally have deeply reflective mirrors in the fields that may contrast from frosty cameo devices on the coin. However, some coins were struck as a proof with a matte finish. This gives a very different look than most collectors know as modern brilliant proof coins.

Some coins are beautifully toned and have added eye appeal and consequently added value to collectors, while others may have negative eye appeal and lower value.
For more modern coins, designations such as Full Steps (Jefferson nickels), Full Spit Bands (Mercury Dimes), Full Torch (Roosevelt dimes) Full Head (Standing Liberty Quarters), and Full Bell Lines (Franklin Halves) may be used to indicate more desirable coins which are more fully struck and more valuable. Copper coins may have smooth or pourous surfaces, or may be brown, red brown, or red in color which impacts on their grade and value. They may be scudzy, average or choice for the grade. This could have a substantial impact on their value.
Needless to say, all of the above makes knowing what you might have quite difficult. Something that may look common at a distance, might actually be rare and valuable upon closer inspection. Unless you’re an expert, it would be wise to seek a professional numismatist’s opinion prior to selling your coins as common varieties.
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