By Steve Carr
The collecting of large cents has a vocabulary all its own. Experienced collectors talk easily of "crumbling," "die states," "uneven fields," "Sheldon Numbers," and so forth. Beginners are sometimes left clueless when these terms are used without explanation. Here is a small sampling of terms and definitions. If you would like other terms defined please let me know.
These definitions are my own. I do not think any of my definitions are controversial, but if they are, I take credit (blame) for them.
ATTRIBUTE - To identify the variety of a coin. These varieties were described by numismatists in the past. Currently, Half cents are attributed by Cohen (C) or Breen (B) numbers. Large cents are attributed by Sheldon (S) numbers for the years 1793-1814 and by Newcomb (N) Numbers for 1816-1857.
BEADED CORDS - The hair cords on large cents (1837-1857) that are made of a series of small beads. some 1837's have this type of hair cord and all other large cents dated 1838-1857 have them, with the exception of 1839 N-1, which has plain hair cords.
BOOBY HEAD - A style of Head that appears on some 1839 large cents. this booby head had a sharp projecting shoulder point behind the head.
CENTER DOT - A raised dot in the center of the coin. it was place on the die to serve as a compass anchor point for laying out letters and stars. Sometimes there are multiple center dots. Sometimes there are none. Center dots are seen more frequently on the reverse than the obverse.
CUD - A raised area on a coin that is caused by a missing part of the die. This area is usually along the parimeter of the coin, but can also be away from the edge.
CRUMBLING - While a cud results in missing metal crumbling results when small portions of the die "crumble" away around the stars, wreath, bust, letters and numbers. This results in a coin that has less detail along the edges of things. Sometimes, areas between things can crumble completely and you get a rough raised area where the field should be smooth.
DENTIL - The "teeth" that form the ring around the border of the coin. also called a denticle. The ring of dentlis is called dentilation. Dentlis were used on all large and half cents from 1794-1857.
DIE CHAIN - When two varieties share a common die. This die can be either the obverse of the reverse. The varieties can be "chain linked" (their order of mintage determined) by die wear.
DIE STATE - As a die strikes more coins, it begins to wear. metal moves outward on the die, creating flow lines. Cracks and cuds also develop. A coin struck from the dies when they were new and sharp is called an early die state (EDS). When some wear is noticeable on the coin, it is considered middle die state (MDS). In the latest stages of its life, the die produces late die state (LDS) coins.
FLOW LINES - Raised lines that radiate out form the center of the coin. These lines are caused by metal moving on the die. Fine flow lines impart luster to coins.
INNER CIRCLE - A line on the coin just under or just inside the dentil ends. This line was made by the die engrave to alight the dentlis when they were punched into the die. On some coins, there is a complete inner circle, on others a partial inner circle, and on others no inner circle at all. Inner circles show up most frequently on middle date large cents.
K - NUMBERS - Stands for Kolit numbers. Kolit numbers are a system that references positions on the coin to hour positions on a clock. They are used to identify the location of die features, striking features or flaws (for example "weak inner circle k4-k6" would say there was a weak inner circle from the 4 o-clock position to the 6 o-clock position).
LAPPED DIE - A die that had been ground or polished to remove imperfections. This lapping lowers the relief of the design causing the letters, stars, and date to appear weaker.
PEDIGREE - A listing of prior owners of the coin and any auction or fixed price lists the coin may have been in. The pedigree starts with the first person known who identified the coin by variety and lists all subsequent owners. Sometimes owners wish anonymity so are listed as "a (state name) collector" or by a pseudonym. often the current owner is not listed.
UNEVEN FIELDS - A weakness on one edge of a coin, complimented by strong edges opposite it. Caused by the dies not being parallel to each other. My favorite example is the 1830 N-9, where detail on the upper obverse can be as strong as VG+ but the lower obverse is so weak that the date is not evident.