When I became a coin collector in 1952 and a numismatist perhaps a
few months later, one of the first things to do was learn how to
pronounce the word. Not “numissMATTist” but “numissMA(softly)tist.
Today, on the cusp of 2013 there are many terms. Here are some
that come to mind, old and new:
➤ Artificial toning: Before 1979, a coin had to be BU (Brilliant
Uncirculated) in order to be sold to 99 percent of buyers.
Commemoratives, silver dollars, Proofs and others were brightened by
dipping. Then arrived a change — toning can be desirable, can add
value and can hide defects.
➤ Bid price: An advertised buying price, good unless the buyer
already has too many, is out of cash, has changed his mind or doesn’t
like the coin offered. It tells the true value of a coin.
➤ Blazer: Not a jacket or other outerwear, but a coin as bright as
it might be after being freshly dipped. Synonym: Blast white.
➤ Crack out: Pronounced more or less like a city in Poland. What
you do when a coin is in a slab (which see) but appears to be undergraded.
➤ Newp: Sounds like an amphibious creature, but means “new
purchase.” At a convention dealers are often asked, “Show me your
newps.” Don’t tell anyone this: sometimes tired old stock coins are included.
➤ Numismatic: Describes collectible coins, tokens, medals and
paper money and things associated. In the June 1938 issue of The
Numismatist, W.S. Dewey, American Numismatic Association librarian,
submitted a list of misspellings of the word which had come to his
attention through mail addressed to the ANA. Included were the
following: numatic, numisatic, nunisatic, munismatic, numesmatic,
pneumatic, numismaitic, numisitic, numasmatic, numismutic, nunisnatic,
numimatic, nomismatic, newmismatic, amunistac, numusmatic, nuismatic,
numastic, numerismatic, numistic, numistatical, numismastic,
numismatical, and nunismetic.
➤ Numismatologist: Popular mid-19th century term for a coin collector.
➤ Saint: Not a beatified Catholic or a super-helpful person, but
the description of a Saint-Gaudens gold $20 coin (1907 to 1933).
➤ Slab: Hermetically sealed plastic holder enclosing a coin and
preventing its owner from studying it closely. Necessitates the
purchase of a huge amount of storage space to house a collection.
➤ The 13th Commandment: If a coin is certified, but is overgraded
or artificially toned, never remove it from its slab.
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries
and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached
at his private email, email@example.com,
or at Q. David Bowers LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.