Anatomy of a Coin

2017 john f kennedy half dollar with coin anatomy labeledThe coin shown is a proof half dollar. Familiarity with the following terms, as well as the additional ones listed in our glossary, will help you communicate with other coin collectors.

Main Elements

The front side (“heads”) of a coin.

The back side (“tails”) of a coin.

The outer border of a coin, considered the “third side” (not to be confused with “rim”). Edges can be plain, reeded, lettered or decorated:

Examples of plain, reeded, lettered, and decorated edges on coins

The raised edge on both sides of a coin (created by the upsetting mill) that helps protect the coin’s design from wear.

The principal inscription or lettering on a coin.

Mint Mark
A small letter or symbol on a coin used to identify where a coin was made. Current United States Mint marks are Philadelphia (P), Denver (D), San Francisco (S), and West Point (W).

The part of a coin’s design that is raised above the surface.

The flat portion of a coin’s surface not used for design or inscription.

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