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Glossary

Carat

The carat (symbol ct) is a measure of purity of the previous metal.  In this context, the carat represents 1/24th of the total mass of the alloy.  For example, 21 carats signifies that our of 24grams of an alloy, 21 grams is pure gold.  Gold is often alloyed with other metals to provide the hardness, strength and colour required.

Clean Extraction

Intelligent gold extraction, respecting people and their planet.  There are five fundamental principles:

  1. Gold extraction processes must have the minimum impact possible on all aspects of the environment including:
  1. Ecosystem and habitat preservation
  2. Indigenous population, their water and food supplies, their livelihood
  3. Cyanide-free and Mercury-free production
  1. All employees work for a fair wage in conditions that respect their health, safety, human rights and social well-being.
  2. It is strictly forbidden to employ and/or exploit children
  3. 100% traceable “from mine to mint” certified by Independent Specialist Auditors
  4. To refuse gold originating from conflict areas or erroneous sources that may be trafficked, i.e. “Blood Gold”

Further details may be found at www.cleanextraction.org

Coin Grading

When collecting coins, it is vital to understand the recognised standard British system of grading.  Other countries have their own systems.  The condition is the principal factor in establishing the value of the coin.

The standard grades are described as follows:

  1. FDC (Fleur de Coin) The French term is often applied across different countries and it is also sometimes known as Brilliant Uncirculated.  This is a perfect coin.  There are no traces of use, handling, shocks or scratches.  It has 100% of the design remaining and still has a full Mint Sheen.  These coins have never been in circulation and are in exactly the same condition as the moment they were struck.  They are indeed rare because even uncirculated coins may have been transported together from the mint to a vault and therefore have tiny abrasions or scratches from the journey.  A coin in this condition must be flawless.  Their rarity means they are of more interest to Numismatists and their elevated basic premium means they are not considered as a logical investment.  In other countries, this grade is referred to as:

USA:  MS65
France: Fleur de Coin (FDC)
Germany:  Stempelglanz (STG)
Italy:  Fior di Conio (FDC)
Spain:  Flor de Cuño (FDC)

  1. UNC (Uncirculated) This is also sometimes known as Mint State.  As implied, these coins have never been in circulation and therefore have no visible traces of use, design erosion or scratches.  However, they do not have the full Mint Sheen over the coin which is usually due to transportation between a mint and a vault.  Some countries would still consider these coins as FDC.  In other countries, this grade is referred to as:

USA:  MS63
France:  Splendide (SPL)
Germany:  Fast Stempelglanz (Fast STG)
Italy:  Consider as FDC
Spain:  Consider as FDC

  1. EF (Extremely Fine) This is a condition of coin which is almost perfect  but which has had a little circulation and therefore will possess some small faults although difficult to detect with the naked eye.  Using a magnifying glass, one can see some light scratches and some erosion of certain raised details such as hair, beards, moustaches, feathers that form the design.  The Mint Sheen is missing and there may also be evidence of some little dents from transportation of coins.  In other countries, this grade is referred to as:

USA:  AU65
France: Superbe (SUP)

Germany:  Vorzüglich (VZ)

Italy: Splendido (SPL)

Spain: Extraordinariamente bien conservada (EBC)

  1. VF (Very Fine) A coin in this condition shows obvious signs that it has been in circulation but it still has a good appearance.  The coin rim can be slightly worn but still apparent and the relief features of the design can appear “tired” but not worn away.  The signs of use are visible but the coin still has an agreeable appearance.  This type of condition is considered as an average “plus” state of conservation which still allows the coin to attract a premium to its value.  In other countries, this grade is referred to as:

USA:  XF40

France:  Très Très Beau (TTB)

Germany:  Sehr Schön (SS)

Italy:  Bellissimo (BB)

Spain:  Muy bien conservada (MBC)

  1. F (Fine) This condition indicates a coin that has been well circulated.  Some of the engraving detail has started to flatten (ribbons, hair, inscriptions etc).  The metal surface is dull or in some cases much too shiny because of polishing.  Deep scratches are clearly visible as well as dents from impacts with some deformation of the engraving being apparent.  This condition of coin can still be of interest to a numismatist but it no longer supports a premium and is therefore not recommended for investment which is better served by coins in the conditions above.  In other countries, this grade is referred to as:

USA:  F15

France:  Très Beau (TB)

Germany:  Schön (S)

Italy:  Molto bello (MB)

Spain:  Bien conservada+ (BC+)

  1. (VG) Very Good Even though these coins are considered “very good” they are nevertheless traded purely by weight.  They are very worn coins which have a mediocre appearance and have been circulated a lot.  We can still just about distinguish their designation but some details are completely worn away or missing.  The rim detail, engraved relief features are all but indistinguishable and any images are no longer sharp.  These coins inevitably find their way to the foundry for melting unless they happen to have numismatic significance.  However, in the light of being investment coins they are to be avoided.  One doesn’t know how much gold has been eroded, the weights can vary greatly and there is absolutely no premium attached to these coins.  In other countries, this grade is referred to as:

USA:  G6

France:  Beau (B)

Germany:  Sehr Gut Erhalten (SGE)

Italy:  Bello (B)

Spain:  Bien conservada (BC)

This covers the principal gradings of coin conditions applicable to gold coins although one may hear certain other terms used for “intermediate” grades such as About Uncirculated (XF/UNC) which falls between Uncirculated and Extra Fine.  It does not have an equivalence in every country and is therefore less used.

One may find various numbers attached to certain conditions, particularly in France which allows grading within any given condtion, for example, SUP 55-62 which grades the “Superbe” form from 55 to 62.  However, this should not be a concern for coin investors as the grading is a purely numismatic tool for specialists.  The gold investment quality of all “Superbe” is the same as is their premium.

Finally, there are even lower coin conditions such as Good, Fair and Poor but these are of little interest as they fall below investment quality and are frankly only good for smelting!

Date

A coins date is the date it was issued.  Sometimes, coins were restruck with a date that is different to the initial issue date.  (For example, the 1925 Sovereign which was re-minted in 1949 – 1951)

Face Value

This is the legal value of the coin when it was issued.  The face value is usually shown on the coins reverse side.

Gold

Precious metal with the chemical symbol Au and an Atomic Number of 79.  It melts at 1,063OC and has a boiling point of 2,966OC.  Gold is measured in Troy Ounces.  It will often come in a 1kg bullion bar which is equal to 32.1507 TOz.  However, the marketplace is changing and smaller bullion bars in the form of coins are available.  See Vera Valor.

Mintage

The total number of examples made of a particular coin.

Mint Mark

A symbol engraved  on a coin that identifies the mint in which it was made and/or the engraver and/or the workshop director.  From 1871 to 1932, the British Sovereign was minted outside of the UK and the branch mint mark on later dates can be found above the centre of the date.  In France since 1879, the French Mint Director’s mark has been The Horn of Plenty.  This symbol, which is made more difficult to replicate by being as miniscule and as detailed as possible, is the main element used to identify counterfeit coins.

Mint Sheen

The satin appearance of new coins caused by micro-irregularities on the surface.  This sheen disappears quickly when a coin is first handled.  A coin that still has its mint sheen is a coin that has never entered circulation.

Numismatics

This is the study or collection of currency.  Strictly speaking, it covers all forms such as coins, tokens, paper money and related objects.  However, a coin-specific collector will be quite happy to be described as a Numismatist.  The study can be traced back a good many centuries but the first book to be published on coins was De Asse et Partibus (1514) by Guillaume Budé.  However, notable Numismatists include Pope Boniface VIII, Emperor Maximilian of the Roman Empire and Louis XIV of France to name a few.

Ounce

Or Troy Once.  (Symbols oz t).  Weight 31.10345g.  The Troy Ounce is used when trading precious metals such as gold or silver.

Obverse

The side of a coin with the principal engraved motif, usually a portrait and in the UK known by the name “Heads” when the coin is tossed to give a random decision.  The Reverse is the other side.

Premium

This is the difference between the value of the precious metal contained in the coin and the price paid for the coin.  The premium of a coin depends on a number of factors:

Production The smaller the coins and the harder they are to produce, the more chance there is that they will have a high premium.  This principle explains why the smaller British Half Sovereigns have a higher premium.  The quality of a proof coin usually demands a higher premium also.

Speculation The premium changes to reflect supply and demand.  In a period where more coins are being sold than are being bought, the premium is zero or even slightly negative.  (In this situation, coins of moderate quality are often melted down).  When there is high demand or excess speculation, the premium resulting from this speculation climbs sharply.  The premium is therefore a very good indicator of the balance between supply and demand, the potential of the latter and also what actions should be taken.  A negative, zero or slightly positive premium should stimulate purchases whilst a high premium should lead to selling.  (In the UK, if the premium exceeds 180%, then VAT is applicable).  In the rest of the EU, this limit is set to 80%.

Conservation A quality coin that has no trace of being handled will retain all its premium.  Poor conservation conditions (contact with fingers, scratches, wearing, etc) can result in a reduction of 4% – 10% and a negative premium.  When this happens, the coins are melted down and sold for the content of their precious metal.

Collectors Some coins are rare due to being minted in small numbers or because they have special characteristics related to numismatic rarity criteria.  In certain years where very few coins were minted, a Sovereign can cost several thousand GB Pounds depending on rarity and condition.  This value is therefore completely unrelated to the value of the gold content of the coin.

Geographical Location Gold coins are not equally popular in every country and generally speaking, coins that were the currency of a country are more popular in that particular country.  For example, Napoleon Francs are very popular in France but are much less well-known in China or the USA.  People in those countries prefer to buy their local coins, the Panda and Eagle respectively.  The exception to the rule is the British Sovereign which has both local appeal in the UK as well as an international reputation.

Proof

Proof coins are specially produced to a much higher standard of finish.  Originally, proofs were intended as pre-production samples.  Proof coins are now made in larger numbers for sale to collectors.

Purity

Gold’s purity is usually expressed in parts per thousand.  For example, 995 or nine hundred and ninety-five is 995/1,000 pure or 99.5% pure gold.  995 is the highest purity at which gold can be made for normal purposes but for ultra-high technology applications, it is possible to produce metals which are 99.9999% pure.  For reference, the British Gold Sovereign is 917/1000.

Reverse

The side of the coin opposite the obverse.  This side usually contains the date.  In the UK, it is known as “Tails” when tossed to give a random decision.  The Obverse is the other side.

Type

The principal motif on a coin enabling numismatists to identify the issue.

Vera Valor

Vera Valor is the world first pure gold bullion bar-coin.  It is made from pure Clean Extraction Gold.  (See Clean Extraction above).  The gold is 100% traceable “from the mine to the mint”.  Each coin carries a unique (to each coin) QR code to confirm its proof of origin, along with a Valcambi s.a. hallmark that guarantees its Swiss made quality and fineness.  A Vera Valor weighs 1 Troy Ounce (31.103g), diameter 32mm, thickness 2mm.  The fineness of the gold used is 999.9/1,000 and is certified, 100% traceable, “Clean Extraction” gold.