Glossary of Numismatic Terms


This brief glossary is provided to better familiarize you with some of the specialized terminology used by currency collectors. These terms are used when describing the condition of notes and may also appear in the graders' comments on the back of the PMG certification label. Also included are more detailed descriptions of some of the reasons why a note may be ineligible for PMG certification.

Altered Note – Any note that has been manipulated to create the appearance that it is a different variety or type of note, e.g. fabricated error notes.

EPQ – An Exceptional Paper Quality (EPQ) note is, in the opinion of PMG graders, completely original. EPQ notes will not have been physically, chemically, or materially processed to give the appearance of a higher grade. Notes exhibiting normal wear-and-tear for their grade are eligible. All notes graded Very Fine 25 and higher will be evaluated for the EPQ designation. Notes must qualify for the EPQ designation to grade Gem Uncirculated 65 and higher. For additional details, click here.

Foxing – Foxing describes small spots or discoloration stains on a note, often caused by mold or fungal growth on paper. It may also be cause by natural paper oxidation.

Hinged – Hinged is used to describe any note that contains remnants of a hinge. In the past, collectors used hinges to mount notes for display or in albums and leave a glue-like substance when removed. This appears most frequently among Fractional Currency.

Ineligible Type – Any note that PMG does not grade or recognize. Currently, PMG grades US large and small size, World, Confederate and Obsolete Currency, MPC's, Fractional Currency, Colonial and Continental Currency, and scrip.

Pedigree – The "pedigree" field on the label of a certified note may be used to indicate the collection name but it is not specifically designated for highlighted collections typically referred to as "pedigrees." Many collectors like to have their names tied to their collections and, while this is allowed, not just anything may be put on the label / holder. It should also be noted that although this field may add value to certain notes, it is not the primary purpose of the field.

PMG Star® – PMG assigns the PMG Star Designation to notes with exceptional eye appeal for their assigned grade.

While eye appeal is one of the most subjective characteristics of notes, there are general standards which numismatists typically use to define exceptional eye appeal. To receive a star from PMG, notes must exhibit exceptionally strong plate and / or overprint embossing, vibrant ink color, and pristine paper quality exceeding the well-established standards used to determine the Exceptional Paper Quality (EPQ) Designation.

All US and world notes are automatically evaluated for the distinction of the PMG Star Designation. Notes that do not qualify for the EPQ Designation will be disqualified from receiving the Star Designation.

It is important to note that the star is assigned irrespective of the note’s numeric grade. For example, a PMG Gem Uncirculated 65star may be at the low, middle or high end of the PMG Gem Uncirculated 65 grade.

Notes graded PMG Gem Uncirculated 70 must also qualify for the PMG Star and EPQ Designations.

Processed – Describes a note that has been chemically or otherwise treated to make it appear to be of higher condition to the untrained eye.

Proof – A proof is a prototype of a note printed by the printing company before it is issued. Multiple proofs can be made for each different plate used in the printing process.

Proprietary Proof – A proprietary proof is a note that has been printed from the original plates by an independent party after the time of issue. They are reprints of an original proof and most commonly on thicker paper stock than the issued notes.

PVC Damage – PVC (or polyvinyl chloride) damage occurs when a note has been in a holder made out of PVC. Overexposure to PVC can give the note a translucent appearance.

Questionable Authenticity – Any note that PMG cannot definitively call genuine.

Re-embossed – Embossing is seen where the printing process creates a “raised” surface on one side, usually on serial numbers and seals. Re-embossed describes when any part of the note has been traced over to give the appearance of natural embossing.

Repairs – Describes an attempt to fix a note by a non-professional, in the opinion of PMG graders. This determination is made by examining the technique of the repair and the materials used.

Restoration – Restoration describes work to fix a note's flaws performed by a professional, in the opinion of PMG graders. Higher quality materials and more refined techniques are used on notes described as having Restoration than on notes described as having Repairs.

Retouched – A minor repair typically found on the surface of the note.

Split – An opening along a fold of a bank note. Splits are seen on notes grading Fine and below due to heavy circulation.

Tear – A separation or opening in a bank note often caused by pulling motion.