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Defects Terminology

There are many defects that appear on ancient coins. Here is a list of those frequently encountered.

Term Meaning
Broken (Chipped) Patina

The patina has been damaged in areas and is no longer complete.


Chemically cleaned,  removing the natural patina. Sometimes necessary, never desirable.

Clipped Material was surreptitiously removed from the edge of the coin by clipping or shaving, reducing its diameter - sometimes to the point of removing part of the design.
Corrosion Chemical attack causing loss of detail over the area affected.
(Banker's Mark)
A stamp applied to the coin effacing part of its design. This was often done as a guarantee the coin had been inspected by someone - a banker or government official.
Crystallization A condition affecting silver coins in which the surface takes on a grainy crystalline appearance. Caused by long term metallurgical changes and may result in brittleness.
Die flaw The die was cracked or broken, leaving a raised area on the coin.
Double Strike The coin was struck twice with a die shift resulting in a doubled design. Striking variations such as this are considered defects in ancient coins, not valuable errors.
Area(s) of material adhering to the surface of the coin, outside the patina,  that are difficult to remove. They frequently appear to form a "crust" over part of the design.
Flan crack A crack in the coin, usually caused during striking. The flan may not have been hot enough.
Flan chip A small area broken away from the coin.
Flat or Dead spot An area in the center of the coin that is not fully struck. This is commonly found in large thin coins where there was not enough metal in the flan to fill the design in the dies.
Flatness An area of the coin that is not fully struck due to an irregular or incomplete strike.
Fourre A false, or plated, coin. Ancient counterfeits were made by striking coins with base metal cores and a thin skin of precious metal.
Graffiti Letters and other designs intentionally scratched into the coin's surface.
Granular surface Due to the effects of corrosion, the coin's surface is no longer smooth but has been roughened where material was leached away.
Heavy or Thick Patina The patina is so heavy that it begins to obscure detail and degrade the coin's appearance.
Holed A hole has been drilled through the coin, usually to wear it as a pendant.
Horn Silver Silver Chloride. Sometimes part of a coin will have combined with chlorine to form AgCl without separating from the rest of the coin. It appears as a protruding grayish mass.
Irregular Flan The coin's edges are irregular due to uneven spread of the flan upon striking.
Lamination An area where a thin layer of the metal separated from the flan during striking.
Mottled Patina The patina is covered with patches or spots of an alternating color. If this is severe,  the coin may seem to have the "measles."
Mounting The coin has been, or is still, mounted for use as jewelry.
Nick A short cut or groove in the edge or surface of a coin.
Off Center The device is not centered on the flan, so part of the design is missing. Ancient coins were seldom perfectly centered, so noting this usually means twenty percent or more.
Overstruck The coin was not struck on a new flan, but on all or part of an older coin.
Pitting Indentations caused by corrosion. May vary in diameter from small to large and from slight to severe in depth.
Porosity Area(s) of pores formed in the metal by leaching of alloyed material due to corrosive action. Large pores appear similar to pits but are of different origin.
Rough The coin's surface is rougher than normal for its preservation grade.
Scratch A long indentation of slight depth and width. Normally caused by rough handling.
Short or Small Flan The coin's blank was not large enough to receive the entire design, part of which is off flan.
Smoothing Abrading or cutting the surface of a coin to remove roughness, usually in the fields.
Test Cut A cut into the edge or surface, to detect a plated counterfeit (see Fourre)
Tooling Recutting the coin's design to improve on its actual condition. Very common on large Roman bronzes.
Unpatinated A bronze or brass coin without a patina, usually due to a cleaning process (though some coins don't form a patina for natural reasons).
Weak Strike The design lacks detail because the coin was not struck hard enough.
Worn Die The design lacks detail because the die was worn out. Very common on the reverse of Roman coins.

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