Coin Identifier: Here’s How To Identify Your Coin Via Diagrams, Photos & Definitions Yourself

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Those of us who don’t necessarily collect coins, but happen to have found some interesting coins in our pocket change (or have inherited a hand-me-down coin collection)… we need some of the most basic coin identifiers spelled out for us.

What follows are some coin diagrams and photos that will help you describe your coin to others (like if you want to sell it online).

Plus, coin glossaries and definitions that will be helpful as you learn more about the coins in your possession.


#1 – Click on the photo below from the Coin Resource site to learn about each of the key parts of a coin, including:

  • device
  • rim
  • edge
  • obverse
  • reverse
  • date
  • fields
  • denomination
  • mint marks
  • legend
  • motto
  • exergue
  • dentils is an excellent site for novice coin collectors!


#2 – Click on the following photo to learn more about the anatomy of a coin. The Coins site at has a wealth of resources available for beginners including this fun slideshow describing:

  • the obverse and reverse sides of a coin;
  • the placement of the legend, rim, and field on a coin;
  • the location of the motto, mint mark, and edge of a coin;
  • an explanation of the portrait, date, and designer’s initials;
  • the layers of a coin with a copper core, nickel layer, and reeded edges;  and
  • the upset rim, reeded edge, and portrait on a proof coin.

The best part? At the end, there’s a quiz!

  • Save


#3 – And finally, coin terms and abbreviations can be confusing. Check out these coin glossaries which describe the most popular words used to identify and describe U.S. coins. Each is a little different in its own way:

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9 thoughts on “Coin Identifier: Here’s How To Identify Your Coin Via Diagrams, Photos & Definitions Yourself”

  1. My family inherited my step fathers coin collection in Jan.2009 after his death. There are alot of very beautiful, well kept coins in hard, clear plastic cases and laying in velvet. How do we find the value of these coins or anyone interested in purchasing them? We are uninterested in collecting them and would like to see them in the hands of someone who would apprieciate them as much as my step-dad did. Any time and info you can give me would be greatly apprieciated.


    • Hi Regina,

      Condolences to you and your family…


      As for your step father’s coin collection, if you are not interested in collecting coins or keeping them in the family, I recommended you consider selling your coins to a coin dealer or maybe consign them to an auction.

      It sounds like those coins may be (perhaps) in what we call “slabs.” If that’s so, you may have some very valuable coins in your hands and I would be very careful that you sell them for what they are worth.

      Unfortunately, without either seeing photos or reading descriptions of the coins (date, denomination, etc.), I won’t be able to help you right here, but I urge you to check out some of the other articles and posts here at The Fun Times Guide to Coin because you should be able to find some information here that will give you a better idea as to the coins you have and some approximation as to value.

      Should you decide to sell, I hope you have at least 2 or 3 coin dealers in your area – that way you can ‘shop around’ and get the best price for your coins.

      *Don’t go to the people who advertise on the side of the street that they buy gold — they certainly won’t pay you the value of your coins as rarities or collectibles. Also, avoid jewelers and pawn shops — they generally know little about coins and will not pay you what those coins are worth.

      Here’s a list of coin dealers verified by the American Numismatic Association (ANA) – this would be a good place to start generating some ideas as to dealers you should consider selling your coins to:

      I hope this helps aim you in the right direction. Please always feel free to check back with more questions, and make sure you skim the posts here to get some idea as to what those coins are worth.

  2. I have come across a large copper coin in very rough shape – on one side it has inscribed 1/2 SHILLING over two arrows which “X” over the entire face of the coin. On the bottom, between the arrow feathers is a date which is VERY hard to read (possibly 1803?) The opposite side has a crown on the top center above the letters G and A which are on top of each other. To the right of the GA are the Roman Numerals IV. To the left of the GA is another crown… I am stumped…

  3. have a 1838 one cent liberty on head, 1824 same seems high relief,1774 british penny, 1818 liberty head penny, lots of 1800s indian head pennies worth anything?

    • Hi Cj,

      The large cents are each worth from between $15 to $30 in typical grades, though they’ll be worth less if they are porous, bent, cleaned, or otherwise damaged.

      To give you a better idea on the value of the Indian cents, I’ll need to have a list of each date, or you can just check out this piece on Indian penny values if you’d like:

      Unfortunately, I’m not too experienced with British pennies, so I can’t say for certain specifically on the 1774, but I do know that British pennies from that era are often sold for anywhere from between $10 to over $100 based on condition. The key, though, is ensuring its authentic. After all, many counterfeits and replicas exist.

      If you’re inclined, sending the coin to a third-party coin grader is a good idea. Here’s some more info on third-party coin grading:

    • Hi, Doris —

      A token like this would have most appeal to novelty coin collectors; similar pieces tend to sell for $2 to $3.

      Thank you for your question,


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