The group has started production on a glossary of commonly used terms.  It is hoped that this will greatly increase the accessibility of alternative coin cleaning methods.


Term Definition Slang Additional Notes Contributor
Amperage The strength of an electrical current in amperes. Jerry
Ampere The base unit of electric current. Jerry
Anode A positive electrode This is the piece of metal that is not suppose to bubble in the water 🙂 Jerry
Cathode A negative electrode This is the side that you have the coin on and it should bubble! Jerry
Cooking (slang) The process of electrolysis. Jerry
Electrode A conductor through which electricity enters or leaves Jerry
Electrolyse To subject to electrolysis. Jerry
Electrolysis The decomposition of a substance by the application of an electrical current. Zapping, Cooking, Frying if you do it wrong 🙂 Jerry
Electrolyte A substance which conducts electricity. Salt, Sodium Bicarbonate, Baking Soda Jerry
Hospital Where wife/husband carries spouse when wife/husband has been subjected to too many volts! Please forgive.. my warped sense of humor!! Jerry
Patina A film on the surface of a coin. Jerry
Volt Unit of electromotive force. The difference of potential that would carry one ampere of current against one ohm resistance. Jerry
Volt-ammeter  Instrument for measuring either voltage or current. The single is either a Voltmeter for voltage only or an ampmeter for current Jerry

A major contribution to the group has been the following glossary posted by Bob of Manor Antiques.

– A –

As — a bronze coin.

Aes — bronze.

Agonistic — Relating to the games. This can be athletes in action or an agonistic table with prizes and other accessories.

Anepigraphic — a coin design with no legends. While many coins have lost their legends due to wear, this term is applied only to coins that never had a legend.

Antoninianus — named after Caracalla (Mar. Aur. Antoninus), who introduced the denomination in 215 A.D.; replacing the denarius, and had twice the value (double denarius).

Apex — conical cap. One of the sacrificial instruments found on reverse types.

Argenteus — a silver coin equal to a denarius, struck until the time of Julian (361-363 A.D.). Latin for “of silver”, or “made of silver”.

As (or Aes, plural: asses) — Latin for “unit”, originally the name for a unit of weight (as the English pound), originally divided into 12 ounces, or unciae, and the weight of it judged by what could be reasonably supported in the hand of an outreached arm. By the time of Augustus the as weighed 11 to 12 grams, the Roman monetary system was based on this.

Aspergillum — used to sprinkle water over an altar and/or victim. One of the sacrificial instruments found on reverse types.

Augur — a member of the college of augurs which originally only included three members and was gradually expanded to sixteen. These men were diviners whose duty it was to determine whether the gods were in favor of a proposed action through the observation of signs. These signs were often given by birds. Being a priest in the college was a highly dignified post. The highest ranking members of society which included members of the imperial family considered it to be an honor and an advantage to be chosen as a member of this college.

Aureus — the standard gold coin. It was worth 25 denarii or 100 sesterii. The name means “Golden”. Replaced by the solidus during the time of Constantine the Great (307-337 A.D.).

– B –

Beaded Border — many, perhaps most, ancient coin designs enclosed the designs in a border of dots. It is unusual for a coin to be well centered enough to show a complete border.

Bigatus — the colloquial name for the denarius of the Roman Republic depicting a biga (two-horsed chariot).

Billon — an alloy of silver with copper.

– C –

Caduceus — a wand or rod entwined at one end by two serpents was an attribute of Mercury, the messenger god. The two serpents represent prudence while wings sometimes added to the wand were symbols of diligence, both qualities desired in trade and commerce, of which Mercury was the patron deity. The caduceus is often held by female deities such as Pax, Felicitas, and Concordia in which case it is a symbol of peace and harmony.

Centenionalis — from the Latin “centeni”, (hundredth). A late Roman denomination equal to 1/100th of a solidus.

Cippus — a raised stone which is inscribed to preserve the memory of an important event. These stones were usually small and square in shape, used for both secular and religious purposes.

Cista Mystica –— a sacred basket used in Dionysiac rites, always shown with the sacred serpent.

Cistophorus — coins whose name is derived from a cista mystica or mystical box used in the worship of the god Dionysus. The term cistophorus was originally given to the person who carried this box which housed the sacred serpent. The coins with this title were struck in Asia Minor in recognition of feasts carried out in honor of Dionysus and came to be a symbol for Asia. After Rome’s conquest of Greece, names of Roman magistrates began to appear on them.

Cornucopiae — horns filled with fruits, corn-ears, and flowers is a recurring symbol on Roman coins pertaining to abundance, fertility, and happiness. This symbol was sometimes used by moneyers to refer to the abundance of things acquired through money and also by emperors who wanted to advertise the attributes of prosperity and happiness to be a key feature of their reigns.

Cuirass — A piece of armor worn to protect the chest; a breast-plate.

– D –

Denarius — the major denomination of coinage of the Roman Republic and Imperial Rome. The name means “containing ten”, or ten asses.

Denarius Serratus (or Dentatus, “toothed”) — During the Republic, many issues had cross-cuts into and around the rim to prevent thievery of filling metal from the rim.

Denomination Mark — A few coins bear a mark of value in the field on the reverse. This is thought to indicate the value of the coin in denarii of account.

Didrachm — the two-drachma coin.

Die — metal piece for striking coins, engraved with the design in negative.

Diobol — the two-obol coin.

Drachm(a) — the basic denomination for most Greek coins, usually divided into six obols. The name is thought to be derived from a “handful” (drax) of six iron cooking-spits (obeloi). Spits were used as currency in early times.

Dupondius — a bronze coin equal to half a sestertius, or one eighth of a denarius, or two asses.

– E –

Eagle — a common symbol of the city of Rome, the eagle was also the minister of Jupiter’s thunder bolts, and is often depicted with the god. When seen with another deity, the eagle represents Rome and the blessings which that god or goddess has bestowed upon it. The eagle was also found on Rome’s military standards and was an important figure in consecration ceremonies where it was released from the summit of a funeral pyre symbolizing the dead person?s soul being carried up to heaven and therefore becoming a god
Electrum — an alloy of gold and silver, either natural or artificial.

Exergue — the separate area of a coin below the ground-line of the main decoration. A common place to find mintmarks.

– F –

Follis — Originally a pouch to carry coins. Later used as a replacement for the double denarius by Diocletian (296 A.D.).

– G –

Globe — a symbol of the world and the domination of it. Thus it was the sign of the Roman Empire. The globe was also a symbol of eternity since its spherical shape had neither beginning nor end.

– H –

Hemidrachm — the half-drachma coin.

Hemiobol — the half-obol coin.

– I –

Incuse — concave design or impression.

– J –

Jani — form head-a double head derived from the picture of the god Janus. The two heads appear to be looking in different directions one forward, looking to the future, and one backwards, reflecting on the past. However, where figures other than Janus are presented in this fashion, their symbolic meanings may be somewhat different than that of Janus himself.

– L –

Laurel wreath (crown) — the laurel tree was a symbol for the god Apollo. The leaves of this tree were woven into a crown and bestowed upon commanders as a symbol of their military achievements. Eventually it came to be worn by the emperors as their official head-dress.

Libra — the Roman weight for a pound (327.45 grams). Originally equated with the as, and divided into 12 ounces.

Lituus — the staff held by augurs while carrying out divinations.

– M –

Magistrate — frequently Greek coins bear the names or initials of magistrates responsible for the issue.

Miliarensis — Latin for “containing a thousand(th)”. A silver coin introduced by Constantine I with the value of 1/1000 of a pound of gold (the solidus originally had 14, then later contained 12).

Minim, or Minimus — “smallest”. A late small denomination of Roman coin minted in Britan and Gaul.

Monogram — Monograms were used on coins for various purposes. Like minor types and spelled out magistrate names, monograms identifying responsible mint officials were common. Many were so complex that they are difficult to decipher.

Mintmark — In the exergue, it is common to find a mint mark that identifies not only the mint city, but the workshop as well.

– N –

Nummus — a late fourth century Roman denomination of the reduced centenionalis (AE3).

– O –

Oak wreath (crown) — the civic crown made of oak leaves which was originally bestowed upon a man who had saved the life of a citizen during battle and was considered to be a very distinguished honor. During the empire, emperors adorned their own heads with this crown which marked them as saviors and preservers of the state. The emperor Augustus was the first to wear this crown since he was believed to have saved Rome from the perils of civil war
Obol — see drachm(a).

Obverse — the front and principal side of a coin (i.e. that on which the main design is placed), struck from the anvil die.

Olive branch — the olive tree was believed to have been invented by the goddess Minerva during her contest with Neptune for the possession and name of Athens. The olive branch when held by Minerva herself and other deities is a symbol for peace.

Orichalcum — brass, an alloy of copper and zinc. The term aes is commonly used to cover both orichalcum and copper.

– P –

Palm branch — this branch is a symbol for victory since victorious generals carried it during their triumphal processions. It also was a symbol for the permanence of the empire since this tree lived a long time.

Patera — a round, shallow dish used by the Romans during religious rituals to either pour libations of wine to the gods or to receive blood from the sacrificial victim. The patera is often depicted on coins being held by gods and goddesses as a symbol of their divine rank or of rites carried out in their honor.

Pileus — the cap of liberty often presented with the goddess Libertas or as an attribute of a particular event or reign of an emperor.

Pontiff — a priest of the gods and member of the college of pontiffs whose primary functions was to carry out sacrifices to the gods. A pontiff was considered to be in a position of distinction and therefore took precedence before all other magistrates. The often wore a veil (tutulus), pointed cap (apex) and carried a staff (simpulum). The positions of pontiff, which numbered fifteen, were filled by the highest members of society which included members of the imperial family.

Praeferculum — held wine for libations.

Prow — the fore-part of a ship frequently found on both Republican and Imperial coins was a symbol of Rome?s naval power.

– Q –

Quadrans — the smallest Imperial issue, one quarter of an as.

Quadriga — a chariot drawn by four horses or elephants often driven by victorious generals and emperors during triumphal processions. This chariot is often depicted on coins being driven by gods and goddesses, triumphal generals, or sometimes it is simply empty. The quadriga is unanimously known as a symbol for victory and the marking of a triumphal event.

Quadrigatus — another name for the Roman didrachm, in use until the end of the Second Punic War (202 B.C.), named for the quadriga (four horse chariot) of Jupiter depicted on the reverse.

Quinarius — a silver coin equal to five asses, or half a denarius.

– R –

Reverse — the back side of a coin, struck from the punch die.

Relief — the raised metal that makes up the image on a coin. The higher the metal, the higher the relief.

Rudder — mechanism on a ship used for steering it, which was located in the rear of the ship. The rudder of a ship is frequently found on Roman coins and was a symbol of their military power. When seen with the goddess Fortuna it is the means by which she steers the world.

– S –

Scepter — staff often carried by gods and goddesses as a symbol of their divine power which also served to represent imperial power during the later empire.

Secespita — Sacraficial knife. One of the sacraficial instruments found on reverse types.

Securis — an axe for quartering a victim, one of the sacrificial instruments found on reverse types.

Semis — one half of an as.

Semuncia — an early bronze coin worth half a uncia.

Serrated Edge — Some Roman Republican denarii were issued with the edges of the flans notched. This predecessor of modern reeded edges was cut individually on each coin and varies greatly in depth even on the same coin. Presumably to prove the coin was not plated.

Sestertinum — a money account equal to 1000 sestertii.

Sestertius — (1) a silver coin originally equal to two-and-a-half asses; one quarter of a denarius. (2) a brass coin introduced by Augustus, equal to four asses, or one quarter of a denarius.

Sextans — Latin for “sixth part”. a bronze coin worth one-sixth of an as.

Shekel — a denomination of Carthaginian money.

Siglos — Greek word for shekel, usually used as the name of the standard Persian silver coin.

Siliqua — Latin “pod, or husk”. Originally the smallest unit of Roman weight, equal to one-sixth of a scruple. Under Constantine I in 324 A.D. it became the name of a silver denomination, with the value of 1/24th of a solidus.

Simpulum — a small ladle with a long handle used at sacrifices to pour libations to the gods and to taste the wines that were poured on sacrificial victims. It was one of the insignia of the college of pontiffs.

Solidus — Latin “Solid”. The standard gold coin introduced by Constantine I early in the fourth century to replace the aureus. The solidus had the value of 1/72nd of a Roman pound (libra), or 1/6th of a uncia.

Stater — a Greek gold, silver, or electrum coin, the principal denomination of a coinage.

– T –

Tessera — a tablet with a handle containing a certain number of points showing that the emperor had given money, corn, or other gifts to the people. It is a symbol of the goddess Liberalitas.

Tetartemorion — a quarter-obol coin.

Tetradrachm — a four-drachma coin.

Tremissis — a late Roman gold coin worth 1/3rd of a solidus.

Triens — an early bronze coin worth one third of an as.

Trihemitartemorion — a one-and-a-half tetartemorion, i.e. a three-eighth obol.

Tripod — bronze three-legged stand supporting a bowl.

Triumvir — a member of a board of three. The Second Triumvirate consisted of three triumvires which included Marc Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus. The mints were governed by a board of three known as the triumvires monetales.

Type — the design or device on a coin.

– U –

Uncia — Originally equal in weight to 1/12th of a pound (libra), as well as a bronze coin worth 1/12th of an as.

– V –

Victoriatus (Victoriate) — a silver coin first struck in the Second Punic War (third century B.C.) with a value of 3/4 of a denarius (later 1/2 of a denarius), or of that a drachm. Derived from the depiction of Victoria (goddess of victory) crowning a trophy.

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