PMG Glossary

Posted on 1/1/2018


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.

Advertising Notes – Privately issued notes created to promote a company. Advertising Notes usually provide information about the company such as its address or products. For Advertising Notes produced by companies that print banknotes (e.g., ABNC, BWC, W&S), see Printer's Advertising Notes.

Altered Note – A note that has been manipulated to create the appearance that it is a different variety, type, or serial number. For example, some notes have been altered to look like printing errors.

Archival Photographs – These were taken during the development of a design to document each stage of the process. In most cases, the final design reached at the end of the process would be used for notes issued for circulation.
These photographs can include engraved and/or hand-drawn sections as well as attached parts of the design (such as serial numbers and signatures) that make up the proposed design. Many of the stages shown in Archival Photographs will resemble, but not exactly match, a Pick number.
These black-and-white photographs show only the front or back of the note. They were typically mounted on card stock for storage in the archives of various printing operations. "Archival Photographs" are not to be confused with bromide prints/images that we do not grade.

Artist’s Rendition – A hand-drawn or painted copy of a design utilized on an issued note. It may be identical or nearly identical to a design that ultimately went on to be issued, or it may only vaguely resemble it. PMG will encapsulate Artist’s Renditions without a numeric grade.

Collector Series Specimen – A Specimen of a completed note design produced specifically for collectors. These notes are easily recognized because they have special symbols added to the serial number. They have their own section in the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money book (which can be found at the end of each country) and will have CS in the catalog number.

Color Trial Specimen – A Specimen of a completed note design except the colors differ from that of the issued note.

Composite Essay – See Printer’s Model

Contemporary Counterfeit – A note that is not genuine and that was created at or around the time of issue of the genuine note with the intention to deceive merchants and circulate at face value. This is unlike a modern counterfeit produced to deceive collectors for its numismatic value.
PMG will grade collectible Contemporary Counterfeits at its sole discretion. PMG will not grade (a) Contemporary Counterfeits of a bank or issuing authority that is currently operating, or (b) modern counterfeits that, in PMG’s opinion, were produced to deceive collectors.

Counterfoil – The printed area, called selvage, that is made to be separated from the main note design at issue and kept as a record by the bank issuing it. Counterfoils are often cut off to separate them from the main issued note design, but they can also be torn off along a perforated line. They are often located to the left or right of the main note design area.

Courtesy Autograph – A handwritten signature on a note that matches an official printed signature on the note. (To learn more about PMG's Courtesy Autograph Policy, click here.)

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 20 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 stains on a note, often caused by mold or fungal growth on paper. It may also be caused by natural paper oxidation.

Friedberg Number – The Friedberg number refers to the reference number given to each note listed in Paper Money of the United States by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg, the authoritative reference of US currency.

Hinged – Hinged is used to describe any note that contains remnants of a hinge: a small, rectangular, typically translucent piece of paper coated with a light gum adhesive. 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 US Fractional Currency.

Ineligible Type – Any note that PMG does not certify. PMG grades most US and world notes as well as select test notes, fantasy notes, and US satire and denominated scrip notes. For details, click here.

Modern – A classification of notes by the period when they were issued. PMG defines modern notes as those issued from 1957 to the present.

Pedigree – A pedigree is generally used to indicate a note’s past or present ownership. Submitters to PMG may request that a note formerly owned by a famous collector be pedigreed to that collector on the PMG certification label. PMG must receive sufficient evidence to confirm the requested pedigree. A submitter to PMG may request that PMG pedigree a note to his or her own collection on the PMG certification label.

Pick Number – The Pick Number refers to the reference number given to each note listed in the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, based on a system originally developed by Albert Pick.

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

Printer's Advertising Notes – This is a sub-category of Test Notes. In addition to demonstrating the print quality of the printer's work, they were used to promote the products and services offered by the printing company and often feature the company's name and address. They are more commonly vintage notes done when printing and watermarks were the common security features, unlike today's Test Notes that showcase numerous security features.

Printer’s Design – A complete design intended to be used for circulation that was never approved by the issuer.

Printer’s Model – These are typically created from a variety of media with both printed and hand-drawn designs. They are often mounted on cardstock with specific design elements individually glued to the cardstock. These are also known as a Composite Essay.

Printing Remnants – Partial and/or complete prints on banknote paper that may or may not have been intended for production. Printing remnants can be single notes as well as uncut sheets. PMG will encapsulate printing remnants without a numeric grade.

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

Progressive Proof – A category of Proof in which a partial intaglio or lithographic print was created in the developmental stages before completion of the final proof used for note production. During this process, portions of the design are printed and used to reach the final design. Progressive proofs may or may not be printed on the same paper used on final proofs. They may also have been created in different colors than that of the issued design. It is important to note that some proofs may lack certain elements, such as overprints or underprints, but are still identified as proofs.

Proof – A proof represents a preparatory stage in the design process prior to a note’s approval for production for circulation. Once the proof is approved, the plate is used for note production. A proof is a complete plate design printed on non-issued paper (typically India paper). In some cases, the non-issued paper may be mounted on cardstock. Some proofs may be a different color or lack the full color seen on the issued design. In some cases, there may be partial plate prints done in the same fashion that led up to the final stage of the proof before it is sent for approval. Proofs of notes that were never issued have been observed as well.

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 are most commonly printed on paper stock that is thicker than used for 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 – If PMG believes that a note is likely not genuine but its research is inconclusive, the note will be labeled “Questionable Authenticity” and not encapsulated. In most instances of Questionable Authenticity, the full grading fee will be refunded. However, notes without serial numbers, unique serial numbers or identifiable serial numbers, as well as notes with a block number only, will be assessed a processing fee. Examples of these notes include, but are not limited to, select Specimens, Proofs, Essays, Fractional Currency, US Remainders and regular issue notes with block numbers only

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.

Remainder – A note that was fully prepared for issue, but not officially issued (because of a bank failure, for example). These are identical to a fully issued note except that they are missing the serial number, date or signature – or a combination of these. Remainders can also be observed with Counterfoils. Because they did not officially circulate, they are often encountered in relatively better condition than the circulated, issued notes from the same bank.

Repairs – Describes an attempt to fix a note's flaws performed 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. Notes described as “Restoration” will have been restored with higher quality materials and more refined techniques compared to notes described as having “Repairs.”

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

Specimen – An example of a fully completed note design, either already in circulation or that was intended for circulation. Specimen notes are distinctively marked in a way to distinguish them from an issued note. Such markings can include the word “Specimen” or “Cancelled” stamped, handwritten or perforated. Serial numbers can be all zeros or other non-unique serial numbers (e.g., 12345). Serial numbers can also be seen in a range (e.g., 1000001 – 2000000). World Specimens can be either uniface or fully printed on two sides. Specimens can also be non-issue examples of notes that were fully completed and intended for issue. It is important to understand that a Specimen must be complete and match the issued note, and that it must have one of the characteristics mentioned distinctive to Specimen markings.

Split – An opening along a fold of a bank note. Splits are sometimes 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.

Test Note – These are designed, primarily, to showcase a printer’s ability to design and produce banknotes. PMG will encapsulate test notes on a case-by-case basis.

Vignette – A small illustration or portrait, usually in black and white and often mounted on cardstock. PMG will encapsulate vignettes without a numeric grade.

Vintage – A classification of notes by the period when they were issued. PMG defines vintage notes as those issued before 1957.

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