Bullion Coin Anatomy

A Bullion Coin's Anatomy is very easy to remember when compared to their numismatic coin counterparts.

Most Numismatic coins change their designs a lot more often than bullion coins, which can make some of the features of these coins harder to recognize.

Bullion coins are often looked upon as what they were created for; Investing, not collecting.

It is good practice for any bullion coin investor to know the separate features that make up a bullion coin.

The Subjects of this Bullion Coin Anatomy page are the 1oz. American Eagle Gold Bullion Coin and the 1oz. American Eagle Platinum Bullion Coin.

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The Obverse Side of a
Bullion Coin

coin anatomy obv

The Reverse Side of a
Bullion Coin

coin anatomy rev

Bullion Coin Anatomy

obverse & reverse of a coin

The Three Sides of a Coin

At least once in your life you've flipped a coin and called "Heads" or "Tails." 

In terms of a coin's anatomy, "Heads" is known as the "Obverse" side of the coin and "Tails" is known as the "Reverse" side.

But, there is also a third side that will almost never come up when you flip a coin and that is the coin's "Edge."

The Free Bullion Investment Guide has over 100 coin pages, all of which are narrated using obverse, reverse and edge coin terminology.

reeded edgeThe "Edge"
is the Third Side of a Coin

Coin Narration
in the
First Person

All the coins on the Free Bullion Investment Guide are narrated in the first person point of view.

Points of view Defined:

3rd person point of view: When you are looking at your computer screen, you are looking at it in the third person point of view and your right and left sides are the same as they are on your body.

3rd Person
Point of View

third person point of view

1st person point of view: the first person point of view, is to describe a item or coin, as if you were holding it to your chest and describing it, flipping the right and left sides from the person viewing it.

How a coin is described is up to the individual who is interpreting its features, it can get confusing if a coin website mixes the two points of view in their narration of a coin.

As you will see in the coin description below, the 1st person narration works best for describing a coin.

The following is a first person narration of a Gold Eagle's obverse side.

1st Person
Point of View

first person1st Person View of a Coin

When you look at the American Gold Eagle above, you immediately know which hand is Liberty's right hand and which hand is her left, without the arrows and names.

This is an example of the first person point of view, the following narration is from the guide's American Gold Eagle coin pages:

"She (Liberty) is holding a torch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left."  

first person view1st Person View of a Coin

Since you see that the torch is in Liberty's right hand and that the olive branch is in her left hand, wouldn't you also say that the Capital Building is behind her on the right and the Year of Issue is to her left.

The following is just one example of where both points of view are mixed in the description.

The following is Wiki's description of the same coin.

Wikipedia's description for the same American Eagle Gold coin:

"The obverse design features a rendition of Augustus Saint-Gaudens' full length figure of Lady Liberty with flowing hair, holding a torch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left, with the Capitol building in the left background."

If the olive branch is in her left hand, how can you say the capital is in the "left background?"

american gold eagle

Bullion Coin Anatomy
- Breakdown -

field and rim of coin

Field - The flat area of a coin’s surface that is not raised and doesn’t have any design or inscription.

Rim - The raised edge that runs completely around both sides of a coin.


Edge - The edge is the very outer border of a coin. Edges can be lettered, plain or reeded. See below for more information on coin edges.


Portrait - Found on the Obverse side of the coin. Common portraits include presidents, monarchy, and Liberty.


Legend - Usually found at the top of a bullion coin, often referred to the coin’s inscription.

bullion coin relief

Relief - The part of a coin’s design that is raised above the surface.

coin motto

Motto - Coin lettering or inscriptions like "In God We Trust" and " "E Pluribus Unum."

weight and purity

Weight & Purity - States the coins' weight and the purity of the precious metal in the coin.

face value of coin

Face Value - The value of the coin, the face value of every bullion coin is guaranteed and backed by the country in which it represents.

coins year of issue

Date or Year of Issue - Indicates the year a coin was minted or first issued.


Designers Initials - The initials of the person who designed the coin.

SD Bullion

Mint Marks

Mint Mark - A mint mark is a Mark or an Inscription on a coin indicating the mint that produced the coin.

United States bullion coins are not minted with a Mint Mark.

It is the one way to recognize a Numismatic (Proof or Un-Circulated) American Eagle from the Bullion version of the coin.

Proof and uncirculated numismatic versions of the American Eagle bullion coins have a "W" on their reverse side, representing the West Point Mint.

The practice of including a Mint Mark is shared with some bullion coins and not with others.

mexican mint mark

For instance, Mexico includes their ("O" over an "M") mint mark on all of their minted Libertads.

Australia includes their "P" mint mark, representing the Perth Mint, on some of their bullion coins and not others.

Whereas, China and Canada, both do not indicate any Mint Marks on their bullion coins.

Coin Edges

The edge of a coin is often referred to as the third side of a coin.

Lettered Edge

Plain Edge

Grained Edge

Reeded Coin Edge

Enhanced Anatomy
of the
American Eagle Platinum
Bullion Coin


exploding coin obv


exploding coin rev

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