What Is An Un-circulated Coin?
You may have heard the terms proof coin and un-circulated
coin, but what's the difference between these two? To understand
the difference between a proof and un-circulated coin, let's
first answer the question, "What is an un-circulated coin?"
Un-circulated means a coin has not had any wear, such as the
wear a coin might experience when it is used in commerce.
Handling a coin, as well as improperly storing a coin, can result
in wear on the surface of the coin. This wear, even if very
minor, will cause a coin to no longer grade un-circulated.
When coins are minted they often bump into each other and
receive small nicks and abrasion marks during the production
process. These marks also occur as coins are transported in large
canvas bags. These marks, sometimes called "bag marks", are more
noticeable on larger coins, such as half dollars and dollars.
Typical "bag marks" do not keep a coin from grading
un-circulated. However, they can be an indicator of how high of a
grade the un-circulated coin might receive.
Current accepted grading standards provide for a range of
un-circulated grades, from the grade of MS-60 to MS-70. MS60
would be a lower grade (yet still) un-circulated coin with normal
bag marks for that type of coin. Anything below MS-60 would not
be considered un-circulated. MS70 would be the perfect "ideal"
coin. Some coins are rare in grades MS65 to MS70, and even
unheard of in MS70 grade. (The attribute "MS" stands for "mint
A newly minted proof coin is also un-circulated, however it is
the way it is made that causes a difference in appearance and
qualifies it as a "proof". To understand this, let's look at how
coins are made. Coins are produced when two dies strike a blank
piece of metal with tremendous force. One die is engraved with
the front (obverse) design for the coin. The other die has the
back (reverse) coin design on it.
A proof coin is made with a specially polished and treated
die! By treating the die in a special way, the coins it produces
have a different appearance. Modern technology allows the high
points on the coin design to be acid treated (on the die). The
background (field) design of the coin die is polished, resulting
in a mirror-like look on the coin it strikes. This gives the
finished coin a frosted look (frosting) on the raise parts of the
design, with a mirror like finish on the background. This
contrasting finish is often called "cameo". On some older coins a
cameo appearance is quite rare. The attribute "CAM", when added
to a coin's description, means cameo appearance. "DCAM" means
deep cameo, and indicates the cameo appearance is strong and easy
Lana Hampton makes it easy to find the coin collecting
information you want. Visit her site today for the latest
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