Circulated Versus Uncirculated Coins | PCH.com

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Circulated Versus Uncirculated Coins

September 16th, 2011 Coins

Before a coin is used as currency, it is classified as uncirculated, but once it joins the market, it is in circulation. Collectors may prefer one category over the other. After being handled, coins are less expensive to buy, but some believe they have more character. The appeal of mintage that was never exchanged in commerce is that it is in pristine condition. For modern coins to have any additional monetary value, they need to be uncirculated because those that are in use are easy to obtain.

You can usually tell the difference between disseminated and barely touched specie just by looking at it. A certified uncirculated piece must have no signs of having been in distribution. Coins have a mint luster, which can wear off quickly after being transferred among many owners. Signs of wear and tear don't typically exist on uncirculated coins, while their mobilized counterparts usually have damage on their most elevated design points and look weathered.

Metallic cash kept off the market isn't always perfect, however. Even coins still at the mint are susceptible to damage from touching other currency, which can result in what's called contact marks. Experts can usually tell the difference between blemishes from circulation and those incurred in the factory. Uncirculated coins are graded on a special scale, ranging from MS60 to MS70. Small change in MS70 condition has no contact marks and a perfect luster, while a piece in MS60 condition may be dull and worn due to aging.

Contrary to popular belief, proof coins, which are crafted in a unique fashion exclusively for collectors, and uncirculated coins aren't the same. Regular specie are struck once under normal pressure at high speeds, while proof coins are struck twice or more under high pressure. This ensures the design is sharp and pronounced, and the background is polished to a mirror-like shine. The design itself may look "frosted" in comparison to the background because it isn't as smooth.