Circulating coins are the coins you find in your change. Circulated coins will show signs of wear to different degrees, depending on the age and the amount of use the coins have had during its lifetime. Wear can occur by simply having the coin in your pocket with other coins or dropping it on the floor.
An uncirculated coin is simply a coin that has not been entered into general circulation. The mint will often set aside a number of coins destined for the banks, and these may be used in annual collector’s sets or individual release. The uncirculated status means the coin has had no special treatment or finish applied. Uncirculated coins are generally machine produced in large numbers and are stored in bulk. As a result a coin may have faint marks from where it has had contact with other coins while in production or when stored. They are intended as a low cost alternative to the Proof versions.
Brilliant Uncirculated Coins (aka “BU” “BUNC”)
Brilliant Uncirculated coins are a higher standard than uncirculated coins. The dies used to strike Brilliant Uncirculated coins are polished by hand. Brilliant Uncirculated coins are produced by machine, like circulating and uncirculated coins, but receive a double strike which gives greater detail to the design. They are intended as an entry-level collectible coin or as the perfect affordable gift.
Proof coins are generally the highest quality of commemorative coin available, with no equivalent for sharpness, detail and finish. The dies used to strike Proof coins are finished by hand. This is to ensure that all imperfections are removed before they're used to strike a coin. Proof coins are stuck one at a time by hand rather than machine fed. Proof coins are stuck between four and six times, and at a lower speed and a lesser pressure than Uncirculated coins. This is because the coin blanks used for Proof coins are usually precious metals such as silver and gold, which are softer metals than nickel or steel used in circulating and uncirculated coins.
The slower string process ensures a smoother, sharper finish and preserves the finer details of the design. After striking, each Proof coin is checked for imperfections. The dies are cleaned with air between each coin to ensure that no marks or imperfections are caused during striking. Each Proof die may only strike a few hundred coins before it has to be re-polished.
Bullion coins are often purchased as an investment. The production of Bullion coins places an emphasis on efficiency. They are struck at a rate of up to 250 gold and 3,000 silver coins per hour, and have a similar standard of finish to circulating coins. This is to avoid the premium of producing coins to a higher standard. The finish on a Bullion coin is not intended to highlight the detail and artistry of the coin’s design, or the craftsmanship and skill of its minting.
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