HomeResourcesInvesting in Precious Metals: What is the Difference Between Proof, Brilliant Uncirculated and Circulated?

Investing in Precious Metals: What is the Difference Between Proof, Brilliant Uncirculated and Circulated?

Investing in Precious Metals - What is the Difference Between Proof, Brilliant Uncirculated and Circulated - Royal Bull

Understanding the many variables involved in grading coins can be complex. What’s a proof coin? What makes a coin brilliant uncirculated? And how much use does a coin need to have to be labeled circulated? Worry no longer – Royal Bull is here to answer these questions and many more.

What is a Proof Coin?

A proof coin is the highest standard of commemorative coin produced. This is often because they are the first coins being made with the die, so each coin edge is sharper and designs crisper. How do they do it? Proof coins are struck up to six times, depending on the coin and the production process.

Although proof coins historically have a very high standard, there are varying degrees of this perfection. The term PR70 is attributed to coins with absolute perfection. Any grades of PR69 or lower do have minor imperfections. For example, a coin that does not have an absolute center design, or small scratch or error from the manufacturing process.

Many of the proof coins for sale also have design improvements, which are usually easy to spot. A popular design improvement is to have coin surfaces that are frosted or have a mirror-like finish, making them stand out from the rest. This is done by tumbling the planchets in a barrel with stainless steel balls, resulting in a polished finish with no contaminants or imperfections. Modern frosting of proof coins is often now done by a computer-controlled machine to ensure complete perfection.

The rise in coin collecting resulted in many mints actually issuing more proof coins, simply as a cash-generating tool. They are now very popular in collecting and investing circles.

Canadian investors and collectors should note that unlike “brilliant uncirculated” and “circulated” coins, “proof” coins don’t refer to the condition of the coin, but only to the manufacturing process. 

What is a Brilliant Uncirculated Coin?

Brilliant Uncirculated (“BU”) coins do not have the extra finishing and detail seen on proof coins, and since they have not been in circulation they have much of the brilliance and beauty of the proof coins. A brilliant uncirculated coin is in the same condition it was in when it was produced in the mint. As such, they do not have any signs of wear. 

That being said, there are many varying conditions of a brilliant uncirculated coin, and it is always best to also consider the precise grading of the coin to determine its “level of perfection”. Many Canadian collectors use something called the Sheldon Scale that uses numerical grading for a more precise and accurate analysis of the coin’s value. 

What is a Circulated Coin?

A circulated coin shows wear since it has been handled and likely used for an exchange of goods. This can include proof coins, as proof coins are simply a manufacturing classification and not a condition of the coin itself.

Typically, modern circulated coins are not made of silver or gold and instead are only worth their face value. Rare instances that increase a circulated coins’ value is if it is very old (“junk silver”), when it has a production error on it (like a missing mint mark or off-center design) or when the mintage is very low. 

How can you tell if your coin is circulated? The dead giveaway is that the coin has entered circulation. Even one use at a grocery store is enough to give it this title. There are also some telltale signs: it has scratches, faded designs, lost brilliance or marks or any kind. Thus, as you can imagine, a circulated coin will likely not have as much value as a brilliant uncirculated or proof coin. 

How to Purchase Proof, Brilliant Uncirculated and Circulated Coins

Although Royal Bull prides itself on offering a selection of all three of these coin types, we often have more proof coins and brilliant uncirculated coins available as we know that these are in higher demand for discerning Canadian collectors and investors. If you are interested, start shopping now.