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What is Brilliant Uncirculated & Almost Uncirculated?

When it comes to Precious Metals, one common question many people have is what do the letters “AU” and “BU” mean. You might have seen a coin such as the 2016 Austria 1 oz Gold Philharmonic BU or the 1922-1935 Peace Silver Dollar AU that are sold at APMEX. Those letters at the end of those coins, amongst others, are important for every buyer to know. Knowing what those distinctions are will help you make a more informed decision on the type of product you desire. Even if you are experienced in Precious Metals investing, the distinction between BU and AU can make a big difference in your portfolio as a whole. 

What is Brilliant Uncirculated, and What is Almost Uncirculated

  • Brilliant Uncirculated – Brilliant Uncirculated refers to a coin that has never been circulated and retains most, if not all, of its original luster regardless of the point of origin. In other words, coins with BU designation are considered to be the “most pure” coins available, retaining at least 95% of its original luster. A coin could come from the American Mint or from another World Mint and the BU designation still applies. This holds true for Gold, Silver, Platinum and Palladium coins.
  • Almost Uncirculated – Almost Uncirculated coins refer to coins that have a small amount of wear on its highest points that is usually seen on coins that have had minimal circulation. This does not necessarily mean that the value of the coin is low in value. To the untrained eye, it may not be apparent that a coin is Almost Uncirculated or not. In many European countries, the AU designation also stands for About Uncirculated, but the condition of the coin is the same as Almost Uncirculated.

Coin Grading and how BU and AU Play a Role

Coin grading is an important part of determining the value of a coin, regardless of whether or not the coin is BU or AU. Many novice coin collectors may not be able to tell the difference, but it is important to know the difference when buying any numismatic collection. Grading is used to base the value of a coin on the coin's state of preservation. Your standard quarter and dime would not rate very high in regards to modern standards of coin grading. However, uncirculated coins, whether BU or AU, are rated high on the Sheldon scale, a scale created by Dr. William Sheldon in 1949 to rate and grade coins. Uncirculated coins may rate very high on the Sheldon scale, but it is important to note that not all coins require a certification or grade. Generally speaking, a coin that is between 60-70, BU, on the scale is considered to be on the upper end of the scale, making uncirculated coins top tier.

Determining the Value of Coins

In essence, the coin grade can determine the value of the coin, but it's not a guarantee. Factors such as how trusted the coin dealer is and spot prices of Precious Metals can make a difference. When you are buying your next coin from APMEX and you see the AU or BU next to the coin's name, you will know the difference between the two helping you make a better decision on your coin purchases.

All coins that come through APMEX are high in quality and inspected so you only have access to the highest quality Precious Metals. Whether you make a coin purchase with an AU, BU or one that doesn't have certification or grade to it, you will still receive high quality Precious Metals at APMEX.

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