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What is a Mint State Coin?

Mint state is a condition given to coins at a certain level, between 60 and 70, on the Sheldon Grading Scale. Mint state coins have never been in circulation so when buyers get these coins, they are buying a coin in the same condition as originally produced, or very close to it. The overall Sheldon scale ranges from 1 to 70, with 1 being the lowest grade indicating poor condition while 70 indicates perfection. Mint state-graded coins are noted with “MS” preceding the number. 

It is important to note there are other forms of grading. Other types of grading include circulated coins and proof grades. Check with the mint state reference grading guidelines by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) to get a better idea of what classifies each grade.

THE SHELDON SCALE
Dr. William Sheldon, a noted psychologist and numismatist, created the grading scale in the 1940s. The scale clarifies the condition associated with the coins on the market.

Numismatic grading institutions like the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) and PCGS use the Sheldon scale, which has been adapted over time. The original scale was presented in 1949, but the final adapted scale was implemented in the 1970s when it was used for all coins, not just coins produced in the United States.

REASONS FOR A LOWER MS-GRADE
Mint-made damage is inevitable. Some are smaller damages, while others are drastic. Even though a coin is uncirculated, it does not mean the condition is perfect. The U.S. Mint does produce some coins that are lower in quality. As the number of coins and bullion produced each year increases, the chances for error increases. Some examples of damage that can call for a lower grade include:

  • Bag damage
    Bag damage means by marks and nicks caused by other coins in a bag. Some instances of damage are more severe than others.
  • Weak striking
    Weak strikes can cause a distortion of the coin design.
  • Metal quality
    With metal quality problems, the buyer can see the brittleness of the coin, making it more susceptible to scratches and scrapes.

There are other common mint errors that can cause a lower grade. Uncirculated mint state coins are a good investment opportunity for beginning and experienced investors.

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