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What is Brilliant Uncirculated (BU)?

Examine a handful of pocket change. More than likely, a few of the coins will appear grey and dull, perhaps even damaged or scratched. This is the normal condition of many circulated coins, handled by countless people, shoved into wallets and purses, jammed into vending machines and exposed to the elements.

As a coin loses its luster, it can also lose its appeal to collectors. As details of the design get rubbed away, the circulated coin also loses some of the Precious Metal content that originally ensured its value.

Why collectors admire Brilliant Uncirculated coins

2019 Silver American Eagle Brilliant Uncirculated (BU)While they were originally intended for use in making transactions, BU (collectors abbreviate the term) coins were stored or reserved from the time they first left the mint and have not been heavily handled.  Even if the coin is several decades old, it will have retained its shine as if it was recently struck and its design will remain in sharp relief.

Over the years, coin appraisers and collectors have developed coin grading standards, including:

  • Basal State or Poor (PO)
  • Fair (Fr)
  • About or Almost Good (AG)
  • Good (G)
  • Very Good (VG)
  • Fine (F)
  • Very Fine (VF)
  • Extremely Fine (EF)
  • Almost or About Uncirculated (AU)
  • Uncirculated (Unc)
  • Brilliant Uncirculated (BU)

These grades correspond with the numerical Sheldon Coin Grading Scale, a 70-point grading scale.

Brilliant Uncirculated coins would generally rank between 60 and 70 on the scale. Gem Brilliant Uncirculated coins are among the most perfect condition and would generally rank between 65 and 70 on the scale.

A buyer should expect the highest quality from a certified Brilliant Uncirculated coin. But because these coins were originally intended for circulation, many BU coins are not necessarily rare. It is rather their excellent condition that sets them apart and increases their value for collectors.

Purchasing BU coins through APMEX

Silver Eisenhower Dollar Brilliant Uncirculated ExampleAPMEX carries several of the world’s most admired BU coins. The 1971-S Eisenhower Brilliant Uncirculated Silver Dollar is especially popular among collectors.

The coin contains .400 fine Silver. It features Apollo XI’s insignia on the reverse, depicting an eagle flying over the moon with planet Earth in the background. For collectors, this coin is like a time capsule of the American experience in the 1970s. 

Brilliant Uncirculated Morgan Silver Dollars are likewise prized among collectors. These coins flooded the United States market between 1878 and 1921.

On the obverse, lady liberty wears a Phrygian cap with wheat and cotton balls in her hair. With a Silver purity of .900, these coins are appreciated for their Precious Metal content in addition to their historical value.

Collectors with a keen eye will appreciate the carefully preserved details in lady liberty’s hair and in each feather on the wings of the eagle on the reverse. Find dozens of additional examples of BU coins in the APMEX inventory.

What is a Gem BU Coin?

Collectors value Brilliant Uncirculated coins, also known as BU coins, for their excellent condition. According to the 70-point Sheldon Coin Grading Scale, these coins will fall between 60 and 70. But the most discerning buyers, those interested in only the highest quality coins, may choose to purchase Gem BU coins. Gem BU coins will fall between 65 and 70 on the scale.

These coins are unmatched in their brilliance. In fact, regardless of their age, they will appear newly minted, retaining their entire original luster and every aspect of their detailed design.

APMEX carries a variety of Gem BU coins in its inventory, including the 2009 Canada 1 oz Gold Maple Leaf Superb Gem BU. This coin commemorates the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and is certified by the Professional Coin Grading Service.

APMEX also carries a 2008 Australia 1 oz Silver Koala Gem BU coin. This coin is among the first 8,000 struck and features a mother and baby koala sitting on a tree branch. This coin is certified by the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.

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