Uncirculated Coin - A Definition

Uncirculated 1964 Kennedy Half-Dollar. Image Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries, Ha.com


An uncirculated coin refers to the condition of a coin that indicates that it has never circulated in the regular money supply in the economy. In other words, the coin shows no signs of wear on any of its surfaces. Since most modern coins are mass-produced in large quantities, it is common that the coin may have small nicks and scrapes on its surface from the production process and being transported in bags and bins.

These minor imperfections are not from circulation and hence the coin is still considered an uncirculated coin.

Taking into account the concentration and amount of these minor imperfections, a coin is graded accordingly. Uncirculated U.S. coins are graded from MS-60 (a lot of marks and imperfections) to MS-70 (a perfect coin with no marks). World coins are graded as Uncirculated (considerable amount of marks), Brilliant Uncirculated (just a few minor marks) and Gem Brilliant Uncirculated (virtually no marks visible).

How to Identify an Uncirculated Coin

When a coin first comes off the coining press, it exhibits a luster that can only be produced by the minting process. If you hold a coin under a single light source and tilted from side to side, and top to bottom, you will notice that the light will dance around the surface of the coin. This is known as the cartwheel effect.

If the coin does not exhibit the "cartwheel", it has been circulated and cannot be classified as uncirculated.

Next, look at the highest points of the design. If the cartwheel effect is evident in the fields of the coin but not on the highest points of the design, it would be considered about uncirculated. The only way for a coin to be classified as uncirculated is if there is no evidence of wear anywhere on the coin.

Also Known As

Mint State, never circulated

Example Usage

This uncirculated coin is has very few marks and scrapes and is highly desired by collectors.