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.

Effect on Value

Just like any collectible item, be it classic cars or antique dolls, the better the condition of the item the more it will be worth. This takes into consideration the basic economic laws of supply and demand. Many modern coins are minted by the millions, if not billions. The supply is enormous and the chances of a coin collector finding an uncirculated coin is fairly certain. Older coins from the 1800s and before, were not saved in any great quantity and hence the supply is limited. 

Additionally, just because very few examples of a particular coin exist may not make it exceedingly valuable. This is where demand comes into play. Many people collect Lincoln pennies and hence the demand for them is quite steep. On the other hand, very few people collect United States three cent coins. Therefore, a low supply a particular date of three cent coins may not make it exceedingly valuable because not many people are seeking to buy it. In other words, competition to purchase that particular coin is low and and so will be the price.

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.