What Is a Gem Coin? Understanding Quality, Rarity, and Value
Gem coins are coins that are in exceptionally good condition. They are on the high end of the grading scale (mint state or uncirculated).
Rather than being a specific grade, “Gem” describes any coin with a grade of Mint State 65 or higher. However, this is just a general consensus and may not reflect all uses of the term.
Although less common with antique coins, Gem status can apply to any exceptional mint-state coin.
The Controversy Surrounding Gem Coins
“Gem BU” is often overused in a salesy or marketing-oriented manner, with the “BU” abbreviation referring to the coin being Brilliant Uncirculated. Sometimes graded coins—those that are certified by a third-party grading service—will simply be labeled as "Gem" with no specific numerical grade attached. This can be misleading and naturally arouses some suspicion as to why this is the case.
A coin graded with a high Mint State grade, such as this MS69, certainly qualifies as a Gem coin.
The numerical grades used to evaluate the condition of coins is known as the Sheldon scale. The scale ranges from 0 to 70, with grades between 60–70 indicating the coin is mint condition.
Grading services and auction houses use slightly different definitions of "Gem," adding to the confusion.
You can see in the chart that the two major third-party grading services, PCGS and NGC, along with auction firm Heritage Auctions, are in general agreement about the use of “Gem” terminology for coins that grade MS65 and above. However, sellers of coins may deviate from these standards when marketing their own coins for sale.
Nonetheless, the inconsistent use of descriptive terms such as Gem introduces confusion and ambiguity. Simply using the numerical grade of a coin removes any doubt about its quality.
Check out the links below to learn more about different type of coins that may confuse new collectors.
Read more about various types of modern coins from the experts at Gainesville Coins:
Everett has been the head content writer and market analyst at Gainesville Coins since 2013. He has a background in History and is deeply interested in how gold and silver have historically fit into the financial system.
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