Uncirculated coins (sometimes called "UNC" or "Unc.") are coins that have not been used in circulation. In other words, they have not been used as money—and as a result are in mint state condition.

There is still some degree of confusion about the way “uncirculated” is used. Below we will discuss all the possible uses for the term. This will help you avoid being misled about any particular uncirculated coin you are interested in buying.

2008 w burnished uncirculated one ounce american gold eagle

Uncirculated American Gold Eagle coins are popular with both bullion investors and coin collectors.

The Ambiguous Usages of "Uncirculated"

The term uncirculated usually describes the grade of the coin—i.e. mint condition. On the Sheldon scale used to grade coins, the numerical grades between 60 and 70 are considered uncirculated. But the term can also be descriptive of the coin's use as a collectible rather than money.

Coins that are uncirculated are still legal tender and can be used as money if you choose, but that's not their intention. An uncirculated coin will normally be sold directly to the public by a mint. This is in contrast to how circulating coins make to the public: they are distributed to banks first.

Of course, coins that have circulated can still be collectible, especially if they are very old. The difference is that they will be worn from circulation. This means the design elements of circulated coins will be missing some details. By definition, an uncirculated coin shows virtually no signs of wear.

Grade
Heritage
PCGS
NGC
MS 60
Uncirculated
Uncirculated
Uncirculated
MS 61
Uncirculated
Uncirculated
Uncirculated
MS 62
Uncirculated
Uncirculated
Uncirculated
MS 63
Select Uncirculated
Choice Uncirculated
Choice Uncirculated
MS 64
Choice Uncirculated
Choice Uncirculated
Choice Uncirculated
MS 65
Gem Uncirculated
Gem Uncirculated
Gem Uncirculated
MS 66
Gem Uncirculated
Gem Uncirculated
Gem Uncirculated
MS 67
Superb Gem Uncirculated
Superb Gem Uncirculated
Superb Gem Uncirculated
MS 68
Superb Gem Uncirculated
Superb Gem Uncirculated
Superb Gem Uncirculated
MS 69
Superb Gem Uncirculated
Superb Gem Uncirculated
Superb Gem Uncirculated
MS 70
Perfect Uncirculated
Perfect Uncirculated
Perfect Uncirculated

Note that various grading services and auction houses use "uncirculated" to mean coins that grade in mint state.

Somewhat confusingly, you may also see "uncirculated" used as an adjective to distinguish a modern coin from its collectible proof counterpart. This is often done with American Silver Eagle coins. The normal bullion version of the Silver Eagle is marketed as uncirculated in contrast to the Silver Eagle Proof. But, technically, all Silver Eagle coins are uncirculated!

2004 w proof american silver eagle

Even though all proof coins are uncirculated by definition, this is not how they are marketed.

Uncirculated Should Literally Mean Mint State

The avoid all of this ambiguity, we should use the term "uncirculated" to describe the condition of a coin. It is synonymous with the coin grading term "mint state."

Much like other coin collecting adjectives such as "Gem coin" and "BU coin," uncirculated has become overused. It is employed by some unscrupulous sellers who will refer to coins that are clearly of a medium grade, or coins that have been improperly cleaned.

Follow the links below to learn more about different types of coins that may be a source of confusion.


Read more about numismatics and coin collecting from the authors at Gainesville Coins:

What Are Proof Coins? Overview for Coin Collectors

What Are Gem Coins? Understanding Quality, Rarity, and Value

What Are Brilliant Uncirculated Coins? Beginner's Guide

How to Collect Coins for Beginners: Coin Collecting 101

Numismatics Guide: Discover the Thrill of Coin Collecting

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Everett Millman

Everett Millman

Managing Editor | Analyst, Commodities and Finance

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.

In addition to blogging, Everett's work has been featured in Reuters, CNN Business, Bloomberg Radio, TD Ameritrade Network, CoinWeek, and has been referenced by the Washington Post.