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What is the Difference Between AU and BU Coins? 

The biggest difference between an About Uncirculated (AU) and a Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) coin is that an AU coin shows signs of wear or circulation.  

Terms like AU and BU describe a coin’s condition and how little or how much wear it shows. These terms can have a sizeable impact on a coin’s value.   

Are BU Coins More Valuable than AU Coins?

Terms like AU and BU describe a coin’s condition and how little or how much wear it shows. These terms can have a sizeable impact on a coin’s value.   

If there are two coins of the same type, year, and issue in the grades AU and BU, the BU coin will typically command a higher price than the AU coin.  

But it is also possible that an AU coin can be in better condition and hold more value than a BU coin.   

The Mint State coin would be in a basal grade like MS-60 and exhibit poor strike and bag damage. If a coin of the same type, year, and issue in an AU-58 grade displayed a strong strike, little wear, and no damage, it may be more valuable.  

This is rare, but it is possible.   

How Can I Tell AU and BU Coins Apart?

While an About Uncirculated coin will still have a fair amount of its original mint luster and remaining detail, it will also show some signs of wear. Look for wear from rubbing against other coins on the high parts of the design or the raised portions of the coin’s surface.   

The term used to describe this wear is rub, which is slight wear, often referring to the fields or high parts of a design. Rub happens because of friction while in circulation can occur to pocket change.  

Identifying rub may be difficult and requires close inspection of the coin. If you inspect a coin with a portrait for signs of rub or circulation, start with the ears, cheek, and hair.   

Look for areas that have been rubbed. If you are unsure about a discolored area and the discoloration is not an exterior stain, it is probably a rub. 

What Would Prevent an AU Coin from Earning a BU Grade?

A coin that shows wear will not be able to earn a BU grade. A Brilliant Uncirculated coin should show no signs of wear or circulation.  

When an otherwise BU coin shows these signs, it earns an AU grade. 

What Sheldon Grades are Associated with AU and BU Coins?

While Sheldon grades are not always seen with the term BU, the Sheldon numeric grades 60-70 cover Brilliant Uncirculated, but in this case, the term Mint State is used.  

If you’ve been shopping for coins, you’ve probably seen the AU designation with a numeric value between 50-58, as About Uncirculated coins range from 50-58. 

How do Coin Grading Organizations View AU and BU Coins?

The Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guarantee Company (NGC) have similar definitions for both terms. 

PCGS and NGC Perspective on BU Coins

The PCGS glossary defines Brilliant Uncirculated as a catch-all term used for coins that have not been in circulation and is often used for coins that have lost some luster. These coins should be called Uncirculated. 

NGC standards dictate that Brilliant Uncirculated coins are any coins graded between 60-70 on the Sheldon scale. 

NGC and PCGS Grading Scale for AU Coins 

Grade NGC Standards PCGS Standards 
AU-58 This coin has full details and slight wear on the highest parts of the design. This coin shows the slightest rubbing on the highest part of the design and has lost almost no mint luster. 
AU-55 Less than half of this shows wear, and this coin has a fully detailed design. This coin retains significant luster and has some light rubbing on the high points but displays full detail. 
AU-53 This shows wear on more than half of the coin; details are full, but there is a little softness on the high parts of the design. This coin exhibits less luster and some flatness on higher parts of the design, but some luster remains. 
AU-50 This coin shows wear on more than half of the design. Details are full, but there is some softness on the design’s high parts. Some luster remains, and there are signs of wear on the high parts of the design. 

Should I Invest in AU or BU Coins?

While many BU coins are more valuable than AU coins because of their detail and luster, AU coins may provide newer collectors with an option closer to their budget. While an AU coin will show some wear and lacking in full luster, these coins are still in collectible condition. 

Quick Guides to Investing

Step 1:

Why Buy Physical Gold and Silver?

If you are concerned about the volatility of the stock market, you’re not alone. The extreme highs and lows of the stock market often lead investors towards safe-haven assets, like bullion. Historically, the Precious Metals market has an inverse relationship with the stock market, meaning that when stocks are up, bullion is down and vice versa.

Step 2:

How Much Gold and Silver Should You Have?

This question is one of the most important for investors to answer. After all, experts suggest limits on how much of any types of investments should go into a portfolio. After deciding to purchase and own Precious Metals and considering how much money to allocate, one can then think about how much and what to buy at any point in time.

Step 3:

Which Precious Metals Should I Buy?

With the frequent changes in the market and countless Precious Metal products available, choosing investments can be difficult. Some want Gold or Silver coins, rounds or bars while others want products that are valuable because of their design, mintage or other collectible qualities. Also, collectors may shop for unique sets and individual pieces for their collections.

Step 4:

When to Buy Gold & Silver

After considering why, how much, and what Precious Metals products to buy, an investor’s next step is when to buy them. This decision requires an understanding of market trends and the impact of economic factors on precious metal prices.

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