Bellevue 425-454-1283 · Lynnwood 425-672-2646 · West Seattle 206-938-3519 · Issaquah 425-392-0450 · Tacoma 253-328-4014

Schedule an Appointment Visit Locations


Coin Collecting Basics Part One: Circulated vs Uncirculated Coins

Proof Coin Sets often feature a mirror-like background.

For those who are interested in learning more and possibly getting into the exciting hobby of coin collecting, or for those collectors who simply want to brush up on their coin collecting knowledge, Bellevue Rare Coins would like to welcome you to part one of our Coin Collecting Basics series: Circulated vs. Uncirculated Coins.

Circulated Coins

The first thing you should know is that uncirculated coins are usually worth more than circulated coins. For the coin collector, that means collecting these uncirculated coins is more popular than collecting circulated coins. Circulated coins are produced for everyday transactions by a government run mint. These circulated coins are typically only worth their face value. Uncirculated coins can potentially be worth much more.

Uncirculated Coins

The term “uncirculated” may have three different meanings when applied to a coin:

  • First, it can refer to the particular manufacturing process by which a coin is made.
  • Second, it can be used as a grade when referring to a coin’s degree of preservation and quality of the strike.
  • Or third, “uncirculated” can point to the fact that a coin has not been used in everyday commerce.

The United States Mint uses the term uncirculated to refer to “the special coining process used to make the coin, which gives it a brilliant finish…with quality enhancements such as slightly higher coining force, early strikes from dies, special cleaning after stamping and special packaging. Uncirculated coins may vary to some degree because of blemishes, toning or slight imperfections.”

Uncirculated coins are more likely to be placed in coin protectors to keep them in pristine condition, while not much can be done to protect circulated coins which can be handled by thousands, if not millions of people over the life of the coins.

Collectible Coins

There are many types of collectible coins, including proof sets, mint sets and commemorative coins, all of which are available through the U.S. Mint.

  • Proof Coins – Unlike circulated coins, proof coins display brilliant mirror-like backgrounds with frosted, sculpted foregrounds. A proof set is a complete set of proof coins of each denomination made in a given year.
  • Mint Sets – A complete set of coins of each denomination produced by a particular mint (such as Philadelphia or Denver).
  • Commemorative Coins – A special coin issued to honor an outstanding person, place or event (for example a Barack Obama & Michelle Obama U.S. Gold Half Dollar Coin).

Be sure to check back next month for part two of our Coin Collecting Basics series: Buy or Find? where we will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of buying collectible coins or finding them on your own. In the meantime, be sure to visit Bellevue Rare Coins at one of our four convenient locations in Bellevue, Lynnwood, West Seattle or Issaquah. We buy and sell coins and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Schedule an Appointment