March 24, 2024

What Does BU Mean for Coins? Brilliant Uncirculated Condition Coins.

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The Meaning of BU Coins

Coined "Brilliant Uncirculated," the BU grading scale is for coins of all ages and conditions. The word "uncirculated" is confusing to many, as coin buyers assume the coins are in perfect condition. The BU grading scale is more of an eye test for the luster and condition of the coin. This article delves into the condition of the coin. 

Truth be told, there are five different BU grade levels:

  • BU, Brilliant Uncirculated
  • Choice BU, Choice Brilliant Uncirculated
  • Select BU, Select Brilliant Uncirculated
  • Gem BU, Gem Brilliant Uncirculated
  • Superb BU, Superb Brilliant Uncirculated

In the fascinating world of numismatics, the term "BU" holds a special place, signifying coins' brilliance and pristine condition. "Brilliant Uncirculated" (BU) coins are not just ordinary currency; they are treasures that have never experienced the wear and tear of everyday circulation. In this article, we delve into the characteristics, historical background, types, identification methods, market value, and preservation of BU coins.

Characteristics of BU Coins

Mint Luster

Mint luster is the hallmark of BU coins, representing the original shine produced during the minting process. The uninterrupted brilliance of BU coins distinguishes them from their circulated counterparts, making them highly coveted among collectors.

The "eye test" is used to determine the BU grade. However, the concern here has always been in the interpretation of the luster and shine. A BU grade is generally an opinion based on one person's understanding. 

Detail and Sharpness

One of the remarkable features of BU coins is the preservation of intricate details. The sharpness of the design remains intact, showcasing the craftsmanship of the mint. Collectors appreciate the clarity and precision that sets BU coins apart.

Grading Standards

Coin grading is a crucial aspect of the numismatic world, and BU coins have their own grading standards. Understanding these grading scales, such as the Sheldon Scale, helps collectors assess the quality of their acquisitions.

Historical Background

Evolution of BU Grading

The concept of grading coins evolved, and the designation of BU emerged as a distinct category. The historical context provides insights into how numismatists developed standards to evaluate the condition of coins, leading to the recognition of BU as a pinnacle of preservation.

Collectors' Perspective

Why do collectors value BU coins? Beyond their numismatic significance, collectors are drawn to BU coins for their rarity and the challenge of obtaining these pristine specimens. The demand for BU coins reflects a passion for preserving history in its purest form.

Types of BU Coins

Various Denominations

BU coins are not limited to a specific denomination. From Pennies to Nickels, Dimes, and beyond, each denomination offers collectors a unique experience. Exploring the differences in collecting various denominations adds depth to a numismatic journey.

Commemorative BU Coins

Special editions and commemoratives also enter the BU category. These coins, celebrating historical events or anniversaries, captivate collectors seeking not only pristine conditions but also a piece of history.

How to Identify BU Coins

Inspection Tips

Collectors often wonder how to distinguish BU coins from others. Mint marks, date analysis, and the use of magnification tools play a crucial role in identifying these treasures. Educating oneself on these aspects enhances the joy of collecting BU coins.

Common Misconceptions

Dispelling common misconceptions is vital for collectors. Understanding the factors affecting BU designation ensures enthusiasts can confidently identify genuine BU coins and avoid potential pitfalls.

Five Grades to a BU Coin

As we mentioned, there are five grades to coins based on the BU Scale and you can find more on this on the PCGS website. Let's take a look at each of these grades.

  1. BU, Brilliant Uncirculated - This coin has a grading range of MS60 - MS62. Based on eye appeal, this would be the lowest-grade BU coin. A BU would have some discoloration or lack of luster and could have marks on the coin. 
  2. Choice BU, Choice Brilliant Uncirculated - Graders and dealers would give a Choice Grade to coins when MS63 and even MS64 are given for the mint state. These coins have a cleaner surface but still have flaws.
  3. Select BU, Select Brilliant Uncirculated - The Select is an MS64 grade coin that is more eye-catching than a Choice BU but falls short of a Gem BU. This middle-class grade is more difficult to determine but places the coin in a condition with higher prestige.  
  4. Gem BU, Superb Brilliant Uncirculated - Gem BU is not a precise numerical grade and is thus open to interpretation. A Gem BU is an MS65 coin, and an MS65 grade definition states the coin will have some marks and/or abrasions, but they will be minor. 
  5. Superb BU, Superb Brilliant Uncirculated - This coin designation is the highest of the BU grades. The coin will be in mint condition of MS66 or MS67 and is the best coin in luster and condition. 

Market Value and Investment

Pricing Trends

The market for BU coins fluctuates influenced by various factors. Understanding these trends and the elements that impact market value is essential for collectors considering BU coins as an investment.

Risks and Considerations

While BU coins can be valuable assets, collectors should know market risks and authentication challenges. A nuanced approach to investing in BU coins ensures a balanced and informed decision-making process.

A key takeaway of the BU designated grades is the fact that these are an "eye test" performed by individuals who all have their own interpretation. Do not buy coins based on the BU grade alone. 

Preservation and Storage

Best Practices

Preserving the brilliance of BU coins requires meticulous care. Best storage practices, including proper handling and protective measures, contribute to maintaining their pristine condition for future generations.

Store coins in the best manner to allow for each to continue to hold their luster and eye appeal. There are several different types of storage containers and based on the coin you may choose to modify your current storage to an individual sleeve or box. 

Avoiding Damage

Preventing damage and deterioration is crucial. Whether safeguarding against environmental factors or potential mishandling, collectors should be proactive in preserving the longevity of their BU coin collections.


In conclusion, BU coins represent more than just numismatic artifacts; they are gateways to history, preserved in brilliance. As collectors explore the world of Brilliant Uncirculated treasures, they embark on a journey that goes beyond the monetary value, capturing the essence of craftsmanship and historical significance.

The enduring appeal of BU coins in numismatics speaks to the timeless allure of these pristine treasures. Happy collecting!

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