There is something eternal about certain numismatic questions. Almost as soon as a topic is raised, discussed and goes away, somebody else will ask the identical question as if all of the prior attention paid to it had not occurred.
A letter arrived on my desk the other day. The writer asks, “What specifically determines whether a coin is uncirculated or not?”
“Of course, there are Mint-issued uncirculated sets. And there are coins professionally graded as uncirculated.
“But are the new 2013 coins in unopened rolls that I pick up at the bank considered as such even though the Federal Reserve issued them to the bank for general circulation to the public?
“I’m thinking it’s not purpose, but condition.”
The writer answered his own question by the time he reached the conclusion of his letter, but apparently would feel better knowing somebody like me agrees with him.
He is right.
An uncirculated coin is one that shows no wear. Uncirculated is another name for Mint State. It is the older hobby term for that condition.
Uncirculated is not a legal term. Some official or bank clerk does not declare a coin duly passing from a state of uncirculated to a state of circulated. Only the friction of wear as it begins to show up on coins that are used declares a coin to have changed its condition.
Third-party grading services are adept at detecting this wear and applying our 70-point grading scale to measure it.
I hope this will take care of the question – at least until the next one arrives on my desk.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."