A Coin Collector’s Guide to Striking Standards
As an aspiring coin collector, it’s important to acquaint yourself with the different standards to which coins are struck, as this will affect their price and subsequent value. As well as the circulating coins you find in your change, The Royal Mint strikes coins to three different standards for both investors and collectors: Proof, Brilliant Uncirculated and Bullion. If you’ve heard these terms being used but are unsure what they mean, read on to find out more about the difference between these coins.
What are Proof coins?
Proof coins are the highest quality commemorative coins. Their sharpness, detail and finish are unrivalled, making them perfect for collectors looking for highest levels of craftsmanship and detail.
The dies used to strike Proof coins are hand-finished to ensure that all imperfections are removed. Blanks are fed into the coin press by hand before being struck up to six times, at a lower speed and with less pressure than other finishes, to preserve the finer details of the design.
After striking, each coin is inspected for imperfections. The dies are cleaned with air between each coin to ensure that no marks or imperfections are caused during striking.
As a result of this extra care and attention, no more than 50 Proof coins can be struck within an hour. Proof dies are also regularly reworked to maintain the quality of the finish. Each Proof die may only strike a few hundred coins before it has to be repolished.
Proof coins are struck in platinum, gold, silver and base metal editions. A ‘piedfort’ coin’ is a special type of Proof coin. Double the weight of an ordinary Proof coin, it is usually struck in silver and very occasionally in gold. Closely associated with France, its origins can be traced back to the twelfth century. Piedfort means ‘heavy measure’, and in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, rulers gave these coins as prestige gifts to members of their court.
What are Brilliant Uncirculated coins?
Sometimes referred to as ‘BU’, ‘B.U.’, or ‘B.UNC’, Brilliant Uncirculated coins are of a higher standard than circulating and bullion coins. An entry-level collectable, like Proof coins, the dies used to strike Brilliant Uncirculated coins are polished and finished by hand.
The Brilliant Uncirculated blanks are machine-fed and struck twice. As a result, they are produced at a much quicker rate than Proof coins – around 100 per hour. They offer a good level of design detail, but have a lower definition than Proof coins.
Most Brilliant Uncirculated coins are struck in base metal, but they are also issued in gold and silver.
What are bullion coins?
Bullion coins are a form of investment. An alternative to holding precious metals in plain bars and ingots, the designs and themes depicted on bullion coins add an element of collectability.
People buy them for the intrinsic value of the precious metal they contain, so production places greater emphasis on efficiency. They are struck at a rate of up to 250 gold and 3,000 silver coins per hour and are of a similar standard to Brilliant Uncirculated coins.
Bullion coins are only struck in platinum, gold and silver.
What is the difference between Proof, Brilliant Uncirculated and bullion coins?
Proof coins are the highest standard of commemorative coin produced by The Royal Mint.
Brilliant Uncirculated coins and bullion coins are struck to a similar standard, without the extra finishing and detail provided on Proof coins.