What Does BU Mean? What is a BU Coin (Gold or Silver)?

If you have been shopping for precious metal bullion coins, chances are you may have come across the acronym "BU".

Here we will explain what the meaning of that term is in the bullion and precious metals industry.

What Does BU Mean in Coins?

BU - (n) stands for ‘brilliant uncirculated’ which means that a coin has never been in circulation and retains almost all of its original mint luster from its original strike.

Brilliant uncirculated (BU) coins are typically stored after minting and have not been heavily handled. Coin collectors and/or coin dealers often abbreviate the ‘brilliant uncirculated’ term, referring to them simply as BU coins.

If shipping and storage are done correctly, brilliant uncirculated coin designs should remain in sharp relief. Even if they are several decades or even centuries old, if stored with the correct coin accessories, BU coins should retain both their shine and form as when they were originally struck. Thus, it is very unlikely you will be able to find a brilliant uncirculated coin in your pocket change.

Here at SD Bullion, you can find dozens of examples of BU coins in our inventory available for purchase in our silver coin and gold coin inventories.

Below you can find further insights on Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) coins, the process of producing them, and what their differentiation entails. In the following short video clip the world’s oldest sovereign government mint, the British Royal Mint, further explains some key differences between simple bullion coins, proof coins, and BU coins.

Are All Bullion Coins BU?

Technically speaking, all modern bullion coins like the American Eagle, Canadian Maple, Australian Kangaroo, etc. are considered to be "uncirculated."

Even though these legal tender bullion coins have legal tender face values on them, they have never been circulated in currency.

This qualifies every one of these coins as being technically uncirculated.

Bullion coins retaining their original mint luster, eye appeal, and full sharp design would be considered Brilliant Uncirculated (BU coin).

As bullion coins are primarily produced for investment in the precious metal content they won’t necessarily be flawless like a proof coin.

Obtaining a perfect or near-perfect uncirculated bullion coin could be done by purchasing a graded coin—only a select few bullion coins grade out at a perfect MS70. Graded coins are carefully inspected by a 3rd party professional grading service like NGC or PCGS. This is because as coins are minted, processed, and transited, they can pick up small knicks, scratches, or blemishes. This is normal and will be more common in older circulating coins.

For investors looking for bullion BU coins specifically, they should only purchase the "current" year of the coin they want to purchase. This will give them the greatest possibility of getting BU bullion coins delivered to them. For these investors, we created our MintCertified™ Program.

Investors looking for even higher grade collector coin perfection would likely be most satisfied with graded bullion coins.


What is coin grading?

Coin grading is a service provided by companies such as PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) or NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Company) that evaluates a coin’s condition (including shine and relief form), historical and collectible value, and attributes an average price for that specimen according to a grading scale. It is an important aspect of the numismatic community.

If you want to find out more you can read our article on how to get a coin graded.

What is the Sheldon Scale?

The Sheldon Scale is the standard coin grading system in the United States. Dr. William Sheldon developed it back in 1949. It uses a 70-point scale to grade coins, aligned with adjectival grade abbreviations to indicate the coin’s condition, ranging from MS-70 (Mint State) to AG-1 (About Good). Most third-party grading services use it to evaluate coins.

Check our article for a more in-depth look into the Sheldon Scale.

Are BU coins better?

When it comes to coin collecting, the better the condition of the coin, the most valuable it will be to a collector or investor. Thus, it is safe to assume that a mint state coin in Brilliant Uncirculated condition, with most of the original luster intact, will be able to fetch higher prices when reselling than other specimens showing imperfections and trace of wear.

Purchase BU coins at SD Bullion

If you are looking to buy BU coins at the lowest prices over spot, check out the products we have available for you. You will find the most important bullion coin programs in the world to add to your collection, such as the American Gold Eagle and American Silver Eagle coins, along with other products from the most prestigious mints among investors worldwide.

If you need any assistance, talk to us at 1(800)294-8732 or send us a message at sales@sdbullion.com. 

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James Anderson
James Anderson
Senior Market Analyst & Content

A bullion buyer years before the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, James Anderson is a grounded precious metals researcher, content creator, and physical investment grade bullion professional. He has authored several Gold & Silver Guides and has been featured on the History Channel, Zero Hedge, Gold-Eagle, Silver Seek, Value Walk and many more. You can pick up Jame's most recent, comprehensive 200+ Page book here at SD Bullion.

Given that repressed commodity values are now near 100-year low level valuations versus large US stocks, James remains convinced investors and savers should buy and maintain a prudent physical bullion position now, before more unfunded promises debase away in the coming decades...