For over a century, Silver Dollar coins were workhorses of the American economy. They were used constantly in day-to-day transactions from 1794 through the mid-20th century. Over the years, a staggering quantity were struck – around a half billion pieces in total! While quite a few of these coins have been melted and destroyed since many still remain. Today, Silver Dollars are considered both collectibles and bullion pieces. They are traded in bulk among collectors, investors, accumulators and dealers. This article describes how bulk Silver Dollars are categorized, graded and marketed.
In terms of grade, bulk Silver Dollars can be put into two basic categories: circulated and uncirculated. Circulated coins exhibit signs of wear from use and have lost some detail in the process. The degree of wear determines the coin’s grade and value. On the higher end of the grading spectrum, Uncirculated coins show no signs of wear with all details still 100% intact. Uncirculated coins might show some nicks and scratches from coming into contact with other Silver Dollars, but this is different from wear.
While coins can be graded in very precise numerical terms from 1-70, circulated Silver Dollars are often given general grades. The three major grades are:
- CULL: These are extremely heavily worn and/or damaged. Any coin that grades below an 8 on a scale of 1-70 is considered a cull. In addition, coins that exhibit obvious signs of cleaning, discoloration, damage, heavy scratches or any other major flaw will be considered culls too.
- AVERAGE CIRCULATED: This category refers to coins that grade between 8 and 45 on the 1-70 scale. They are worn – and sometimes significantly so – but still show a good amount of detail. They are expected to be free of major distracting marks or problems.
- ABOUT UNCIRCULATED: These are coins that just barely fail to qualify as Uncirculated or Mint State. They still show virtually complete design detail and a good bit of luster, but display minor signs of wear and circulation. Coins that are extremely close to the Uncirculated line are nicknamed “sliders” as some people will let them “slide” as Mint State.
Uncirculated silver coins, specifically coins in the MS60-MS62 category, usually trade as “Brilliant Uncirculated” or “BU.” If a coin appears to grade MS63 or better, there’s an excellent chance that it will be sent to PCGS or NGC for third-party grading and encapsulation. Since coins in MS63 and above trade for significant premiums, dealers have an incentive to send these coins in for certification.