What Does “BU” Mean?

As you know by now, the main vehicle of the TRADEway precious metals system is bullion coins, bars and rounds!  But you may notice that under the specifications of a lot of the coins that we offer, there’s the little acronym “BU” or the words “Brilliant Uncirculated,” (which is what “BU” stands for) under the condition of the coin.  “BU” is a frequently used term throughout the precious metals industry, whether you’re a numismatic collector or an investor.  This little term is actually quite important, and that’s what this article is all about!

In a more simple sense, the term “BU” is a condition or grade of a coin.  When a coin is in a “Brilliant Uncirculated” condition, it means that the coin doesn’t have any wear and it still retains almost all of its original appearance from the time it first left the Mint.  Usually, if it does have any wear at all, it is a result of the coin being moved around a bit inside the tube that’s holding other coins as well, or if was stored incorrectly in a loose box with other coins.  But even then, its appearance will be very clean and crisp compared to circulated coins, such as your general pocket change.

When you purchase a Brilliant Uncirculated coin, you can expect to see all of the design details to be fully apparent, and in some cases even glimmering.  In some rare cases, however, even if the coin leaves the Mint without being handled by any people, it can still show some minor wear and tear, because the striking, packaging and distribution methods vary from Mint to Mint.

For example, American Silver Eagle coins are struck and tubed in increments of 20 using a fully automated process.  The coins are handled by fast moving machines, but it’s still a relatively delicate process resulting in near pristine conditions.  In contrast, the old-school Silver Dollars that we all remember and love were not handled so delicately.  These coins were thrown into and distributed in giant 1,000 piece canvas bags.  As you can imagine, the apparent condition of these Silver Dollar did not quite meet the look and “flash” of our modern day bullion coins!

Nevertheless, despite this significant difference in appearance, both coins were technically issued in Brilliant Uncirculated condition!  The abbreviation “BU” applies to ALL coins that are in “mint-fresh” condition, regardless of whether they’re essentially perfect or heavily worn down.  Because of this, professional numismatists and dealers throughout the industry will use more precise terms such as “Choice BU” or “Gem BU.”  For even greater accuracy, the largest and most reputable coin grading organizations in the world, namely PCGS and NGC, use numerical grades between 60 and 70.  A coin graded Mint State 60 (or MS60) just barely qualifies as Brilliant Uncirculated, while an MS70 is deemed to be perfect!

Having precious metals holdings in a “BU” state is something that both collectors AND investors care about, because everyone likes having coins that are useful and nice to look at to show the kids and grandkids!  I’ll never forget how much fun it was looking through my grandfather’s collection, which included collectibles and bullion together!  Knowing how “BU” is used throughout the industry is great information to have and it gives you just one more factor to consider when purchasing your precious metals!