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When you’re in the market for gold coins and you come across the term “burnished,” you might wonder, “What is a burnished coin?” In this guide by the experts at Oxford Gold Group, we explain everything you need to know about burnished coins, including where they come from, what they look like, and whether they are good investments.
What Is a Burnished Coin?
Burnished coins are uncirculated coins made by the US Mint with a different finish than proof coins. The US Mint does not refer to burnished coins as burnished. Instead, they are called “uncirculated.” There are four different types of coins the US Mint makes: bullion, uncirculated (burnished), proof, and circulating.
Burnished coins are collectors’ coins with a unique look and feel.
How Is a Burnished Coin Made?
To burnish means to polish, so these coins have a more polished finish. The burnishing process involves hand-feeding burnished coin blanks into special coin presses one at a time. When they come out, burnished coins have a special mint mark specific to their mint facility, a matte finish, and a high level of detail in the coin design.
Where Does Burnished Coin Originate?
Burnished coins originated in 2006 when the US Mint announced it would begin producing them. The first burnished coins were the Silver Eagles and Gold Eagles. The US Mint also minted Platinum Eagles but discontinued them in 2008.
All three types of burnished coins have a “W” marking, which stands for West Point. This is a nod to West Point’s time as a bullion storage and minting facility for the United States. The West Point Mint has been producing coins for the US since the 1980s and is the only mint that produces burnished coins.
Physical Appearance of Burnished Coins
What does a burnished coin look like? To distinguish these coins from other coins, you’ll need to look at the mint mark and finish, among other characteristics.
The defining characteristic of a burnished coin is its West Point mint mark. Burnished coins also feel smooth and have no scratches or signs of wear.
A burnished coin will also feature an inscription denoting the weight and purity of its material.
What It Looks Like
Burnished coins have a satin-like appearance. They’re not as shiny as proof coins, but they still catch and reflect light.
Comparison to Other Coin Finishes
Burnished coins have different finishes than other coins:
- Proof: Proof coins are easily distinguishable by their dazzling appearance. The background (field) has a mirror finish, and the designs (devices) have a contrasting frosted or matte finish.
- Reverse Proof: The reverse proof coin is the inverse of the proof coin. The backgrounds are matte, and the designs have a mirror finish.
- Brilliant Uncirculated: Brilliant uncirculated (BU) coins represent the majority of coins minted. In mint condition, both fields and devices on brilliant uncirculated coins feature the mirror finish. However, once they enter circulation, these coins lose their brilliance over time.
Types of Burnished Coins
Burnished coins come from different sources:
- US Mint: The US Mint makes many burnished coins. The most popular are the silver and gold eagles, but there are others, such as the gold buffalo and America the Beautiful coins.
- Foreign Burnished Coins: Other notable mints include the Royal Mint of England, the South African Mint, and the Mexican Mint, which have valuable collectible coins. Some notable coins include the Mexican silver peso, South African Krugerrand, and the Royal Mint’s Britannia coin.
- Special Edition: The US Mint has the authority to issue special edition coins, like the America the Beautiful coin and the special edition 4-coin set of gold buffalos.
Are Burnished Gold Coins More Valuable than Other Types of Coins?
What is the value of a burnished coin when compared to other types of coins? Burnished coins have a unique value because they are rarer than proof coins and other uncirculated coins.
Many collectors believe that the burnishing process preserves the coin’s mint condition better than other processes. With proper care, burnished coins have a unique upside in that they have a potentially longer life and more time to accrue value.
Preservation and Care of Burnished Coins
To store and care for your burnished coins, you should follow a few steps.
Typically, when handling burnished coins, it is standard to handle them with gloves to avoid getting hand oils that can degrade the coin on its surface and to prevent any accidental scratching or marking (such as fingerprints).
Don’t clean your coins. The natural patina they develop is called “toning” and can increase the value of your coin.
The common method of using baking soda and vinegar to clean coins is only appropriate for non-investment-grade coins. If you use this technique on your burnished coins, you run the risk of scratching them with the diatomaceous earth in the baking soda and damaging the finish with the chemical reaction of baking soda and vinegar.
If you absolutely need to clean your coins, take them to a professional coin cleaner.
Storage and Display
Store burnished coins in a sturdy cushioned case or coin sleeve with a clear front for display. Be careful not to scratch the coins with the case or sleeve when putting them in or taking them out.
Is a Burnished Coin a Good Investment?
What is a burnished coin’s value as an investment? In general, gold coins are a good long-term investment, but the answer depends on your investment strategy.
If you are in the market for physical gold, burnished gold coins are a great way to add to your collection. Ounce for ounce, they have a unique advantage over gold bars or bullion in that they can accrue value over time if they become highly sought after. While they may not be as stable as gold bars or bullion, they can be a great investment if you want to take a more aggressive approach to physical gold investment.