What is a Burnished Coin?

What is a Burnished Coin?


Written by John Rothans

Jul 27, 2018

Burnished. Is it a coin type? Classification? Grade?

To “burnish” something means to make it shiny or lustrous, especially by rubbing.

In the world of numismatics—the study of coins and currency—a burnished coin is more than a polished piece of gold or silver.

The basics: What is a burnished coin?

The burnishing process was first introduced into the U.S. Mint's product line in 2006, when the U.S. Mint began producing burnished American Eagle Coins in silver, gold, and platinum.

“Burnished” describes a coin's finish. Burnished coins have a soft, matte-like finish. They're somewhat shiny, but not as shiny or as vibrant as a proof coin. Burnished coins are smooth to the touch and display a great deal of detail.

Note that the U.S. Mint does not use the term “burnished.” Instead, the mint refers to these coins simply as “uncirculated.” It’s the numismatic community that continues to use the term “burnished” in reference to coins produced with burnished blanks.

The U.S. Mint groups their coins into four different families: bullion, proof, uncirculated (burnished), and circulating.

Per the U.S. Mint, “the term ‘uncirculated’ refers to [a] specialized minting process… uncirculated quality coins are distinguished by the presence of a mint mark, indicating their production facility, and by the use of burnished coin blanks, which are hand-fed into specially adapted coining presses one at a time.”

Get clarification on the terms “uncirculated” and “burnished” whenever and wherever used, especially if you’re looking at buying a coin with these labels. The seller may not use the term in the same way that the U.S. Mint does.

The process: How are burnished coins made?

A burnished coin begins its life as a strip of typically gold, silver, or platinum. Strips are fed through a press and the press “punches” the strip into 1 oz. rounds (or whatever the desired coin weight might be). The resulting pieces are called “blanks,” as they look like blank coins. Each blank is weighed to ensure that the desired coin weight has been achieved.

The blanks are then cleaned and polished, which involves being placed into a large spinning drum that's loaded with polishing elements. The mint originally used wet sand to polish blanks; however, today the mint uses millions of tiny 6mm balls to polish them. This step removes scratches, rough spots, and blemishes from the surface of the soon-to-be coin.

Some gold and silver enthusiasts believe that the simple act of burnishing a coin improves its longevity and helps the design remain immaculate for longer.

The final result is a blank coin with a soft, matte-like finish. Each blank is carefully removed from the drum and hand-loaded into a press. The coin's final design is pressed into both sides. Now the coin is said to be “struck.” A burnished coin is struck only once.

After a coin has been struck, it is inspected and prepared for shipment. Many burnished coins are also sent to third-party certification companies where they are graded and sonically sealed and encapsulated in clear tamper-proof slabs to preserve their attractive condition.

The look: What do burnished coins look like?

Burnished coins are easy to recognize, especially when compared side by side with bullion coins. Bullion coins have a uniform surface finish that's neither matte nor very shiny. They appear more satin, with a slight frost. All burnished coins from the U.S. Mint carry the “W” mint mark and are struck at the West Point Mint. Proof and Burnished Gold American Eagles include a mint mark, while bullion American Eagles do not include a mint mark.

W Burnished Gold American Eagle Coins PCGS MS70 $50

Burnished Gold American Eagle with the “W” Mintmark

1 oz. Gold American Eagle Coin, View of Front

Bullion 1 oz. Gold American Eagle Coin

Burnished coins can have the same designs as circulating coins, but it's not required. Burnished coins can also be minted with commemorative designs or the same designs as your favorite silver or gold proof coin. The Secretary of the Treasury usually selects the designs for burnished coins. Unless specified by an Act of Congress, the Secretary generally has the final approval as well.

W Burnished Gold American Eagle Coins PCGS MS70 $50Where to buy burnished coins

You can buy one of the most popular burnished coins (read: uncirculated) coins from U.S. Money Reserve!

The Burnished Gold American Eagle with the “W” Mintmark is one of the most unique gold coins the U.S. Mint has produced over the past decade, featuring the famous “W” mintmark of the U.S. Mint at West Point, New York. Each “W” Mintmark Burnished Gold American Eagle Coin from U.S. Money Reserve is certified museum-quality SP-70 or near-perfect SP-69 by PCGS.

Burnished Gold Eagles are especially desirable for two reasons. One, Burnished Gold Eagles offer the absolute lowest mintages of any coin in the entire history of the Gold American Eagle program. And two, if the burnishing process does, in fact, prolong the life of a coin's design as some enthusiasts believe, burnished Gold Eagles could see their appeal increase considerably in the future. If you're the proud owner of a Burnished Gold Eagle, low availability and high demand could spell security for your portfolio.

Still scratching your head and wondering, “What is a burnished coin?” Call 1-844-307-1589 to speak with a knowledgeable Account Executive and to buy Burnished Gold American Eagle Coins. There’s a reason we’re America’s Gold Authority®!


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