Use the Term “Gem” Properly

Proxiblog has been viewing dozens of auctions in which the word “gem” is used to describe a coin, even though the photos of those coins often reveal that the lot is significantly below “gem” to the point of being almost uncirculated or even extra fine. This post describes how to designate uncirculated coins on Proxibid. (Note: Watch for a future post in which we describe grading in more detail.)

Numismatists use a scale of 1-70 to describe coins, with designations 50-70 covering almost uncirculated and uncirculated coins.

Here are descriptions:

  • Almost Uncirculated: There are three basic grades: MS50 for coins with a trace of luster and lots of contact marks to the point of being almost “extra fine,” showing significant wear but with all the devices (designs) still showing strongly. MS53 has fewer contact marks and more luster. MS55, even fewer with at least half the coin containing luster. And MS58, often called a “slider” grade, because the coin might have bright luster like an uncirculated coin but shows wear on the high points of the design.
  • Uncirculated: Technically, all grades from 60-70 are uncirculated. But special terms are used to describe various stages of mint state. MS60 might have as many if not more contact marks as a slider, but shows no wear on the devices. MS63 might have bag marks caused by coins bumping against each other in a bank container. Grades 60-63 can be described as “uncirculated” or “brilliant uncirculated.” (NOTE: Do not use the latter term if a coin has tone.)
  • Choice Uncirculated. Use this designation for coins MS64, or one notch below MS65 “Gem.” Such a coin might have a contact mark in an obvious place, such as the cheek of a Morgan dollar, detracting from the lot’s overall beauty. Again, these can be “Choice Brilliant Uncirculated” for a coin with plenty of luster or just plain “Choice Uncirculated” for a coin with tone.
  • Gem: This means MS65, one of the highest designations, meaning the coin will appear almost flawless with perhaps a stray bag mark in an unimportant place, such as near the rim.
  • Super or Superb Gem: This is any designation over MS65+, typically MS66 or 67. These coins are very near flawless so that any small mark can be seen usually only with a loop or magnification.

The 1934 Peace Dollar pictured above, which sold for $88 on Proxibid, was described as “gem brilliant uncirculated beautiful quality rare date silver dollar.” The coin is not gradable, worth only a small premium above its silver melt. Note the rim damage, which excludes a grade right off, as well as hairlines, rust-colored tone or residue, and bag marks. The lot description should read: “AU50 almost uncirculated rim-damaged Peace dollar.”

Thankfully, the auction mentioned here has excellent photography, so buyers can see what they are purchasing despite the lot description. And it is our opinion that the auctioneer, one of our favorites, by the way, is using the term “gem” generically rather than numismatically. Nonetheless, more than 21% of his lots used the word “gem” when we believe only a half-dozen merited that designation.

Using correct numismatic terms will enhance your credibility as a coin seller. Add sharp, expandable pictures, and you’ll be living up to our best standards.

Proxiblog is an independent entity with no connection to the auction portal Proxibid. Our intent is to uphold basic numismatic standards as established by the American Numismatic Association and the National Auctioneer Association and to ensure a pleasurable bidding experience not only on Proxibid but also on similar portals such as iCollector and AuctionZip.


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