In the world of coin collecting, there’s a term you’ll see quite often: MS. So what does MS mean in coins?
Let’s break down the basics first and then detail what makes each coin grade unique.
What Does MS Mean in Coins?
MS stands for “Mint State” or “Mint Condition.” Mint state refers to the quality of a coin and its condition.
The term is most commonly used when describing rare coins, indicating they are in perfect condition.
Mint state is also typically used when describing coins that have never been circulated or handled by anyone outside the minting process.
Coins humans have never touched are referred to as MS-70 (or 70), meaning it’s 100% perfect on all fronts (not just visually).
So, for example, a coin graded MS-69 would be 99% perfect, but because there’s no such thing as 100% perfection in this world (except maybe if one were lucky enough to win a lottery jackpot), you’ll rarely see any perfectly graded coins get ranked higher than 69/70.
A Visual Guide to Mint State Coin Grading
An MS coin is the highest quality coin. A coin in a mint state is uncirculated, meaning it was never used or circulated.
Therefore, it is shiny, bright, and has no signs of wear or damage. Ideally, an MS coin will also be free of luster or toning—these are two types of surface discoloration that can affect coins over time.
US Mint State Coin Grades
- Mint State Basal (MS-60)
- These coins are strictly uncirculated; there is no sign of wear on the coin’s highest points, but it is a bad coin with a dull sheen, obvious contact marks, hairlines, etc.
- Mint State Acceptable (MS-63)
- Uncirculated, but with nicks and contact marks, a marginally diminished luster, and a generally appealing appearance. Average to weak describes the strike.
- Mint State Choice (MS-65)
- Strong mint luster, few contact marks, and excellent eye appeal. The strike is exceptional.
- Mint State Premium Quality (MS-68)
- Uncirculated, flawlessly lustrous, with excellent eye appeal and no visible contact marks. The strike is attractive and sharp.
- Mint State Almost Perfect (MS-69)
- Uncirculated with exceptional eye appeal, sharp strike, and perfect luster. Almost flawless coin, barring minor imperfections in the planchet, strike, or contact marks.
- Mint State Perfect (MS-70) – The ideal coin. Under 8x magnification, no microscopic flaws can be seen; the strike is sharp, and the coin is beautifully centered on a perfect planchet. Hardly ever seen on a coin, this coin has a brilliant and complete original luster and exceptional eye appeal.
How to Spot Mint State (MS) Coins
Look for mint luster. Mint State coins should have a shiny surface, while circulated coins have a duller appearance, especially on the high points of the design.
Look for the sharpness of details. A coin’s condition can worsen if it is handled or worn by circulation.
That’s why it’s important to look at all sides of your coin, even if you only buy one side (the obverse).
If you see signs of wear on any part of your coin, this will likely worsen with time and handling.
Check for any signs of damage and/or cleaning: If any minor scratches or marks on your coin were made after being minted in an official facility, this would affect its grade negatively and significantly lower its value.
Before you go…
These are just a few tips to help you spot mint-state coins. You can do many more things, but this is the beginning of your journey! My advice to you is that collect the coins you want! Even if they are not in mint-state because these coins can cost money! Just enjoy your coin-collecting journey! Happy Collecting!
Check out my next article: “Coin Collecting Terminologies.”