J.N. writes: Concerning Lincoln cents – What does the term MS66RD mean? I know it means RED but what does this mean? How did it get RED? What is the signifigance? Please tell me everything that I would need to know about MS66RD. Thank you.
“Red” is the designation for the original color of a copper coin. The old copper cents had a red tinge to them possibly having to do with the small amount of tin and zinc that was part of the alloy. Current cents are made of zinc with a pure copper plating and appear very pale red-gold. “Red-brown” is the color as a copper cent begins to oxidize. “Brown” is the color of a fully oxidized cent. A copper cent can be uncirculated in any of the above states of oxidation but a full red cent is prized and priced above cents with oxidation.
MS means “Mint State” and is the designation for coins that are uncirculated, that is have the original mint luster and no trace of wear. There are 11 grades (qualities of condition ) for mint state coins, MS60-70. (See: U.S. Coin Grading). Coins graded MS65 and above can be quite scarce, especially on copper cents. Collectors who purchase third party graded coins also like to check the Population Reports issued by each grading service, to see how many coins have been graded in each denomination, date and grade.
The rarity of coins depends on other factors besides grade. For example, there might be many modern Lincoln cents that will grade MS65 (RED or otherwise) or higher because they were acquired directly from the Mint. This doesn’t indicate that they are particularly rare or expensive.