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Mostly Brown or Somewhat Red?

Tom Becker

When dealing with the color of copper or bronze coins it seems the tendency is to complicate things. That large amounts of money may be involved is often the motivator. How much red must a coin have before it becomes red and brown? Technically, it would seem any must be the answer. How much brown may a red coin have before it becomes red and brown? Shouldnít the answer again be any? If these two answers are correct then technically a coin with slight tinges of mint red color remaining around the devices deserves the red and brown designation as does an otherwise red coin with a slight tendencytoward brown. Should the slightly red and almost totally red coin then be valued the same? If so, send me all your nearly red coins in exchange for my almost brown ones.

Care to complicate things further? Do we rate the redness of a coin based on the amount of this color remaining on both sides? My experience has been that on red and brown coins the coloration often varies from obverse to reverse. Is it better to pick an average or explain the coloration on both sides? For me, the color on the side that displays the date is most important because that is where Iíll spend the most time looking.

By now, Iím ready to give up on all these questions but excited about looking at coins. Do you agree? Despite the sincere efforts of the grading services to standardize things, each coin must stand on its own merit and it is the responsibility of each collector to make a choice based on individual preferences. Is this my collection or one the grading services convinced meto build? Is that a fair question to ask?

Pricing red and brown coins can be difficult. There is no absolute standard to use. Itís not possible to say that a coin showing 50% mint redness should be worth 50% more than a brown example and 50% less than a fully red piece. Thanks to plentiful mintages or hoards some older coins may be far more common with generous amounts of mint red color than more recent. Thetechnical grade must also be added to the mix. Is a fully mint red example of a coin grading MS-64 worth more or less than a MS-65 example with only 30% mint red color?

Some of the pricing guides have tried to answer these questions. Iím not completely comfortable with attempts at standardization because of all the variables Iíve mentioned and more.

Before paying substantial premiums for mostly red or fully red coins carefully contemplate the purchase and decide if the extra cost is justified. Do this keeping in mind that you are the judge and your opinion is the final word.


Tom Becker is a regular contributor to the Canadian Coin Reference Site, you can direct your questions directly to Tom easily by or visit Tom's website @


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