Learn Grading: What are BN, RB and RD?

Posted on 7/18/2018

NGC's designations reveal more about a copper coin's condition.

NGC uses a numeric grade to succinctly describe a problem-free coin's condition. Certain coins, however, require a more nuanced description of their condition and appearance. For these coins, NGC graders follow the numeric grade with a range of designations, often called "Strike Characters."

Among the most common strike characters are those used for copper coins. When copper coins are struck, they typically display distinctive red luster. Over time, this red luster fades and eventually turns to a rich brown patina. NGC uses three primary strike characters after the numeric grade to describe the amount of red and brown present on the coin's surfaces: "RD" (for red), "RB" (for red brown) and "BN" (for brown).

A coin with a RD strike character must exhibit at least 85% of its original red luster.

A coin with red (RD) luster.
Click images to enlarge.

A coin with an RB strike character must exhibit at least 15% of its original red luster.

A coin with a red-brown (RB) appearance.
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A coin will a BN strike character will exhibit less than 15% of its original red luster.

A coin with brown (BN) patina.
Click images to enlarge.

The copper coin strike characters can also be combined with other strike characters, such as "Cameo" and "Ultra Cameo" (which are used for select Proof coins) and "PL" (for Prooflike) and "DPL" (for Deep Prooflike). When combined with PL, the copper strike characters will print as BNP, RBP or RDP. When combined with DPL, the copper strike characters will appear as BND, RBD or RDD.

The full list of strike characters used for copper coins is as follows:



CENSUS LABEL DESCRIPTION APPLICABLE COIN TYPES
(how the strike character appears in the NGC Census) (how the strike character appears on the NGC label) (a verbal description of the strike character) (the types of coins to which it applies)
BN BN Brown All Copper Coins, Mint State and Proof
BNB BN BRILLIANT Brown, Brilliant Proof Copper Coins
BNC BN CAMEO Brown, Cameo Proof Copper Coins
BND BN DPL Brown, Deep Prooflike Mint State Copper Coins
BNM BN MATTE Brown, Matte Proof Copper Coins
BNP BN PL Brown, Prooflike Mint State Copper Coins
BNS BN SATIN Brown, Satin Proof Copper Coins
BNU BN ULTRA CAMEO Brown, Ultra Cameo Proof Copper Coins
RB RB Red Brown All Copper Coins, Mint State and Proof
RBB RB BRILLIANT Red Brown, Brilliant Proof Copper Coins
RBC RB CAMEO Red Brown, Cameo Proof Copper Coins
RBD RB DPL Red Brown, Deep Prooflike Mint State Copper Coins
RBM RB MATTE Red Brown, Matte Proof Copper Coins
RBP RB PL Red Brown, Prooflike Mint State Copper Coins
RBS RB SATIN Red Brown, Satin Proof Copper Coins
RBU RB ULTRA CAMEO Red Brown, Ultra Cameo Proof Copper Coins
RD RD Red All Copper Coins, Mint State and Proof
RDB RD BRILLIANT Red, Brilliant Proof Copper Coins
RDC RD CAMEO Red, Cameo Proof Copper Coins
RDD RD DPL Red, Deep Prooflike Mint State Copper Coins
RDM RD MATTE Red, Matte Proof Copper Coins
RDP RD PL Red, Proof Like Mint State Copper Coins
RDS RD SATIN Red, Satin Proof Copper Coins
RDU RD ULTRA CAMEO Red, Ultra Cameo Proof Copper Coins
RFD RD FIRST DAY OF ISSUE Red, First Day of Issue Modern Coins Only

NGC assigns strike characters automatically as part of its normal grading process for no additional fee. Please note that brass coins, which contain a small amount of copper, are not assigned copper strike characters.

A 1943 Bronze Cent, graded MS 62 BN.
Click image to enlarge.

Coins with certain strike characters are often more highly prized by collectors. As a result, strike characters are separated on different lines for each coin in the NGC Census to give a better understanding of its relative rarity.

Many collectors often ask whether Numismatic Conservation Services (NCS), an independent affiliate of NGC, can professionally conserve a coin to increase the amount of red present on its surfaces (and therefore change the coin's strike character). The answer is no — a coin's change from red to red brown to brown is a permanent process that cannot be reversed. Certain amateur restorers attempt to alter a coin's color, but professionals consider these attempts to be detrimental and coins with altered color are ineligible for numeric grading. (These coins may be eligible for NGC Details grading. Learn more > )

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