Most every hobby and avocation has its own set of specific terminology. Numismatics is no exception. The term “bag mark” is one of those very specialized phrases that have meaning only to coin collectors.
What are Bag Marks:
Bag marks are the minor abrasions on otherwise uncirculated coins that are caused by contact between pieces during minting and while stored in a mint bag.
As part of production, U.S. coins minted for circulation are dropped into large canvas bags. During this process, and when these bags are moved from the minting facility to banks or into storage, the coins make contact with each other. This often causes those minor abrasions, dents and nicks on the surfaces.
How Do Bag Marks Affect Collectability:
A crucial factor in determining a coin’s value is grading, which is the process of measuring the wear on a coins surface. Bag marks are an expected feature of mint-state coins but will certainly be a component in deciding the coin’s grade.
Uncirculated coins are measured on the standard ANA grading chart from MS-60 to MS-70. The number, placement and severity of bag marks will be part of what determines the coins final grade.
Naturally larger the coin, the more prevalent and obvious the bag marks. Morgan silver dollars regularly include these faults. Although most are well over a hundred years old, a surprising number of these historic treasures remain in Brilliant Uncirculated condition with no wear from use but some bag marks. The reason is that many Morgan silver dollars were kept for decades in mint bags and never released to the public at all.
Where to Go From Here:
Experienced collectors accept bag marks as a probable feature of most any business strike coin (proof coins are produced and handled differently and should not be affected by bag marks).
As you expand your collections and handle a variety of coins of different grades you’ll learn to distinguish between bag marks and wear from circulation. As with most any aspect of coin collecting, the more you know the more you’ll enjoy this fascinating and complex hobby.