Why is this 1884-S Morgan dollar that sold for $2,760 called 'Borderline Uncirculated'?

Adapted from Market Analysis column from Nov. 10, 2014, issue of Coin World
By , Coin World
Published : 10/28/14
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Scotsman Auction Co.’s Oct. 17, 2014, Collectors’ Auction in St. Charles, Mo., brought just over $1 million, realizing $1,115,119. The firm’s auctions, including the latest, are notable for the wide range of material that is offered, from complete sets of Liberty Head 5-cent pieces to pieces of scarce paper currency. 

Three key coins offered in the auction in the About Uncirculated grade show the differences of quality within that grade, which is typically segregated into the AU-50, AU-53, AU-55 and AU-58 grade levels. The latter is often referred to in shorthand as “borderline Uncirculated.” 

This is one of those coins in the auction that graded About Uncirculated:

The 1884-S Morgan dollar is an unusual issue in the series. It’s a relatively common coin through Extremely Fine 45, but becomes tough in About Uncirculated grades and the price between an EF-45 and an AU-50 coin doubles. Seeing that a base-level Mint State 60 example of this date approaches $10,000 places enormous pressure on quality AU-58 examples like the one offered at Scotsman Auction Co.'s Oct. 17, 2014, sale.

The About Uncirculated grade has different levels of quality within that grade, which is typically segregated into the AU-50, AU-53, AU-55 and AU-58 grade levels. The latter is often referred to in shorthand as “borderline Uncirculated.”

The silver dollar in the auction is particularly handsome, with just a bit of color at the edges, so much so that the firm called it “devastatingly attractive” and differentiated it from many examples of this date at the About Uncirculated level that have been cleaned to appear Mint State. This piece, graded AU-58 by Professional Coin Grading Service, sold for $2,760.

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