Methyl-coenzyme M reductase (MCR) catalyzes the methane-forming step in methanogenic archaea. It contains the nickel porphinoid F430, a prosthetic group that has been proposed to be directly involved in the catalytic cycle by the direct binding and subsequent reduction of the substrate methyl-coenzyme M. The active enzyme (MCRred1) can be generated in vivo and in vitro by reduction from MCRox1, which is an inactive form of the enzyme. Both the MCRred1 and MCRox1 forms have been proposed to contain F430 in the Ni(I) oxidation state on the basis of EPR and ENDOR data. In order to further address the oxidation state of the Ni center in F430, variable-temperature, variable-field magnetic circular dichroism (VTVH MCD), coupled with parallel absorption and EPR studies, have been used to compare the electronic and magnetic properties of MCRred1, MCRox1, and various EPR silent forms of MCR, with those of the isolated penta-methylated cofactor (F430M) in the +1, +2 and +3 oxidation states. The results confirm Ni(I) assignments for MCRred1 and MCRred2 forms of MCR and reveal charge transfer transitions involving the Ni d orbitals and the macrocycle π orbitals that are unique to Ni(I) forms of F430. Ligand field transitions associated with S=1 Ni(II) centers are assigned in the near-IR MCD spectra of MCRox1-silent and MCR-silent, and the splitting in the lowest energy d-d transition is shown to correlate qualitatively with assessments of the zero-field splitting parameters determined by analysis of VTVH MCD saturation magnetization data. The MCD studies also support rationalization of MCRox1 as a tetragonally compressed Ni(III) center with an axial thiolate ligand or a coupled Ni(II)-thiyl radical species, with the reality probably lying between these two extremes. The reinterpretation of MCRox1 as a formal Ni(III) species rather than an Ni(I) species obviates the need to invoke a two-electron reduction of the F430 macrocyclic ligand on reductive activation of MCRox1 to yield MCRred1.