Coin Grading

The article briefly covers the terms and definitions used in the coin grading process. It also give some tips on how to get a coin graded.

The value of the coins in a coin collection is based largely of the condition or grade of the coin. It is very important to buy coins that have been graded properly. Small differences in grading can mean large differences in value. While the grading of coins is subjective in nature, there are some standards that are used. With practice and little help from experienced collectors or reputable dealers, anyone can learn how to grade coins.

The first thing that you will need is a reference for grading coins. The reference most used is The Official A.N.A. Grading Standards for United States Coins. The American Numismatic Association publishes it. The grading scale used on American coins is the 70-point scale devised by Dr. William Shelby. On this scale 0 is barely recognizable as a coin and 70 is perfect. Each coin has particular features that will show wear before others. These are the things that are covered in the grading standards books.

Mint State ranges from MS60 to MS70. This grade range will show no trace of wear.

Almost Uncirculated ranges from AU50 to AU58. This grade range will show some slight traces of wear on the highest points of the coin.

Extremely Fine ranges from EF40 to EF45 (sometimes called XF40-XF45). This grade range will show light wear on the high points of the coin.

Very Fine ranges from VF20 to VF35. This grade range will show light wear (medium wear on the high points of the coin). All of the major features of the coin will be sharp.

Fine ranges from F12 to F15. This grade range will show moderate even wear. Some of the detail will be worn off.

Very Good ranges from VG7 to VG10. This grade range is well worn. The major design is there but most of the detail will be worn off.

Good ranges from G4 to G6. This grade range will show heavy wear. The major design will be visible but will be faint in some spots.

About Good is AG3. This grade will show extremely heavy wear. You should be able to make out the date on the coin. Only the outline of the design will be visible.

Fair is F2. This grade is worn so heavily that the date may not be easy to make out.

Poor is P1 (sometimes called basal state). This grade is so worn that the only thing you can determine is the type of coin it was.

If you feel that this is too much to learn, there is an alternative. There are third party grading and encapsulating services. For a fee they will grade your coin and encapsulate it in a tamper proof holder. This is a good way of guaranteeing that you are not buying an overgraded or counterfeit coin. There are several of these services available: Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), American Numismatic Authentication Collector Services (ANACS), and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC).

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