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Making the Grade: How to Grade Coins --- A Beginner's Guide to Coin Grading

Jon R Warren

The descriptions of coin grades that follow are intended to outline the relative condition of coins in various states of preservation. These standards are based on trade practices recommended by The American Numismatic Association to avoid misunderstandings in the buy, selling, and advertising of coins.

When a coin in circulation starts to show signs of ear, only the highest parts of the design are affected. You will note that the highest points of the design become slightly rounded or flattened --- and that very fine details begin to merge together or fade away.

After a coin has been in circulation for a longer time, the entire design and surface will show obvious signs of wear. Most of the high points will lose their sharpness and the original luster will befin to fade. Further circulation will flatten out the sharpness and relief of the entire design. The high points will all begin to merge with the next lower parts of the coin's design.

The term "uncirculated", also referred to as "Mint State", referes to a coin which has never beein in circulation. Such a coin has no wear of any kind. Uncirculated coins can be divided into three major categories:

MS-70 (Perfect Uncirculated). The finest quality available. Such a coin under 4X magnification will show NO bag marks, lines, clouding, or other evidence of handling or contact with other coins.

MS-65  (Choice Uncirculated).  An above average uncirculated coin which may be brilliant or highly toned and has very few bag contact marks or perhaps one or two very light rim marks.

MS-60 (Uncirculated). Refers to a coin which has a moderate number of bag marks on its surface. A few minor edge nicks may be present, although they must not be of a serious nature. Surface may be spotted or lack some luster.

Choice About Uncirculated-55 (AU-55). Only a small trace of wear is visible on the highest points of the coin. As in the case with other grades here, specific information is listed in the Official ANA Grading Guide under the various types, for wear often occurs in different spots on different designs.

About Uncirculated-50 (AU-50). Only a small trace of wear is visible on the highest points of the coin. As in the case with other grades here, specific informat 

Choice About Uncirculated-55 (AU-55). With traces of wear on nearly all of the highest areas. At least half of the original mint luster is present. 

Choice Extremely Fine-45 (EF-45 or XF-45). With light overall wear on the coin's highest points. All design details are very sharp. Mint luster is usually seen only in protected areas of the coin's surface such as between star points and in the letter spaces.

Extremely Fine-40 (EF-40 or XF-40). With only light wear but more extensive than the preceding, still with excellent overall sharpness. Traces of mint luster may still show.  

Choice Very Fine-30 (VF-30). With light even wear over the surfaces; design details on the highest points lightly worn, but with all lettering and major features sharp. 

Very Fine-20 (VF-20). As preceding but with moderate edge wear on highest parts.

Fine-12 (F-12). Moderate to considerable even wear. Entire design is bold. All lettering, including the word LIBERTY (on coins with this feature on the shield or head band) visible, but with some weaknesses. 

Very Good-8 (VG-8). Well worn. Most fine details such as hair strands, leaf details, and so on are worn nearly smooth. The word LIBERTY if on a shield or headband is only partially visible. 

Good-4 (G-4). Heavily worn. Major designs visible, but with faintness in areas. Head of liberty, wreath, and other major features visible in outline form without center detail.

About Good-3 (AG-3). Extremely heavily worn with portions of the lettering, date and legends being worn smooth, the date barely readable. 

This article has been read 2310 times. Last read on 5/29/2020 8:45:45 AM

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