Beverly Hills Rare Coins

Professionals In Rare Coins For Over 25 years



Coin Grading

Beverly Hills Rare Coins

Professionals In Rare Coins For Over 25 years


Coin Grading

Coin Grading

In 1948, Dr. William Sheldon, a renowned numismatist, developed the Sheldon Scale, assigning grades from “1” through “70” to coins. The numerical grades from 1-58 represent coins that have some amount of wear and are referred to as “Circulated”. The remaining grades from 60-70 are designated to coins that show no signs of wear and are referred to as “Uncirculated” These coins are designated as “Mint State” and are denoted as MS-60 thru MS-70 depending on condition.

Circulated Coins

The grades below refer only to circulated coins and are meant as a general guide. Standards can vary from one coin series or “type” to another.

  • Poor (PO-1): Enough detail to identify the coin’s date and type. Large parts of the design and the rim will be completely flat.
  • Fair (FR-2): Some details are visible. Rims worn well into the design. Lettering may be completely gone. Date should be discernible.
  • About Good (AG-3): Most letters and digits are readable. Most of the design of the coin will be outlined. Rims are worn into the fields.
  • Good (G-4, 6): Peripheral letters and digits are nearly full. Rims exhibit wear but are mostly intact.
  • Very Good (VG-8, 10): Medium to heavy wear throughout the design. Letters and digits show softness. (Half or better of the word “Liberty” should be visible on appropriate coins).
  • Fine (F-12, 15): Medium wear with some details visible. Recessed areas show slight softness. Letters and digits are sharp. (All of the letters of “Liberty” should be visible).
  • Very Fine (VF-20, 25, 30, 35): Medium to light wear throughout, Nearly complete details with some softness on the design areas. (All of the letters of “Liberty” will be strongly visible).
  • Extremely Fine (XF-40, 45): Light wear over the high points of the design only. Some traces of mint luster.
  • About Uncirculated or Almost Uncirculated (AU-50, 53, 55, 58): Extremely light to only a trace of friction on the highest points of the design. Medium to almost complete luster. AU-58 coins are often mistaken for Uncirculated coins.

The above grades refer to circulated coins only, and are meant as general guides only. Standards can vary from type to type and sometimes even from date to date depending on factors such as design and striking standards. For instance, there is much more tolerance of missing parts of the date on Buffalo Nickels and pre-1925 Standing Liberty Quarters than on most other coins because the date is one of the high points of these two designs. By definition, all circulated coins will have at least a trace of wear; as a result, no circulated coin may grade higher than AU-58.

Uncirculated Coins

Coins with no wear are referred to as Uncirculated (Unc.) or Mint State (MS). There are 10 levels of distinction within the Mint State range graded from MS-60 to MS-70. It is important to note that “uncirculated” refers only to the fact that the coin has no wear. The presence of small nicks from other coins (bagmarks), toning or discoloration does not affect a coin’s “Uncirculated” designation, although such things do affect the numerical MS grade the coin receives.

  • Uncirculated (MS-60, 61, 62): Noticeable amount of bagmarks often referred to as “chatter”, a poor strike, or poor luster.
  • Choice Uncirculated (MS-64): An uncirculated coin with moderate distracting marks or deficiencies. These coins generally have average to above average eye appeal. Choice Uncirculated is sometimes used to refer to a coin grading MS-63.
  • Gem Uncirculated (MS-65, 66): An uncirculated coin with only minor distracting marks or imperfections. At this point, mint luster is expected to be full, although toning is quite acceptable.
  • Superb Gem Uncirculated (MS-67, 68, 69): An uncirculated coin with only the slightest distracting marks or imperfections. Toning is still acceptable. Rare grade in all coins, including modern issues.
  • Perfect Uncirculated (MS-70): A flawless coin with no perceptible imperfections at 5x magnification.

Coin Grading Services

A coin grading service, “Third party” grading service, or coin certification service refers to an independent company that authenticates, grades, attributes and encapsulates coins for a fee. The fee schedule is a tiered system where rare and expensive coins will cost more to grade than more common, low-priced coins. Coin grading services emerged in the 1980s as a response to the need for buyers and sellers to agree on grading. Over the ensuing decades the rare coin community has recognized (PCGS) Professional Coin Grading Services and (NGC) Numismatic Guaranty Corporation as the two top tier grading companies. Most high-priced coins sold in the rare coin market today are encapsulated by one of these two companies. 

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