Before proceeding, I would like to make a few things clear.
- This post will not make you an expert coin grader. You are reading this information to get a basic knowledge of how a coin is graded and not how to become an expert coin grader.
- I am not an expert as well. I am merely sharing information. I will not be held liable for the use or misuse of the information presented here.
- There are a lot of grading systems. This post will only be featuring the international system.
Coin grading is one way of knowing the value of your coins. Grading allows one to know the condition of the coin. Grading coins requires expertise and years of experience. You won’t be a coin grader overnight.
The reason I am making this post is because I have not yet found a local company that grades coins here in the Philippines. For this reason, I have resorted to grading my own coins for my personal reference. Another is because my collection is neither significant nor valuable that warrants it to be professionally graded. If anyone knows a local coin grading service, please let me know about it.
Below is the chart I use for grading. Again, this is for reference only and not an expert grading tool.
The grade designations and abbreviations are found on the left column. The succeeding columns are the criteria for grading or basic characteristics of a coin that are considered in grading.
Before we proceed, there are coins that are not eligible for grading. These are coins that are altered, have extensive damages (i.e. holes drilled into the coins), bent, and counterfeit. With that said, let us proceed.
Legends. This refers to the words and/or numbers and dates that are usually found around the face of the coin. The legend helps identify the country of origin, face value, and significant date information. The legends are either not visible or all visible. Not visible will automatically make your coin grade Poor (PO). If your coin’s legends are still visible, then you can proceed to the next column.
Wear. This is an indicator of the use the coin has undergone. It can tell you whether the coin has been used extensively or not. Wear is divided into 4 categories. Having moved on to the “Wear” criteria means that all the legends of your subject coin are readable.
- Considerable. Considerable wear on the coins means that only the outlines of the coins relief or images can be seen. Your coins grade is Good(G) if it has considerable wear but legends are all readable.
- Some. The wear on the coin is still significant, but some of the parts of the coin are clearer and some level of detail can be seen. You will note here that Wear and Details are closely related to each other.
- High Points. Wear on high points of the coin means that wear can be seen only on the highest parts of the relief or images on the coin. For coins with busts of people, high points are usually at the hair and cheeks or nose of the image.
- None. No wear means that the coin was never circulated. However, for this for be proven, the coin must meet the remaining criteria before a grade can be given.
Details. This refers to the much more minute details of the coin. You will need a magnifying glass of some sort to check this criteria. This usually involves the fine lines of the coin design. Like I said a while ago. Wear and Detail are closely related.
- Most Gone. This means that the fine details are no longer visible, but can still be seen with a magnifying lens. If the details are mostly gone, but the coin has only some wear on it, coin can be of a Fine(F) grade.
- Visible. If the details are visible, but not fully, it means that some parts of the coin are worn, usually the high points of the coin. Notice that here, wear and details are now almost one and the same thing. At this point, your coin can either be Very Fine (VF) or Extremely Fine (EF).
- Full. Full details are visible to the naked eye. The fine lines of the design can be seen clearly.
Luster. Luster is the characteristic of a coin that is rather hard to explain in words. This is used to describe how light reflects from the surface of the coin and is divided in four categories.
- None. This means that the luster of the coin is gone and that its surface does not have the distinct cartwheel effect when light hits the coin. No luster, but details are visible means the coin is of a Very Fine (VF) grade.
- Some. The coin retains some of its original luster usually around the legends of the coin. This means that the coin is Extremely Fine (EF).
- Most. If the coin retains most of its luster, it means that it has seen very minimal use. It can safely be graded as About Uncirculated (AUNC).
- Full. When the coin retains all of its luster it means it was never circulated nor used for commercial trade. This coin would look really nice. The grade can either be Uncirculated (UNC) or Brilliant Uncirculated (BU).
Marks. This criteria looks at the scratched and dings on the coin. Its is divided into four categories.
- Many. Many marks mean the coin has been in circulation. If your coin has many marks its grade can range from Poor (PO) to Extremely Fine (EF).
- Few Marks. If your coin has few marks and dings then its grade is About Uncirculated (AUNC). By few, it means very few that it does not affect the overall eye-appeal of the coin.
- Hairlines. Hairlines are small surface scratches that don’t seem apparent at first glance, but can be seen by the naked eye. When you have a coin like this, the grade would be Uncirculated (UNC). Most high-grade coins fall in this grade. The hairlines on the coin are often caused right after minting. However, the grade Uncirculated (UNC) can also refer to coins that have never been circulated, but has lost some of its characteristics like luster due to mishandling or accidents. However, in grading, we need to consider all characteristics of a coin regardless of its circumstances.
- None. No marks means you have the perfect coin. No scratches visible to the naked eye and all other characteristics are met. When luster is full, details are all visible, no wear, legends are clear, and no marks whatsoever, then you have a coin that is Brilliant Uncirculated (BU).
Unfortunately, I do not have an example if a Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) coin because I don’t have a perfect coin yet.
There you have it, a basic guide on coin grading. Please note that this will not make you an expert coin grader. This information is also not complete since there are other factors to consider in coin grading that are not mentioned in this post.
This post was derived from silveragecoins.com‘s video on coin grading. Thank you for the reference!