by Robert L Taylor, JD
Coin grading is a term used to
refer to the process of determining the
condition or quality of a coin, and its full
identity. It is essential to know what the grade
is of a particular coin, because, as a general
matter, the higher the grade of a coin, the
higher its numismatic value.
Coins are graded on a 0-70 point scale devised
by Dr William Shelby. The details can be found
in the Official A.N.A. Grading Standards for
United States Coins published by the American
Numismatic Association (ANA). Under this method
of grading, the higher the point scale accorded
a particular coin, the better its quality.
The process of grading a coin is partly
subjective and partly an art, rather than a true
science. Accurate grading requires many years of
skill and experience. However, determining an
approximate grade is possible for even the
novice coin collector.
The basic point scales that define coin grades,
are as follows:
1. Mint State Perfect Uncirculated (MS-70)
Mint state uncirculated coin in perfect
condition, showing no traces of wear, and no
blemishes, scratches, handling or contact with
other coins. The best quality coin possible.
2. Choice (Gem) Uncirculated (MS-65-69)
An above average uncirculated coin which retains
all of the original mint brilliance or luster,
and has a very few contact marks on the surface
or rim, which are barely noticeable.
3. Brilliant Uncirculated or BU (MS-60-64)
An uncirculated coin having no traces of wear
but which has a few contact marks, surface
spotting or lacks some of its original luster.
4. Choice About Uncirculated (AU-55 & 58)
A coin having very light wear on only the
highest points of the design but no other
defects and with most of its luster remaining.
5. About Uncirculated (AU-50)
Coin has evidence of light wear on many of the
high points but at least half of the mint luster
is still present.
6. Extremely Fine (EF-40)
The coin design is lightly worn in most places
but all the features remain sharp and well
7. Choice Very Fine (VF-30)
Light even wear on the surface and highest parts
of the design but most major features and the
lettering are sharp.
8. Very Fine (VF-20)
Minor features such as some of the finer hair
detail, feathers, etc. will be moderately worn.
Shows moderate wear on high points of design.
All major details are clear.
9. Fine (F-12)
Moderate to considerable even wear over most
features and the lettering. A lot of the details
are worn through but you can still see a good
deal of the design.
10. Very Good (VG-8)
The entire design is weak, but a few details are
visible. Well worn throughout but coin rims
11. Good (G-4)
Heavily worn but design and legend still visible
although quite weak in spots. Many details are
12. About Good (AG-3)
Very heavily worn with portions of lettering,
date and legends worn smooth and barely
Have fun collecting your Perfect Coins!
Robert L Taylor, JD
Copyright 8 2006 Robert L Taylor, JD
About the Author
Robert Taylor is a retired Lawyer, from Denver,
CO, and who has had a passion for collecting US
coins, since the age of 6. To share his Passion,
he created http://www.ThePerfect-Coin.Com which
features US Rare and Modern Coins (from 1960)
and http://www.PerfectDollarCoins.Com featuring
US Dollar Coins (from 1878), all Certified and
Graded by NGC, PCGS, ICG and ANACS.