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A Guide to Coin Grading

6 stacks of gold coins.

Coin grading is essential and helps determine a coin’s market value. There are several factors that are considered when grading a coin such as how the coin initially struck, its preservation level, how much damage it has sustained etc.

Coin grading is complicated as it’s subjective and opinion based. Most coin dealers use the Sheldon scale for coin grading which assigns a numeric value to each coin along with an adjective that describes the coin’s condition.

Here’s a guide to coin grading using the Sheldon scale.

The Sheldon Scale

The Sheldon scale was Invented in the 1970s when expert numismatists gathered together to mutually agree upon a standard for coin grading.

These professionals assigned grades and numeric values to coins based on a 70-point scale.

Originally, the scale only used adjectives such as good, excellent, poor, fair but the coin dealers and collectors interpreted these adjectives differently.

Hence, numeric values were combined with the adjectives for a more objective understanding.

Common Coin Grades

Here are the most common coin grades in the 70-point grading scale:

(P-1) Poor: The coin is in barely identifiable condition and has sustained extensive damage.

To determine if the coin is valuable enough to be used, it must contain a date and a mintmark. If these marks are not present, the coin goes to complete waste.

(FR-2) Fair: It’s smooth but still has some details left which are enough to identify the coin. It lacks the damage that a poorly graded coin commonly has.

(G-4) Good: This one has most of its features obliterated and the inscriptions on the coin merged into the rim.

(VG-8) Very Good: This coin is very worn but the major design elements are visible, although faint. The central details of the coin have almost completely faded away.

(F-12) Fine: It’s very warm but the overall design elements are easily distinguishable and fully separated from the rims. The center of the coin also displays the wear and tear but is even throughout the coin’s surface.

(VF-20) Very Fine: This coin is moderately warm but there are some finer details which are clear. All the letters of the motto and LIBERTY must be readable.

(EF-40) Extremely Fine: This coin has very clear devices that are in bold and easily readable. There are light signs of wear.

(AU-50) About Uncirculated: The high points of the design have a small evidence of wear. Acceptable eye appeal with all contact marks only slightly showing.

(AU-58) Very Choice About Uncirculated –The coin has insignificant signs of wear. There are no contact marks, and it contains positive eye appeal with almost full mint luster.

(MS-60) Mint State Basal –This coin is not circulated, and contains no signs of damage, even on the highest points. However, it has subdued luster, showing noticeable hairlines, contact marks, etc.

(MS-63) Mint State Acceptable –Also uncirculated but containing nicks and contact marks. The luster is impaired and but it’s fundamentally appealing. The strike ranges from average to weak.

(MS-65) Mint State Choice –An uncirculated coin having strong mint luster. There are only a few contact marks, an impressive eye appeal, and above average strike.

(MS-68) Mint State Premium Quality – Uncirculated with perfect luster. No contact marks that can be seen by the naked eye. An above-par eye appeal with sharp strike.

(MS-69) Mint State Almost Perfect –Perfect luster, uncirculated and attractive strike. Exceptional eye appeal with tiny flaws seen under 8x magnification.

(MS-70) Mint State Perfect – This is the perfect coin, containing no microscopic flaws and a sharp strike. It’s fully centered on a plan chet and has a bright and original luster with amazing eye appeal.

Now that you know how coins are graded, ready to invest in them? Orion Metal Exchange has the best gold coins for investment.

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