Grading of Coins
Grading is a system by which one can describe the present condition of a coin in comparison to its condition at the moment of manufacture. From the moment coins are minted, coins get marks and blemishes from contact with other coins and from being in circulation. Grading gives collectors a common language by which they can describe their coins to others. For many years coins were graded only with words and adjectives. For example, terms such as choice, superb, and gem were used to describe uncirculated coins; but it was difficult for a reader of a catalog to get a mental picture of what the coins really looked like. Even professionals were confused.
Today, numismatists and all of the third-party grading services in the United States use a 70 point numerical scale that was adapted from an old method of grading Large Cents. It's called the Sheldon Scale after its originator, William Sheldon. This scale uses the first 59 numbers to deal with circulated coins and the last 11 numbers with uncirculated coins. Every number is not used.
In the circulated grades, one to ten points separate each grade. In the uncirculated grades every number represents a grade. Certain numbers correspond to a word description.
The term Mint State (MS) can be interchanged with Uncirculated (UNC) to describe "new" coins showing no trace of wear.
MS70 "Perfect Uncirculated" Full original luster of the highest quality. No flaws whatsoever visible, even under 4x magnification. Outstanding eye appeal. The perfect coin.
MS69 Very attractive, full mint luster and sharp strike. No more than two small non-detracting marks or flaws. No visible hairlines or scuff marks. Exceptional eye appeal.
MS68 Full original mint luster. No more than four scattered very small contact marks or flaws, none in focal areas. No visible hairlines or scuff marks. Exceptional eye appeal.
MS67 Has almost all of original mint luster. No more than three or four very small contact marks. One or two small hairlines or scuffs acceptable. No distracting flaws allowed. Exceptional eye appeal.
MS66 Above average mint luster. No more than a few minor contact marks; some in prime focal areas OK. A few hairlines or light scuffs show under magnification. Eye appeal is very good.
MS65 "Gem Uncirculated" Above average mint luster. Only a few scattered contact marks or two larger marks are present. One or two hairline patches. A few light scuffs on highest points of coin. Quality and eye appeal are above average and quite pleasing.
MS64 Average mint luster. Several small contact marks in groups and a couple of moderately heavier marks are OK. One or two small hairline patches. Overall eye appeal is good.
MS63 "Choice Uncirculated" May have slightly impaired luster. Noticeably fewer defects throughout. A small number of heavy marks are acceptable. Somewhat attractive eye appeal.
MS62 Reduced mint luster may be evident. Groups of small marks throughout, with a few large marks or scuffs highly visible. Scattered hairlines. Rim quality and overall eye appeal below average.
MS61 Reduced mint luster, contact marks and scuffs scattered throughout. Hairlines may be very noticeable. Small rim nicks are OK. Eye appeal is somewhat unattractive.
MS60 "Uncirculated" Has no trace of wear but may show a large number of detracting contact marks and scuffs. Surface may be spotted or lack some luster. Lots of hairlines and rim nicks are permissible. Poor eye appeal is typical.
AU55 "Choice About Uncirculated" Evidence of friction on high points of design. Most of the mint luster remains.
AU50 "About Uncirculated" Traces of light wear on many of the high points. At least half of the mint luster is still present.
EF45 "Choice Extremely Fine" Light overall wear on the highest points. All design details are very sharp. Some of the mint luster is evident.
EF40 "Extremely Fine" Light wear on the design throughout, but all features are sharp and well defined.
VF30 "Choice Very Fine" Light wear on the design throughout, but all features are sharp and well defined.
VF20 "Very Fine" Moderate wear on high points of the design.
F12 "Fine" Moderate to considerable wear. The entire design is bold with an overall pleasing appearance.
VG8 "Very Good" Well worn with main features clear and bold, although rather flat.
G4 "Good" Heavily Worn, with the design visible but faint in areas. Many details are flat.
AG3 "About Good" Very heavily worn with portions of the lettering, date, and legend worn smooth. The date may be barely readable.
VF20 "Very Fine" or "VF" Moderate wear on high points of the design.
P1 "Poor" A coin so worn coin that it is almost unidentifiable. It is not considered collectible except for extremely rare issues.
Proof (PR of PF) A specially made coin distinguished by sharpness of detail and usually with brilliant mirror-like surfaces. Proof refers to the method of manufacture and is not a condition. Proof coins graded by the Numismatic Guarentee Corporation (NGC) are given the designation "PF." Proof coins graded by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) are given the designation "PR."
PR70 Full mirror surface and highest quality strike. No flaws visible, even under magnification. Outstanding eye appeal. The perfect coin.
PR69 Full mirror surface and very attractive sharp strike. One or two very small flaws, none in in prime focal areas. Exceptional eye appeal.
PR68 Full mirror surface and attractive sharp strike. No more than four light scattered flaws. No hairlines. Exceptional eye appeal.
PR67 Full mirror surface and sharp strike. Three or four tiny contact marks, with one or two in prime focal areas. No hairlines visible to the naked eye. Exceptional eye appeal.
PR66 Full mirror surface and above average quality strike. No more than two or three minor but noticeable contact marks. A few light hairlines may show under magnification. Above average eye appeal.
PR65 High quality mirror surface. A few small scattered contact marked, or two larger marks, are OK. A few hairlines under magnification are visible. Very pleasing eye appeal.
PR64 Fully original mirror fields. May have a fair number of small contact marks, but only one or two heavier marks are acceptable. A few hairlines under low magnification are OK. Pleasing eye appeal.
PR63 Mirror field may be slightly impaired. Numerous small contact marks and a few heavy marks are expected. Many light hairlines are visible without magnification. Moderate eye appeal.
PR62 Original or impaired mirror characteristics. May have distracting marks in prime focal areas. Hairlines throughout. Marginally acceptable eye appeal.
PR61 Mirror characteristics diminished or greatly impaired. Large and small contact marks throughout. Lots of detracting hairlines. Unattractive eye appeal.
PR60 Unattractive with little if any mirror characteristics. May be large detracting contact marks or damage spots. Heavy hairlines and possible large scuff marks. Rim nicks and poor eye appeal.