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Question: How are coins graded?

Posted on: 2016-01-07

Answer: By the Sheldon system.  


The Sheldon Scale is a 70-point scale for grading coins, developed by Dr. William Sheldon in 1949. A slightly modified form of the Sheldon Scale has become the de facto standard for grading U.S. coins today, and is used by the major third party grading services when assigning a grade to a coin. The adjectival grading system was the predecessor to today's 70-point grading scale, and the adjectival terms are still used to help clarify the numeric equivalent.

Sheldon Scale for Grading U.S. Coins

Poor-1 or P-1 (Poor) - The type is barely discernable, but little else, due to the coin being badly damaged or worn smooth.

Fair-2 or FR-2 (Fair) - Type and date are barely discernable, but otherwise the coin is damaged or extremely worn. 

AG-3 (About Good) - Type and date are discernable, although some spots may be worn out. Some lettering should be apparent, if not necessarily readable.

G-4 (Good) - Major devices and features are evident as outlines. Although the coin overall is heavily worn.

G-6 (Good-plus) - Coin has a full rim plus major devices and features are clearly outlined. Heavy wear.

VG-8 (Very Good) - Full rim with clearly discernable devices and features. Most legends are readable clearly, but the whole coin is still significantly worn.

F-12 (Fine) - Distinct rim, all legends readable, clear devices showing some detail, but the whole coin is moderately, but evenly worn.

VF-20 (Very Fine) - Clearly readable but lightly worn legends, devices show good detail, rims are clean, but the whole coin shows moderate wear on the high points and a little wear below.

VF-30 (Good Very Fine) - Legends are clear, devices show all detail with little wear; high points are lightly worn.

EF-40 (Extremely Fine) - Legends are sharp; devices are clear with slight but obvious wear on the high points.

XF-45 (Choice Extremely Fine) - Legends and devices are clear and sharp, with slight wear on the high points, and great eye appeal.

AU-50 (About Uncirculated) - Sharp legends and devices show only a trace of wear on the highest points. There must be some remaining mint luster. 

AU-55 (Good About Uncirculated) - Sharp legends and devices show only a hint of wear on the high points. Remaining mint luster must be at least half; great eye appeal.

AU-58 (Choice About Uncirculated) - Virtually uncirculated, except for minor wear marks on high points. Nearly all mint luster must be present, and must have outstanding eye appeal.

MS-60 (Mint State Basal) - Coins in this grade may be dinged-up, bag-marked, and even ill-toned, but they are in mint condition and free of any wear.

The grades from MS-60 to MS-70, as well as the Proof designations, are all based primarily on eye appeal, quality of luster and/or toning, and the presence or absence of contact marks, hairlines, etc. All coins MS-60 and higher are Mint State coins. It is worth noting that Proof is not a grade, but a type of coin.  

Coin Trader only recommends two independent grading services; PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) and NGC (Numismatic Guarantee Corporation).  It is also helpful for the coins to have an additional CAC approval, of which Coin Trader is a member and subscriber. 

Please call your Coin Trader representative if you have more specific questions regarding the subject of coin grading.

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