Awesome Guide to Coin Grading In 3 Simple Steps

awesome guide to coin grading in 3 simple steps banner showing coin and loupe

Table of Contents

Awesome Guide to Coin Grading In 3 Simple Steps

awesome guide to coin grading in 3 simple steps banner showing coin and loupe

Step 1: Understanding Coin Grading

So why grade coins? what’s the purpose? The main reason is simple, to figure out what condition a coin is in and based on that we can determine the current market value of the coin. In this awesome guide to coin grading, we will show you how to do this yourself in 3 Simple Steps.

You may also be interested in Top 20 Valuable Irish Coins 2019.

If you are unfamiliar with some of the terms and phrases used – don’t worry you’re not alone, our 180 best coin collecting terms explained article should help clear up any confusion.

Coin grading is based on a 1 to 70 scale, created by Dr William H. Sheldon originally to assign proportional values of large US cents, later adopted as the standard for the wider coin collecting community, you might even come across the odd article referring to this system as the Sheldon Scale.

Step 2: Learn the Coin Grading Scale

the coin grading scale ireland coins

The second step in our awesome guide to coin grading is to learn the coin grading scale. To grade coins, it is something you will have to know and understand, but don’t worry you can always come back to this page as many times as you need.

When you set out to learn the coin grading scale the coin grading terms and jargon can get quite intense, so as we mentioned above if you don’t understand anything check out our 180 best coin collecting terms explained article its a great help when it comes to understanding coin grading.

Poor (PO-1 / P1)
A barely recognizable coin, the design will be mostly completely flat. The date or other identifying features may be missing entirely or barely visible. You may see these coins referred to as Basal State when in this condition.

Fair (FR-2 / FR2)
The rim of the coin is worn into the design. Some outlines of the original images should be visible on both sides of the coin, however, most if not all of the lettering will be gone. The date of the coin should still be visible enough to identify the coin. Rims are worn well into the design. There should be outlines of some of the images visible on both sides of the coin, but the lettering may be completely gone. Enough of the date should be visible to identify the coin.

About Good (AG-3 / AG3)
Sometimes referred to as Almost Good. Mostly the design of the coin will still have its outline, however, the rim will generally have worn far enough into the design to destroy parts of the lettering.

Good (G-4, G-6 / G4, G6)
The design of the coin will be outlined, but there will be little detail and some parts may be very unclear. Mostly the rim will be intact, but it may wear down to the tops of the letters or other raised features in some cases. Non-collectors will often refer to their coins as being in “Good” condition, in coin grading a Good coin is a very worn coin and not “Good” at all.

Very Good (VG-8, VG-10 / VG8, VG10)
Medium to heavy wear on the coin, but some details will still be visible. Generally, around 40%-50% of the letters of any word will be visible.

Fine (F-12, F-15 / F12, F15)
Medium wear on the coin, quite a few details visible and some high spots worn away. Generally, all of the letters of any word will be visible.

Very Fine (VF-20, VF-25, VF-30, VF-35 / VF20, VF25, VF30, VF35 )
Medium to light wear on the coin overall, all details will be visible. Generally, all of the letters of any word will be strong and visible.

Extremely Fine (XF-40, XF-45 / XF40, XF45 )
Also known as EF. Light wear over the high points of the coin only. There may also be some visible traces of mint lustre (shininess).

About Uncirculated (AU-50, AU-53, AU-55, AU-58 / AU50, AU53, AU55, AU58 )
Extremely light wear or only a trace of friction on the highest points of the coin, along with medium to nearly full lustre. AU-58 coins are often mistaken for uncirculated coins as they have such little wear. AU is also referred to as Almost Uncirculated sometimes.

Mint State Basal (MS-60 / MS60)
Once you get to MS60 in coin grading you are in the top end of the Sheldon Scale and the slightest imperfections have an impact on the coin grade. MS60 is an uncirculated coin with no evidence of wear on the highest points of the coin but, the coin may lack-lustre and have noticeable contact marks or hairlines. Hairlines are light or very slight scratches on the surface of a coin.

Mint State Acceptable (MS-63 / MS63)
An uncirculated coin with contact marks and nicks, slightly lacking lustre, generally appealing appearance. The strike is average to weak.

Mint State Choice (MS-65 / MS65)
An uncirculated coin with very good mint lustre, very few marks, with excellent eye appeal. The strike would be considered above average.

Mint State Premium Quality (MS-68 / MS68)
An uncirculated coin with perfect mint lustre, no contact marks are visible to the naked eye, this coin would have exceptional eye appeal. A sharp and attractive strike.

Mint State Almost Perfect (MS-69 / MS69)
An uncirculated coin with perfect mint lustre and very exceptional eye appeal, it also has a sharp and attractive strike. A perfect coin except for microscopic flaws which are only seen under 8x magnification.

Step 3: Begin Coin Grading

So now that you have learned a bot about whats involved in coin grading and what the various coin grading scale points mean and how they are decided. Its time to give it a go, Like anything the more you practice the better you will get.

Whilst it may take time to get to grips with everything involved in coin grading we have given a few useful coin grading hints and tips below.

  1. Examine the coin in a good light so that you can examine every small detail, and keep at least 12 inches between the coin and the light source.
  2. Hold the coin by its edges and position it between your thumb and index finger.
  3. Use a magnifying glass, magnifier or jewellers loupe that will enhance objects by at least 6 to 8 times as this will highlight any small damage or bag marks, you can pick these up pretty cheaply on eBay or Amazon or any number of other sites.
  4. Don’t put too much importance on small or minor imperfections which can lead to under-grading.
  5. Rock the coin backwards and forwards at the same time as turning it, this will let you see the finer details, such as hairlines and other minor damage.
  6. Compare the ‘condition’ of the coin to the  Coin Grading Scale above using the descriptions and try to figure out what level he coin fits into by studying it closely.
  7. Take your time and do your best not to miss anything.
  8. If you think the coin had different grades on both sides you can assign a split grade.

If there is anything you would like more information on or if you feel we have missed anything, let us know in the comments and we will update the page.


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The purpose of this website is to educate and entertain, All values shown are a guideline only and should not be used for any means of financial investment or speculation, as with all things values may fluctuate depending on demand and scarcity, we strongly advise that all information on this website is used as it was intended – for entertainment purposes. The information relating to coins is sourced from many places such as NGC, PCGS and The Irish Central Bank.