COIN GRADING TERMS DEFINED

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Every coin has a condition and this condition is determined by a grade point system from 1-70. A coin with a condition of 1 is the least grade a coin can get, but still be identifiable as a certain coin, and a score of 70 is the most perfect a coin can get. The worst condition a coin can obtain is Basal State, which means, you can tell it was a coin but not what type.

Along with the number grades, coins grades are designated with an acronym i.e. About Good is written as AG3 and uses the number 3 on the number grade scale, Good is written as G4 and involves the number range 4-7 on the number grade scale. It may sound confusing, at first; but further down I will list the grades, their symbols and number ranges for each letter grade.

While looking at price guides you will see some of these symbols for grading like FR, PR, AG, G, VG, VF, XF AU and MS. All of these acronyms stand for certain words or phrases that describe the condition of coins. They encompass a universal system that is used by price guides, dealers and experts to identify and figure the values of coins based on their grade.

Not everyone will agree on the grade of a particular coin and one must watch out for unscrupulous sellers that over-grade or leave out other problems a coin may have like scratches, corrosion, cleaning, etc. (I will discuss problems a coin may have later.)

The best way to start grading is to examine your coin to see if has a full date. If it doesn’t then it may grade FR or PR, but if the date is full then it may grade G-4. Then look at the over- all design of the coin (You may want to look at a few examples on an Internet coin site or grading book for help.) and begin adding points and grades with how many more features you can identify with the coin in question. The more features the coin has evident, the higher the grade.

Below is a guide to the many grading words and phrases including their acronym symbols and number grades.  Most, universally, use the symbols in the right hand column.

So as not to confuse the reader PR can also mean Proof, but will be followed by a number 60 or higher. One example is the 1895 Morgan Dollar, and it can have a grade of PR60 which means Proof 60. Also, PF can be used to designate a proof coin.

It is obvious that grading is very subjective and is different when it comes to each coin type. Grading comes with experience, and I mean years of experience. It is always best to consult professional grading publications for reference, or submit your coin to a third party grading company like PCGS, NGC, ICG, ANACS.
Basal (Basal State) BS
The least condition a coin can achieve. A mostly circular piece of metal that can still be identified as a coin. Usually heavily damaged.

Poor (P01)
An intact planchet with less damage then the BL, but the type of coin may be discerned from barley perceptible details. Coin is heavily worn and can have some damage.

Fair (FR2)
The coin is flat, but enough design details allow for determination of the coin type. The date or lettering is almost completely worn off, and may not be readable.

About Good (AG3)
Less flat then an FR2 grade, but more of the design can be seen and some of the lettering and date can be read.

Good (G4)
Most details can be discerned, but will have a lot of wear. Some of the lettering will be merged with the rim in certain spots.

Very Good (VG8)
Hair is flat, rays have weak spots, part of motto is weak, but with a complete rim.

Fine (F12)
Hair bordering face is weak, slight wear on hair of the neck and the bun, and rays show a trace of wear.

Very Fine (VF30)-(VF20)
Hair details bordering face weak, upper hair wave has light wear, hair by the ear area is worn, but single strands discernable. A VF20 will show a little more wear on above features.

Extra Fine (EF40)-(EF45)
Hair has slight flatness on high points, but most hair strands separated. The face and lower neck lightly worn. A EF45 will show a smaller amount of wear on the above features.

Almost Uncirculated (AU50)-(AU58)
Slight traces of wear on cheek, neck, hair around ear, and forehead; high points only. In AU58, only a slight trace of wear will be evident above the ear, and must not be confused with weak strike. Also, look for traces of slight wear on the rim and reeding; a hint of brief circulation.

Mint State (MS60-MS70)
In MS60 there is no trace of wear, but will have a large amount of contact marks, and often less appealing then a choice AU58. In MS63 the coin will have less contact marks then an MS60, and they will be less distracting. In MS65 the coin is considered a GEM, and may have a slight nick or two on the cheek, but should be mostly smooth; some slight contact marks are acceptable in the fields but shouldn't distract from the eye appeal. In MS70 the coin is perfect with no slight contact marks whatsoever.

DMPL - Deep Mirror Proof Like
Describes business strike coins that have obvious and very prominent cameo appearance, and 6 inches depth in mirror reflections of the fields, on both reverse and obverse (used mostly for Morgan Dollars).

PL - Proof Like
The fields must reflect from at least 2 inches and up to 4 inches (used mostly for Morgan Dollars).

SMS Special Mint Set
Most often used to describe U.S. Coins, issued by the mint, from 1965-1967 (No proofs during the years). It's rare, but some of these SMS coins can be found, in Cameo or Deep Cameo, Proof Like strikes.

SP Special Proof
Are used to designate coins with a satin, matte or similar granular surface finish.

PL Proof Like
Is generally used to describe business strike coins that are not proofs, but is also used to describe proof like coins from Canadian PL sets and other World Coins.

PR Proofs
Proof coins were struck with specially prepared and created proof dies. A DMPL or PL coin is not a proof hence the PL or proof like.

Other Common Designations
FH - Full Head: Used to describe a fully struck head on a Standing Liberty Quarter (all head details visible).

FBL - Full Bell Lines: Used describe fully struck bell lines (complete lines) on a Franklin Half Dollar.

FB - Full Band Lines: Used to describe fully struck torch bands on Mercury and Roosevelt Dimes.

FS - Full Steps: Used to describe fully struck Monticello steps on Jefferson Nickels

FTF - Full Tail Feathers: Not common in use yet, but describes fully struck tail feathers on a Sacagawea's reverse eagle tail feathers.

Copper Coin Surface Color Distinctions:

RD - Red
RB - Red/Brown
BN- Brown
The list below will help you understand each grading term or code better.
Alpha Term
Numeric Term
Alpha - Numeric
Common Usage
Basal
0
B0
N/A
Poor
1
PO1
PO1
Fair
2
FR2
FR2
About Good
3
AG3
AG3
Good
4-6
G4-G6
G4
Very Good
7-10
VG7-10
VG8
Fine
11-19
F11-19
F12
Very Fine
20-39
VF-20-39
VF20-30-35
Extremely Fine
40-39
EF-40-49
EF40-45
Almost Uncirculated
50-59
AU-50-59
AU50-55-58
Mint State
60-70
MS60-70
MS63-64-65
Business Strike Terms



BU
N/A
N/A
Brilliant Uncirculated
Proof Like
58-70
PL58-70
PL65
Deep Mirror Proof Like
60-70
DMPL60-70
DMPL64
Proof Only Terms



Proof Like
60-70
PL60-70
PL65
Proof
45-70
PR45-70
PR67
Cameo
60-70
Cam60-70
Cam65
Special Proof
58-70
SP58-70
SP65
Deep Cameo
60-70
DC60-70
DC66
Ultra Cameo
60-70
UltraCam60-70
UltraCam68
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