Indian Head Cents Photo Coin Grading

The grading commentary was condensed from "Grading and Pricing Indian Cents"
By Richard Snow
Good (G4)
About Good (AG3)
Very Good (VG8)
Fine (F12)
Very Fine (VF35)
Extremely Fine (EF40)
Extremely Fine (EF45)
Almost Uncirculated (AU50)
Almost Uncirculated (AU55)
Mint State (MS60)
Mint State (MS64)
Mint State (MS65)
Disclaimer: This is just a guide to give you an idea of what your coin might grade. Often coins will grade higher on one side vs. the other. In example, it's possible for a coin to grade G4 on its obverse, but grade VG8 on its reverse. Also, this guide is not a claim that one's coin will obtain any grade listed if submitted to a third party grading service.
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Very Fine (VF20)
Almost Uncirculated (AU58)
Mint State (MS63)
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Good (G):
Minimum: All rims are distinct from the fields.
Maximum: Two letters of LIBERTY are visible.

G-6 may be used to indicate exceptional pieces, say if many feathers show detail but few letters of LIBERTY are readable. The dividing line between G and VG coins is the detail in the LIBERTY.
Very Good (VG):
Three letters of LIBERTY are visible.
One letter of LIBERTY is not visible.

This is a very narrow grade range as it has been defined. The L & RT of LIBERTY are the typical letters that will show, but any combination is acceptable. The letter may not be clearly defined.
Very Fine (VF):
Lower edge of headband clear and distinct.
Lower hair curl connected to ribbon.

A VF coin will have a full headband (or ribbon) by LIBERTY, but the ribbon end with the diamond detail will be connected to the lower hair curl. This is one of the easiest and most clearly-defined of the grading criteria. Please take not and donít allow someone to pass of VF IHC's as XF.
Extremely Fine (XF, EF):
Lower hair curl separate from ribbon.

Some Mint luster might show.
A basic XF coin will have the lower hair curl clearly separated from the ribbon end. Choice XF (XF-45) will have full diamond detail.
Note that much of the grading to this point has been very objective. When moving to AU and higher, it gets very subjective but there still should be good agreement among experienced graders.
About Uncirculated (AU):

AU-50, Typical AU
Minimum: Some wear is present. No less than 25% original mint surface. May have a few large contact marks, or many small marks.

AU-53, Average AU
Maximum: Slight wear, less than 50% mint luster. A moderate amount of contact marks.
Luster is the original mint surface, not original color.
AU-55, Choice AU.
Minimum: Slight wear on the high points. A moderate amount of light contact marks. Better than 50% original surfaces.
Maximum: About 75% original surfaces. Very few contact marks.

A choice AU coin should have a better than average strike, fewer than average marks, and better than average eye appeal. The dividing line is not well defined, so there is much to be interpreted.
AU-58, Gem AU.
Minimum: Slight wear on the high points of the coin. Only a few light marks may be present. About 75% or more original surfaces.
Maximum: A virtual gem, with full luster. Very few or no contact marks. The coin cannot be called mint state because of a very minor abrasion.

An AU-58 coin may appear to be Mint State (MS-63 or higher) but is limited by slight luster breaks on the highest points. To find luster breaks, tilt the coin in the light so that slight differences in the reflection can be seen.

An AU-58 coin is visuallycan be more appealing than a MS60.
Typical Mint State (MS-60 - MS-63):

No trace of wear. Significant contact marks or spotting. Color may not be original.
The reason coins will be downgraded to MS60 may be significant contact marks from other coins prior to being placed in circulation. However, there should be no evidence of wear.

An otherwise MS60 coin with a positive attribute. Color may not be original.

Small contact marks, spots. Color may not be original. MS62 is assigned to coins which just miss qualifying for MS63 by some obvious problem. These may have good eye appeal except for the grade limiting problem.

A few light marks or small spots. Unnatural color, if present, should not be offensive.

Gem Mint State (MS-64 - MS-67):

A choice example with attractive eye appeal. May have some light marks or spots which are not obtrusive.

A gem example with very attractive eye appeal. Marks or spots, if present, will be visible only after close inspection.

A nearly flawless example with a full strike and outstanding eye appeal. No obvious spots. A minor mark, if present, will be visible only after close inspection.

An essentially flawless example with outstanding eye appeal. No spots or marks visible.