What is Coin Grading?
Coin grading is an approach used to determine the physical condition and value of a coin. The overall coin upgrading process ranges from poor to perfect. A poor coin is one that is almost completely worn out, while a perfect coin is one with no visible wear and tear flaws. Most coins fall between these two categories, and it is the grader’s responsibility to determine the quality of the coin.
Coin upgrading services began in the 1980s with two grading services, PCGS and NGC, making it a reality to grade coins. These two grading companies have upgraded over 70 million coins for the 30 years they have been in existence. An important aspect to know about coin upgrading is that its primary purpose is to determine the coins value. Additionally, ascertaining a coin’s value solely depends on how well the coin was initially mined and how it has been preserved. Therefore, it is vital to consider these factors because they determine the coin upgrading process.
Coins that have been appropriately stored since the day they were minted are known as “uncirculated” or “mint state”. If a coin has been in circulation for a few months and still holds its value or looks brand new, it is called “graded” or “uncirculated.” Uncirculated ones are unique in that they have different grades, which are determined by how carefully each coin was made, how it has been handled, and how it has been stored. For instance, some uncirculated have heavy marks that are mainly caused by constant contact with other coins during the minting and storage phase. On the other hand, other uncirculated have little to no marks. Such currencies have a greater market value compared to those with distinctive marks. The difference between a minor defect and a major one is what determines the coin’s value. On the other hand, the coin’s imperfection, size, and overall appearance are where some people may grade the coin higher or lower.
Why are coins graded?
Coins are usually upgraded based on their condition and rarity. The nicer its condition, the higher it’s worth. In contrast, coin collectors and coin dealers will always want to deal with high-quality coins since they will charge more to anyone willing to buy them. Unfortunately, most coin collectors do not have the prerequisite experience to know how a coin will grade. This may be disadvantageous since some dealers may end up racking massive profits at the expense of uninformed individuals.
Coin upgrading is not done to necessarily appraise them or enhance their value. On the contrary, coin upgrading is done to give the coin a numerical grade. Once this is done, it is the market to determine the coin’s worth.
Even though grading is meant to increase the coin’s value, not all coins are worth grading. When one decides to grade a coin, one should consider the state of the coin and what they are likely to get once the coin grading process has been completed. Therefore, it is always advisable to grade a coin if you believe its value will be enhanced.
Coin Grading Scale
A grading scale is used to grade the coins based on their quality. This scale ranges from poor to perfect, with perfect having the highest score of 70 and poor being 1. Prior to the inception of this grading scale, grading was done with the help of adjectives such as “Good,” “Poor,” “Fair,” and “Excellent.” However, this was challenging because coin collectors had different views and interpretations of what each word meant. This brought about confusion, with most coin sellers preferring to stick by their products rather than have them upgraded.
The 70-point grading scale only came into reality in the 1970s after professional numismatists came together and agreed to assign grades on a 70-point scale. With this in mind, the following is a breakdown of this 70-point scale.
Coins under this grade are barely identifiable and are mostly damaged. Even though they may have identifiable information, most of it is not readable.
Most of these products are smooth, but the damage is present in poorly-graded coins. In addition, they have identifiable information engraved on them.
Good coins are heavily worn out to the extent of missing most features engraved on them. Most of them under this category have their inscriptions merged into the rims.
VG-8: Very Good
Even though coins under this category are worn out, most of the major design elements are visible. Additionally, there are few details on them.
These coins are worn out, but the wear is even. In most instances, the overall elements of the coin stand out and are almost entirely separated from the rim.
VF-20: Very Fine
Coins under this category are moderately worn out, with some of their finer details still being visible. Additionally, all letters that make up the “LIBERTY” word are clearly visible and easily readable. Finally, the rims on both sides of the coin are full and evenly separated from the field.
EF-40: Extremely Fine
An extremely perfect coin is lightly worn out, with all inscriptions being clear and bold. The finer details of such a coin are bold and clear; even though, in some instances, they may show evidence of light wear and tear.
AU-50: About Uncirculated
A coin under this category has slight traces of wear and tear with no significant contact marks. Additionally, they have a full pristine luster and are appealing to the eye.
AU-58: Very Choice About Uncirculated
These coins have the slightest hints of wear and tear marks. However, there are no significant contact marks and are appealing to the eyes of the holder.
MS-60: Mint State Basal
These coins are strictly uncirculated with no evidence of wear and tear on their highest points. However, they have subdued luster, hairlines, and noticeable contact marks.
MS-63: Mint State Acceptable
These coins are uncirculated with no evidence of contact marks and nicks. They have a slightly-impaired glow and are fundamentally appealing. However, their overall strike is weak.
MS-65: Mint State Choice
Coins under this category have never circulated and have a strong minted brightness. Additionally, they have very few contact marks and have an excellent eye appeal. Finally, unlike MS-63, MS-65 coins have an above-average strike.
MS-68: Mint State Premium Quality
These products are uncirculated and have a perfect luster. Additionally, they have no visible contact marks and have an exceptional eye appeal. Apart from this, the overall strike is sharp and highly attractive.
MS-69: Mint State Almost Perfect
Minted state almost perfect currency are currencies that have never being in circulation and have a sharp and attractive strike. They are exceptional to the eye and only have tiny flaws such as contact marks and strikes.
MS-70: Mint State Perfect
A currency under this category is viewed as the perfect currency. While viewed under the microscope, it contains no flaws, and its strike is exceptionally sharp. Additionally, the coin is centered on a planchet and includes a bright and original luster. The eye appeal is unique and rarely seen on ordinary ones.
How to Grade Circulated Coins
Most people who try coin grading for the first time are usually surprised at how grading works. In order to understand the overall concept of coin grading, one has to remember that circulated ones have the most expansive grading scale, which ranges from P-1 to EF-49. Those that are classified under category P are usually poor, and the P is the lowest grade that a coin can be given. Most of these are barely recognizable since most of their attributes have been worn out. The upper hand of the scale is where circulated coins are placed. Most of them are of high quality and have the slightest wear and tear. Such products are put aside from the About Uncirculated category.
The About Uncirculated category starts at 50 and runs all the way to 59. Any coin under this category may not have been in commerce circulation. However, since it has scuff marks and has been through various coin counting machines, it can no longer be viewed as a coin in pristine State.
The MS scale runs from MS-60 to MS-70. This is an entirely mini-scale of 11 unique grades, which begins with the basal state of MS-60 Uncirculated Coins. A coin under this category has a full luster and is highly attractive to the eye.
It helps to have an uncirculated specimen of the branded coin under consideration when grading. This is vital because it makes it easier to compare the coins and understand how a branded coin differs from one that is not upgraded.
The first step to ensure that you have upgraded your coinage perfectly is by having an excellent source of light. Secondly, you will need a magnifying glass to magnify the coins 5 or 8 times. Anything that is below 5 will be too weak for magnifying the coins. On the other hand, anything about 8 will be too high for grading.
Determining the bucket where you want to place your currency is also vital. For instance, you have to decide which bucket you will place Uncirculated ones and which one you will place circulated currency.
Comparing your currency to the 70-point scale ensures that you will grade your coins perfectly. However, an important aspect to bear in mind is that the numbers listed on the scale are not proportional. On the contrary, the loss between coins listed on EF-40 and EF-20 is not similar to that which is lost between MS-60 and EF-40. Therefore, always use the written descriptions to place your currency where you believe they are most suited.
Know Your Coin Upgrading Cost and Price
Coin grading is mainly done by two leading companies, namely NGC and PCGS. Before sending your currency to the aforementioned companies, you must pay to be a member. This is usually achieved by paying an annual subscription fee which starts from $39 to $69. This subscription fee can range depending on the services you are looking for. In addition to the yearly subscription, you are required to pay a fee per coin. The more valuable your coin is, the higher the fee. For example, if you have a common coin worth $150, you will part with about $20. If you have a rare coin worth $50,000, you will part with $125. It is always advisable to have more expensive coins upgraded than common currency. This is because expensive coins will easily find buyers compared to common coins that everyone owns.
When determining the price of grading, you must always factor in the insurance and shipping expenses that you will incur. This is important because it wouldn’t make sense to spend more on shipping only to get a less price for your coin. Most grading companies will ship your currency within a week. However, most of them will have to stay with your currency for a couple of weeks. Therefore, even though grading can be a great decision, it is crucial to consider the amount of money and time spent.
If you would like to get your coins graded, contact American United Precious Metals. We are able to grade circulated coins, can show you the up-to-date coin grading scale, and explain how coin grades began. If you have coins we can help. We’re here with everything you need.