How Are Coins Graded – The Grading Scale Explained

The Coin Grading Scale -

Think you have a valuable coin? Are you now in the process of determining its actual worth? When trying to determine how much your coin is worth, it’s important to understand coin grades. The value of your coin is completely based on what condition or grade it’s in. Higher grade coins can sometimes mean hundreds of dollars more in value. By now, you’re probably wondering what the heck coin grading is and how are coins graded. In this article, I’ll cover exactly what the coin grading scale is and how coins are graded using it.

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How are Coins Graded - Professionally Graded Mint State 64 Washington Dollar
How are Coins Graded - Professionally Graded Mint State 64 Washington Dollar

What are Coin Grades?

In order to correctly put a value on your coin, you’ll need to know where your coin grades at. In Layman’s terms, you have to find out what condition your coin is in. Standard coin grading associates the condition of your coin to a number on a one through seventy scale. One being the worst possible grade, and seventy being a perfect coin.

How are Coins Graded?

Official coin grading services grade coins based on, but not limited to, luster, contact marks, blemishes and overall wear. Grading services give an official grade for your coin, but it does cost to use these services. If you would like to estimate the grade yourself, the table below will help you to determine an approximate grade for your coin. Please note that on high value coins, purchasing dealers will most likely want to have them officially graded for an exact grade and authenticity.

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Uncirculated, Mint State Penny above and below.
Uncirculated, Mint State Penny above and below.

The Grading Scale:

Mint State/Uncirculated – Mint State (MS 60-70) or Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) coins are the highest quality grades possible. These coins show no trace of wear, but may have varying degrees of slight imperfections from the minting process.

  • · MS-70 : Perfect Grade. The coin in question shows no trace of wear, no contact marks from other coins and perfect Mint luster. It’s important to note that almost no normally minted coins grade a perfect MS-70. Perfect looking specimens from the Mint usually grade MS-68 or MS-69.
  • · MS-65 : Near Perfect Grade. These coins are usually downgraded from higher grades due to the slightest contact marks on the rim or surface. These coins are uncirculated and exhibit perfect mint luster and no evidence of wear.
  • · MS-60 : This is the lowest of the uncirculated grade, but still a desired condition. Coins of this grade may exhibit slightly more contact marks on the surface and rim and may have a luster slightly less than those of the MS-65 grade. Still exhibit no wear.

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Almost Circulated. Notice almost full Mint luster, but the slightest minor wear is evident.
Almost Circulated. Notice almost full Mint luster, but the slightest minor wear is evident.

Almost Uncirculated – Almost uncirculated (AU 50-59) coins refer to the highest grades that a circulated coin can receive. Once coins have been passed through the hands of people, they are no longer Mint State.

  • · AU-55 : May look uncirculated to the eye, but contains evidence of wear on the high points of the design. The majority of the mint luster is still present.
  • · AU-50 : Coins in this grade exhibit light wear on the high points of the design. At least half of the mint luster must remain for a coin to grade AU-50.

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Extremely Fine. Lettering and Design is bold, but there is wear along rim and mint luster has almost completely faded.
Extremely Fine. Lettering and Design is bold, but there is wear along rim and mint luster has almost completely faded.

Extremely Fine – Extremely Fine (EF 40-49) generally refers to coins with little to no remaining Mint luster, but still contain a “crisp” design.

  • · EF-45 : Overall light wear is present on high points of design. Details and lettering are still very sharp and some mint luster may remain.
  • · EF-40 : Overall light wear is present throughout the design, but details and lettering remain sharp. Only slight traces of Mint luster may remain.

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Very Fine. Coin exhibits no mint luster and there is consistent light wear across the coin. Lettering is still very bold and clear.
Very Fine. Coin exhibits no mint luster and there is consistent light wear across the coin. Lettering is still very bold and clear.

Very Fine – Very Fine (VF 20-39) coins usually exhibit no traces of Mint luster and light wear consistently across all aspects of the coin. All major detailing on the coin should be clear and bold.

  • · VF-30 : No Mint luster exists, but details and lettering should still be sharp. Light even wear will exist on all aspects of the surface.
  • · VF-20 : Major detailing should be clear and evident, but the coin will exhibit signs of slight wear on the Lettering and minor details in the design. Overall moderate wear will be evident on the high points.

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Fine Condition. Moderate to heavy wear is evident, but lettering is clear and appealing.
Fine Condition. Moderate to heavy wear is evident, but lettering is clear and appealing.

Fine – Coins graded as Fine (F 10-19) will exhibit varying degrees of moderate to considerable wear throughout the design. Coins should still have great eye appeal as the major detailing should still be clear.

  • · F-12 : Eye appeal exists because the overall features are still bold and clear, although worn. Moderate to heavy wear will exist throughout the coin’s design.

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Good condition. Design has good eye appeal, but is flat and worn completely in areas.
Good condition. Design has good eye appeal, but is flat and worn completely in areas.
Almost Good. The coin is flat in appearance with heavy wear. Date is almost worn off.
Almost Good. The coin is flat in appearance with heavy wear. Date is almost worn off.

Good – Coin graded Good are the worst condition on the grading scale. Just because a coin grades Good doesn’t mean it is worthless. There are still plenty of coins that are highly valued even if they have low grades.

  • · VG-8 : Although the coin may be well worn and “flat” in appearance, the main features should still be clear to the eye.
  • · G-4 : Coins of this grade appear heavily worn and will look flat. The design will be present, but may be faded in some areas.
  • · AG-3 : Coins of this grade are heavily worn and may exhibit portions of lettering or the date being worn completely smooth.

I hope that through this article you’ve gained a better understanding of coin grades and how coins are graded. Even if you don’t get your coins professionally graded, you’ll at least be able to now approximate your coins grade and finally find out how much it’s worth!

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Comments 5 comments

qsera profile image

qsera 5 years ago

A very nice hub :) By grading the coin, the value of the coin increases too! As coin collectors are more confident in purchasing graded coins.


Joe Macho profile image

Joe Macho 5 years ago from Colorado Author

Most definitely! When a coin is graded by a professional service, you'll at least know that the coin in question is authentic. this alone means a lot to purchasers of expensive coins


Trading Lapel Pin profile image

Trading Lapel Pin 4 years ago from Front Row Marketing, Inc. 4142 Ogletown Stanton Road Unit # 555 Newark, DE 19713.

Looking very nice coins, i love coins, i have a huge coins collection.i have different types of coins.i am crazy in coins collection. i love your blog too. really a great effort for coins collection.


Blackspaniel1 profile image

Blackspaniel1 2 years ago

Grade is important, and a good grading service can add credibility to the grade claimed, but check yourself. Coins can change grade in slabs. And coins can be devalued for things like improper cleaning, scratches, and so on, getting a "Details" grade. Nice grading summary.


canddcoins profile image

canddcoins 2 years ago from Raymore, MO

Good Hub. I put an embedded link to your Hub in mine: Advice on Selling your Coin Collection: U.S. Cents

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