What is Coin Grading?

Loupe-triplet-30x-0aCoin grading is the process of determining a coin’s value. Grading depends on a few things. First, how well the coin was originally struck. Second, how well the metal has been preserved and last, how much wear and damage the coin has suffered since it was minted. Coin grading can be difficult for beginners. Here are the basics of coin grading:

70-Point Grading Scale

The Sheldon Coin Grading Scale is a 70-point grading scale used to determine a coin’s quality. A slightly modified form of the Sheldon Scale is used today by all the major coin companies, including the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) and Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). The 70-point grading scale ranges from a grade of Poor (P-1) to Perfect Mint State (MS-70). Over time, coins vary in degrees of “wear” from circulation. Therefore, coin grades are based primarily on eye appeal, quality of luster and/or toning.

Circulated Coins

Circulated coins are those that have been used in daily commerce and have some wear from person-to-person handling. Once a coin enters general circulation, it immediately begins to show signs of wear. Luckily, circulated coins are the easiest to find and grade. Circulated coins are graded as follows: good, very good, fine, very fine, extra fine, and about uncirculated.

Uncirculated Coins

Coins that have never been in circulation are referred to as uncirculated coins. These coins may have been stored in their original mint sealed bags or in wrapped rolls. As a result, they display no wear from general circulation. Uncirculated coins have great quality and scarcity, which means they’re high value. Most uncirculated coins range from MS-60 to MS-70. For most, it takes years of experience to become an expert at grading uncirculated coins.

Proof Coins

A proof coin is stuck using a special minting process, which removes any and all imperfections. You will never see proof coins in circulation. They have a mirror-like finish and are inspected to rigid standards. Proof coins are only handled with gloves or tongs before they are specially packed for collectors. For this reasons, proof coins are worth much more than their face value.

Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on


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