Coin Grading and Certification

In order to secure the best value for a coin whether on a sale or purchase, one should consider coin grading. This procedure is usually employed to determine the coin’s grade or condition before the sale or purchase transaction. The coin’s grade together with the coin’s demand and scarcity is one of the major factors for determining the coin’s value to any coin collector or trader.

The coin grading process involves many factors which include authenticity, condition and sharpness.

When coins were first graded, one only considered two grades: Mint and circulated. But more grading systems have surfaced over the years as the process is refined.


A coin is graded to indicate the coin’s condition or appearance. The five main grading components used on a coin is its strike, luster, surface preservation, eye appeal and coloration.

The coin grading industry went ahead to fine tune the grading system with a letter system. The Basal State is known as poor or PO; continuing Fair is FR; Almost or About Good is AG; Good is indicated by G; Very Good condition is VG; Fine condition is F; Very Fine condition is indicated by VF; Extra Fine is EF or XF; About or Almost Uncirculated is indicated by AU; Uncirculated coins is UNC and Brilliant Uncirculated is BU.

Sheldon grading

A more precise coin grading was developed during the 19th and 20th centuries when the coin collection market grew. Dr. William H. Sheldon standardized the process of coin grading with his Sheldon Scale in 1948.

The Sheldon Scale formalizes the coin grading process with a numeric system ranging from 1 to 70. The Sheldon Scale took off to grade the 1794 Large Cent but now applies to all types of coins. A scale of 1 implies a very low grade while a scale of 70 implies perfection.

Uncirculated grades took on Mint State which is indicated by MS which starts off with a scale at MS60 and keep rising until MS70 for enhanced quality. An untrained eye would not be able to differentiate between a MS 65 and MS 68 coin. A one-point difference in any coin grade could cost the buyer or seller a difference of thousands of dollars on a coin value.

Now there are two nationally recognized coin graders who are independent third parties to assist coin buyers and sellers without the herd of diverse opinions on coin grading. Professional Coin Grading Service and the Numismatic Guarantee Corporation operate using the Sheldon Scale in grading coins.