A Guide to Coin Grading
For collectors and enthusiasts, coins are tangible representations of history, offering glimpses into the past. However, not all coins are created equally and a crucial part of determining a coin’s value, authenticity, and historical significance is its grade.
Coin grading is a meticulous process that involves assessing a coin’s condition, rarity, and overall quality to help collectors make informed decisions, and in this guide, we’ll help you learn more about coin grading and its significance in the world of numismatics.
If you’re feeling inspired to learn more about coins, make sure you explore our guide to the rarest coins in the world.
What is coin grading?
Coin grading is the process of evaluating a coin’s condition to determine its value and rarity. It takes years of experience to be able to grade coins as you have to learn how coins are made, understand the difference between circulated and uncirculated coins, and handle thousands of different types of coins to really understand the uniqueness of each one.
Coin grades explained
In the UK, the following system is most common to determine the grade of a coin:
- P (Poor) –extremely worn with most of the details missing, barely identifiable and possibly damaged
- FR (Fair)– Worn but not as badly as a Poor coin, with enough detail to be identifiable.
- G (Good)– Heavily worn with most details missing, showing a considerable amount of wear.
- VG (Very good)– Details are visible but the coin shows a lot of wear and is worn.
- F (Fine)– Very worn but a grade where the coin is still very collectable. Details are visible and stand out boldly.
- VF (Very Fine)– Moderately worn but details are visible.
- EF (Extremely Fine)– Little wear on the coin and finer details are clear.
- AU (About Uncirculated)– Small traces of wear, barely any visible to the eye
- Unc (Uncirculated)– A grade that describes a coin which has not seen circulation. Perfectly new, showing no signs of wear.
- Brilliant Unc (Brilliant Uncirculated) – Coins showing as if they have just been minted, shiny and bright in appearance or with little or no toning.
- Choice Unc (Choice Uncirculated)– Choice Uncirculated coins are better than a standard Uncirculated coin with fewer marks and is well struck.
- MS (Mint State) – The highest grading a coin can have, flawless in appearance with full lustre.
- FDC (Fleur de Coin)– A French term used to describe a full mint state coin in perfect condition. FDC translates as, ‘flower of the die’ and means Uncirculated.
- Proof– Not a coin grade but rather a method of striking a coin. A proof coin is struck most carefully with polished dies and a polished flan. This type of coin is an example of a coin to be released, made to check the dies used on the new coin.
How to grade a coin
Once you are familiar with the grade scale, you might like to try grading a coin yourself to see if you can apply your knowledge and determine the value of a rare coin you own.
If you want to give it a try, make sure you follow some simple steps to help:
- Study your coins in good light so you can examine every fine detail. You want to be able to identify any marks and designs with ease.
- Be mindful of how you hold your coin while examining it and it’s helpful to use a magnifying glass to highlight any damages or intricate engravings that are hard to see.
- Roll the coin and move it forward and backwards to see its hairlines and finer details around the coin.
- Use and follow the grading scale to try and determine the grade of your coin. Look at the marks and engravings to see which tier the coin fits into.
- Take your time and enjoy the process of looking at a coin that you find interesting or that holds sentimental value.
Whilst you can grade a coin yourself, you run the risk of over or under-evaluating the coin and might think it’s in better or worse condition than it actually is, so it’s always worth taking it to a professional who has years of experience in coin grading. That way, you can be sure to get the very best evaluation and learn more about the history of your unique coin.
Why should you get a coin graded?
If you are a collector or coin enthusiast, you might consider getting your coins graded to understand more about the collection you hold. You can find out how unique they are, their condition and how much they are worth.
Depending on whether you are interested in building your collection or selling your coins, you might like to know whether graded coins are worth more. The value of a coin depends on a variety of factors, including its condition or if it’s significantly rare, and some collectors will pay more than the face value of a coin if it’s one they are in search of, or particularly keen to own.
Often, the main reason collectors will get their coins graded is to determine their worth so they know how authentic their collection is, especially if they are looking to add or remove certain coins to it. It’s a process that helps them decide whether a coin is worth purchasing, selling or adding to their collection so grading is extremely useful for decision-making when it comes to coin collecting.
So now you know more about coin grading, you can keep your eye out for any unusual and unique coins that come your way, in case you find a rare one amongst your spare change.
Whether you’re a seasoned collector or are just starting out in the world of numismatics, understanding the grading scale will help you appreciate the journey and historical significance of each coin you come across.
If you want to learn more about building your own collection, take a look at our beginner’s guide to coin collecting with tips and advice to help get you started.