The main grades
UNCIRCULATED (UNC): A coin that shows no wear at all, other than minor mass production scratches, and looks as it did when it left the mint with all its finer details intact and with full lustre present.
EXTREMELY FINE (EF): A coin with much of its mint lustre, sharp detailing and little sign of being circulated; only its high spots suffering from slight wear.
VERY FINE (VF): A coin where all the fine detail is present, but not the 'minute' detail and signs of wear and tear to its higher points make it obvious that it has been in circulation.
FINE (F): A coin which shows considerable wear to all its raised surfaces but only its highest spots are completely worn. Its main design, features, date and lettering are clearly readable.
VERY GOOD (VG): Most of the major details can be clearly read, but it is a coin that's suffered considerable wear over the whole of both surfaces and its high spots are worn through; a coin in this condition is only of value if it is extremely rare.
GOOD (G): Very worn indeed but with an identifiable date and design; again a coin in this condition is only of value if it is extremely rare.
FAIR (F): Whilst the coin's date is visible and the type is recognisable, most of the other detail cannot be picked out.
In addition, the grades above can be modified using the following prefixes:
Almost (A): Slightly below the stated grade.
Nearly (N): Slightly below the stated grade.
Good (G): Slightly above the stated grade.
More and more coins are being graded and authenticated by independent third parties such as London Coins Grading Services (LCGS), Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). These organisations verify that a coin is authentic, identify its type, assess its grade and then encapsulate the coin in a ‘slab’.
This is a useful service as it removes any doubt about the grade of a coin and it ensures that the coin is carefully preserved. The only disadvantages are that the slab is quite bulky and puts some distance between the coin and the collector. The slab itself sometimes gets scratched which can make it difficult to photograph the coin inside.
LCGS is UK-based and grades on a scale of 1 to 100 whereas PCGS and NGC and US-based and grades according to the Sheldon scale of G1 to MS70. They grade using slightly different criteria too and so it is not straightforward to compare grades.
Nevertheless, the following table is a rough approximation of how the systems compare in practice with the traditional English grading terms above.
|90-100||Almost Fleur de Coin - Fleur de Coin||MS67 - MS70|
|80-89||Choice uncirculated||MS64 – MS66|
|70-79||Almost uncirculated - Uncirculated||MS60 - MS63|
|60-69||Good extremely fine - Almost uncirculated||AU58 – MS60|
|50-59||Nearly extremely fine - Extremely fine||AU55 – AU58|
|40-49||Good very fine – Nearly extremely fine||AU50-AU55|
|30-39||Nearly very fine - Very fine||EF40-EF45|
|20-29||Good fine - Nearly very fine||VF25 - VF35|
|10-19||Very good - Fine||F12 - VF20|
|0-9||Fair - Very good||PO1 - VG10|