A Collectors Guide To Coin Grades: How Does It Work?

Coin collecting can be quite rewarding. Not only are coins artistic, but they also hold historic and financial value. A coin typically has a face value, which is the dollar amount inscribed on the reverse, and the real value, which is what it’s actually worth in the market.

As you might expect, not all similar coins are worth the same. That means two coins minted exactly the same may have different values depending on how well they have been maintained and their patina. So, as a coin collector, you must be able to accurately assess the condition of a coin or coin set you’re considering.

This is where coin grading comes in. Basically, grading is a system of establishing the market value of a coin by looking at how well it was first struck, its preservation, and how it has held up to wear and tear over time.

That said, there are a few grading systems available, but the Sheldon scale is widely accepted as the industry standard in assigning coin grades in America. So, how does it work?

Coins Are Graded on a Scale of 1-70

The Sheldon scale is sometimes called the 70-point scale because it ranks coins from 1 to 70 based on their condition. 1, also called P-1, is the lowest grade and represents a poor or worn state. Basically, this kind of coin is in the worst condition possible, and so its value is extremely low. 70, or MS-70, is the highest score a coin can achieve and is usually given to mint state or uncirculated coins.

Coins Grades Can Be Categorized into Different Classes

A coin doesn’t have to achieve a perfect score to be valuable. That’s why a collector needs to know what the different coin grades mean so that you can interpret grading labels. So, here is a quick breakdown:

  • 60-70: Mint state and has insignificant if any imperfections at all. These coins are quite valuable as very few actually attain this mark.
  • 50-59: The coin is uncirculated, which basically means that the coin is in near-perfect condition but has minimal use.
  • 40-49: Extra-fine condition. Coins with these grades are still regarded as very valuable.
  • 20-39: Very fine. While used, coins in this category are usually very well maintained.
  • 12-19: The coin is fine, which means it is better than good but not too premium.
  • 8-11: This is considered very good.
  • 4: Anything around this is good.
  • 3: About good.
  • 1: The coin is worn.

How to Get Your Coins Graded

If you have some coins and want to determine what their true value is, either to know how much your collection is worth or to sell at the right price, you can get them graded by the Professional Coin Grading Services (PCGS) or the Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC). These two are industry-trusted to give you an unbiased appraisal of the condition and grade of your coins.

Pay Attention to Coin Grades to Become a Better Collector

There are a few things every coin collector must know: types of coins in the market, coin pricing, and, more importantly, coin grading. By knowing what coin grading entails, you can better select coins to add to your collection and, ultimately, build a legacy.