The condition of a coin, in relation to the amount of wear it has received in circulation, is paramount to it's value to a coin collector or dealer. A common coin in uncirculated condition is often worth more than a scarce or rare coin in poor conition.
Whilst coin grading is not an exact science, the following descriptions, which we have used for the past thirty years or more, should help as an accurate guide when buying coins unseen and to what you should expect to receive.
POOR (P) = Most or all lettering and design not visable/very worn. Usually only rare coins have value to collectors and dealers in this condition.
NEAR FINE (NF) or ALMOST FINE (AF) = Part of lettering or principal design not clear.
FINE (F) = Date, all lettering and principal design clear and sharp.
VERY FINE (VF) = Wear on only the highest points of a coin and of pleasing appearance.
EXTREMELY FINE (EF) = Very slight wear only on the highest points of a coin.
UNCIRCULATED (UNC) = Never been in circulation. Sometimes listed with varying degrees of lustre when describing copper or bronze coins (a copper or bronze coin with some lustre is worth more than the same coin with no lustre).
BRILLIANT UNCIRCULATED (BU) = Mint state, full mint lustre, never been in circulation.
FDC (FDC) = A French term meaning perfect specimen. Usually only used to describe proof coins which are specially made to give a perfect mirror like finish.
Many reputable dealers also use intermediate grades as follows:
GOOD FINE (GF) = Better than Fine but not quite VF.
GOOD VERY FINE (GVF) = Better than VF but not quite EF.
GOOD EXTREMELY FINE (GEF) = Better than EF but not quite UNC or BU.
Points to Note
When two grades are given to describe a coin, e.g. GVF/EF, this means that the obverse is GVF and the reverse is EF.
The above descriptions of grading relate to single coins. When a set of coins is described they may all be stated to be in the same condition, e.g. all in Fine condition or all in UNC condition. Sets described as, for example, in Fine or better condition, means the lowest grade coin in the set is in Fine condition whilst the others in the same set are in better than Fine condition.
Always be aware of cleaned or polished coins as, unless extremely rare, they will have little value to dealers or collectors (see our guide on cleaning coins: Click Here).