Why do we love collecting coins? For some it's the finding the unrecorded variety , for others it's the history and for some it's the fascination. For me it's a bit of all that and more. I've been a collector now for nearly 30 Years (started when I was seven - Carol singing for some extra pocket money - and like the modern day vending machines I ended up with a few weird and foreign coins.............and my collecting life was born!
Most of us want the best grade possible (and we all know how subjective grading can be!!!). One persons VF may be another persons AVF or even a GVF (Some Ebay Sellers have there own grading system ie FINE they would call Practically as Struck - BLAH!) and it's been the argument of the numismatist since the first pebbles were traded. There are then the American grading systems - all sounds good - but from my expirience I would say not - I've had too many questionable grades and mis attributed labels ie PROOF when it clearly isn't (wrong die pairings and ghosting help give most of them away). But to Slab a coin you lose a face that you should see - ok it's not as pretty as the Obverse or Reverse but the edge is still critical to the coin - it may have an inscription, be plain, milled, engrailed....... There is no way around the fact but grading comes with expirience - The more coins you handle in various states the more you note how much more was worn than the last. Then there is the Die wear - it's obvious that the first coin out of the press is going to be far more superior than the 30,000,000th - both are unc until circulated but coin number 1 is going to be much sharper , coin 30,000,000 will have a loss of the finer detail - a good comparison for this - if you're a new collector - buy yourself a UK 1953 9 coin Unc set in the plastic sleeve (you'll pick them up on Ebay for under a tenner) - I have many of these and although the coins have never been circulated (if you're lucky they all have full luster) the finer detail just isn't there - Look at Elizabeth's finer hair detail brushed away from the face, the ear and the mouth (they appear as almost smudged/blurred on some coins) - purchase a single PROOF COIN from the 1953 Proof Set (less than a tenner) see the difference - OK a proof is pressed with extra pressure and polished dies but the first coins from new dies can often be proof like and superior. If I split a 1953 Plastic set and the coins were not full luster and put nice pictures on Ebay " Nice Uncirculated 1953 Penny" most people would think I was having a laugh - but uncirculated it is because the sets were sealed in 1953 (penny collectors would also know the 1953 penny was only struck for the plastic and proof sets - though many were circulated - Times were hard then!) Anyway if you're new to collecting keep it cheap and gain a bit of expirience with the different rulers/denominations and quirks.
There is no set guide for grading but as a guideline heres one that may help.
Fleur-De-Coin (FDC) - Excetional blemish free Uncirculated (no bag marks, wear, die wear ) usually applied to Proof Struck coins but can be apllied to exceptional uncirculated regular strikes or Specimen struck coins (ie that first few out of the press - not the 30,000,000th) ONE GREY AREA HERE - A MISS IS AS GOOD AS A MILE "CAN YOU CALL A COIN AFDC (about fleur-de-coin) ?" MY OPINION IS "THERE IS NO SUCH THING" it's Perfect or it's not.
"PROOF": (Proof is not a grade but the method of strike) so a coin can be PROOF BRILLIANT UNCRICULATED or FLEUR-DE-COIN (FDC) (only Brilliant Uncirculated or FDC is the grade there) or it could be a PROOF VERY FINE (Impaired because of wear/circulation - again only VERY FINE (VF)is the grade there) which can often be worth less than half that of Proof FDC - but it depends on rarity too - but one thing for sure a Proof Struck coin is always a proof no matter what the grade. A good instance of circulated proof coins are the 1927 Proof Wreath crowns - all were struck proof and 99% would have been PROOF FDC - because of the depression many sets were broken up and the coins circulated - you'll pick up a circulated 1927 Wreath Crown from anywhere between £50 and £150 Fine(F) to Extremly Fine (EF) - Expect to pay £200+ now for a Proof FDC. Another thing to note the Royal Mint also struck Proofs of each denomination in each year - Known as "Proof of Record" sometimes only five or six of each coin (can also be known as VIP Proofs) as they were also struck for special sets for foreign dignitries / Royalty or Ambassadors etc. ***Interesting fact here - Did you know that only 7 1933 Pennies were struck and the only reason they were struck was for year sets to be used as time capsules in the foundations of significant buildings - one is still in a foundation somewhere in London ( So all you Londoners, in the dead of night when you here someone chipping away - don't worry it's only me!
BRILLIANT UNCIRCULATED (BU): Full Luster, no bagmarks and no wear and somewhat proof like in appearance. Some latter day BU's can be confused with Proof Struck so be careful! and some early ones too - good instance of confusing PROOF struck and BUSINESS struck coins are the 1887 Jubilee Head Shillings and Florins - some of the first struck coins are very difficult to tell apart from Proofs - so check the edge milling too - the Proof will feel very sharp and the milling magnified will have no shamphers on each end (staright across the width of coin ie |_| the business strikes milling will be like \-/ - can't get the shape right there but you know what I mean! I hope!
UNCIRCLATED (UNC) No signs of being circulated (no wear at all) May have bagmarks (Bagging) or slight scuffs - (The mint just lob these bags around - no reported fatalities as yet!) - Note Grey area here - Cabinet friction on coins that are uncirculated collected from day one - for example 1700 Shilling put away in 1700 by the modern day collector of the time - the different collectors openining the cabinet drawers hundreds of times - the coin will have very minute traces of wear to highest points - but it's still uncirculated.
EXTREMELY FINE (EF) To the naked eye can appear to be uncirculated - you get that magnifier on it - and very faint signs of wear to the highest points (a little bit too much to be cabinet friction). Some light bagmarks and very light rim marks acceptable.
VERY FINE (VF) More wear evident, the finer detail of the higher points is beginning to flatten - Look at the Ear, Hair, Eyebrow and sometimes cheek (depending on Monarch) if you collect crowns on the reverse look at Georges BAND across his chest, the top of the horses ears, and George's hair below the helmet. Strict graders as a rule if they pick up a coin and see any wear at all with the naked eye - it's not UNC it's not even EF it's VF (or worse).
FINE (F) Heavier flattening of high points - still possible to make out things like thicker strands of hair and most of the broader detail of coin - all the fine detail has gone.
VERY GOOD (VG) Very Worn - Outline detail visible and all legends still readable.
GOOD (G) Exceedingly worn - The coin may have some smoothe and flat areas , not all the legend/date readable, most of the design has gone though you should sill be able to tell the type/monarch and partially read legends.
WASHER (CRAP) Totally smoothe - Drill a hole - useful as a washer .
I'll add more as I go along - if this is useful to one person that is good enough for me. Thanks for reading.