How to grade a coin. The basics.

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When grading a coin, it's always best to spend a little time looking at the condition of the coin. Write down on a piece of paper any defining features the coin may have. Then compare them with coins in your collection that are good/poor quality. This will give you a solid foundation to start grading coins successfully. Always pay attention to detail. Note the age of the coin. The colour is also important as it can tell you if the coin was dug up out of the ground. I'm not saying you'll be 100% accurate, however, you'll stand a better chance of getting it right when the time comes to buying or selling that perfect coin. The age of a coin also comes into play when grading. Never buy the first coin you see. Many coins were minted in their millions, so you're bound to find a better grade of coin for the right price.

If you're new to the numismatic world then don't be fooled by dealers who give false grading. This is a tactic used to enhance the value of a coin. If a dealer says the coin is "rare" or "scarce" then always ask for an explanation as to why. More experienced dealers would jump at the chance to share their knowledge with you. This is not an illegal practice, just a ploy to improve their annual turnover. 

Grading a coin is not an exact science. My idea of a VF coin could be totaly different from the person I'm buying from or selling to. I honestly believe it's down to the individual. Thankfully, coins have a universal language when it comes to grading. There are eight different variants of grading quality according to SPINK: 

Proof, FDC, UNC, EF, VF, F, Fair and Poor. The abbreviations are as follows:

  • Proof A coin carefully struck from dies specially prepared to give it a superior finish with mirror like fields and a quality definition.
  • FDC Fleur-de-coin. Flawless, untouched, without scratches, wear, marks or hairlines. Also applied to proofs
  • UNC Uncirculated. A coin not necessarily perfect due to storage and mass production yet still retaining it's new condition when first struck by the mint. It's lustre and brilliance still evident.
  • EF Extremely Fine. A coin with very little signs of circulation, with minimal marks or wear.
  • VF Very Fine. A coin that has had very limited circulation. Shows signs of wear on the raised surface of the design.
  • F Fine. A coin that has considerable wear to either the obverse/reverse sides of the coin, due to circulation.
  • Fair Fair. A coin that shows signs of considerable wear. The date, legends and inscriptions are all still readable with the main features distinguishable.
  • Poor Poor. A coin that has no value to a collector unless it is a rare date or variety. This type of coin is heavily worn showing considerable amounts of damage to both the obverse and reverse sides of the coin. A coin that has been in general circulation for long periods of time.

It's also useful to now how a coin was minted:

From the earliest Greek coins to the middle of the sixteenth century, coins were made by hand. This process is called hammered. Later coins were minted using a machine called a (mill and screw press) hence milled coins. 1816 saw the introduction of steam powered machines. These coins are referred to as later milled coins.



I hope my guide has been helpful and not too long-winded?

I wish you all good luck and prosperity for the future.

All the best, Ste.

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