Author Topic: Grading coins  (Read 31003 times)

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Offline Figleaf

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Grading coins
« on: March 25, 2006, 07:44:37 PM »
You normally don't have to worry about grading coins. Grading becomes important only when you start buying and selling, but if you buy or sell face-to-face, grading is not important either. Buyer and seller don't have to agree on condition. They have to agree on price. It is irrelevant and sometimes counterproductive to argue over condition. Conditions are useful only when you can't see the coin, e.g. if you are buying from a mail bid sale or a fixed price list.

Condition depends on wear. To be a good grader, you have to know where wear first occurs: the highest points of the coin. Often these are the band of a crown (especially the jewels), hairline, eyebrows, feathers of birds, fur of animals. The main grades are:

Uncirculated (UNC) describes a coin as it left the Mint. The metal has its original colour and there is no wear. Sometimes, coins are weakly struck, which looks like wear. This should be described separately. Minted coins are collected and transported in containers. Small scratches (bag marks) therefore appear on the field. This is acceptable for an unc coin.

Extremely fine (EF, in the US XF) wear is noticeable only when looking at the coin from close by. On portraits some wear of facial hair. On most of the coin's surface the original metal colour is still visible.

Very fine (VF) wear is obvious, but the general design of the coin is still clear and detailed. On portraits visible wear on cheekbones, details of hair fairly incomplete on the highest point.

Fine (F) a worn coin, but some detail remains. Portraits are more than silhouettes.

Very Good (VG) no detail remaining. Portraits are slhouettes.

Good (G) silhouettes are incomplete on some points. An ugly coin. Often not collectible.

Fair coin can only be identified with difficulty. Major parts of design gone.

Intermediate grades come in two flavours. Condition may be detailed with a plus or minus sign (e.g. UNC- or VF+; in the US an A is added in stead of a minus: AUNC). Alternatively, a coin may be described as in between grades (VF-EF). The other intermediate grade is when obverse and reverse have a different grade. This is indicated with a slash (VF/EF). As grades are very subjective anyway, the added value of intermediate grade is limited and often doubtful.

Sometimes, minting techniques are confused with grades. They are:

Circulation strike: coins struck with the normal procedures

Brilliant Uncirculated: (BU) as unc, but without bag marks because the coins were collected separately. Today, this is often done for collector's sets

Prooflike: as BU, but struck at lower speed and with more force, giving a very shiny image. Sometimes, the first coins struck with new dies will appear as prooflike.

Proof: as prooflike, but struck with polished die. The result is a matte design on a shiny field.

A proof coin is normally UNC, but if it is mishandled it can be EF proof.

Coins do not advance in condition. They do deteriorate from abuse. Some major forms of abuse are:

- fingerprints. allways hold coins by the edge. Wipe off prints immediately. The acid on your hands (even when just washed) will eat into the metal.
- plastic softener. Found in old plastic coin holders. Coins become "misty" or a green slime develops. Wipe off and stick coin elsewhere
- falling and bumping. Just don't drop coins.
- polishing, especially with silver polish. Destroys natural patina
- cleaning with acid. May be a last resort for coins found with a metal detector, but in general to be avoided.

Figleaf
« Last Edit: December 22, 2011, 11:21:10 AM by Figleaf »
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline bruce61813

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Re: Grading coins
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2007, 07:28:11 PM »
An added note to Figleaf's excellent intro. If you are a detectorist, don't use  an acid to clean copper based coins. the result is a raw, elemental copper that is really bad looking. Us a 'base' or 'alkaline' cleaner, even to get the first layers of dirt and clay off the coin.

Bruce

Offline tonyclayton

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Re: Grading coins
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2009, 03:18:03 PM »

Proof: as prooflike, but struck with polished die. The result is a matte design on a shiny field.

A proof coin is normally UNC, but if it is mishandled it can be EF proof.


While many proof coins have the characteristics mentioned above, this is by no means always the case.

Matte proofs, the primary example being those issued in the UK 1902 proof set, have a uniformly matte appearance, as in this example: http://www.ukcoinpics.co.uk/e7/5p/5p02.jpg

During the 1970's most UK proofs have a shiny appearance over the design as well as the field:
http://www.ukcoinpics.co.uk/qe/2s/2s70p.jpg
and
http://www.ukcoinpics.co.uk/dec/25/25p72p.jpg

Proof coins are struck at least twice with abnormally high pressure using specially prepared dies on polished blanks.  As a result the edges are often noticeably sharp compared with the normal mass-produced circulation coins.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2010, 11:29:18 AM by tonyclayton »

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Grading coins
« Reply #3 on: July 08, 2009, 05:44:24 PM »
I quote from KM (21st century, second edition, page 15):

Proof Sets: This is undoubtedly among the most misused terms in the hobby, not only by collectors and dealers, but also by many of the world mints.

A true proof set must be at least double-struck on specially prepared polished planchets and struck using dies (often themselves polished) of the highest quality.

Modern-day proof quality consists of frosted effigies surrounded by absolute mirror-like fields.

Listings for proof sets in this catalog are for officially issued proof sets so designated by the issuing authority, and may or may not possess what are considered modern proof quality standards.

It is necessary for collectors to acquire the knowledge to allow them to differentiate true proof sets from would-be proof sets and proof-like sets which may be encountered.
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline RVCOINS

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Re: Grading coins
« Reply #4 on: July 08, 2009, 07:15:45 PM »
Hi Peter,

Discussion.

I have some problems with the word Uncirculated (UNC) I know that a lot of catalogs are using this but it doesn't tell you what quality it is. It tels you about the circulation of the coin. I think 'FDC' for modern coins is a much better word, for medieval or ancient coins 'FDC' has ofcourse another meaning.
Coinsellers are often using UNC as a commercial item.

What does the forummembers think?

regards

RVCOINS

 

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Grading coins
« Reply #5 on: July 08, 2009, 08:57:42 PM »
FDC (fleur du coin) is simply the French (and Dutch) equivalent of "uncirculated" in English. There's no difference in meaning between the two.

Modern coin are struck in coin presses (no surprise!). Striking makes the top layer of the planchet momentarily liquid, so metal flows according to the die, making an imprint on the coin. At that split second a coin is technically perfect and completely free of defects (unless a production error occurred). In the next split second, the coin is pushed out of the press and into a container where its predecessors lie. At that point, many coins already have microscopic or larger defects, but they are part of the production process. The coins will go through some more production stages, like washing away residual chemicals, rolling and transportation. Each of these may add more defects. Finally, the coins arrive at a distribution centre where the public can get its hands on them. When they are taken out of the roll, whether in the distribution centre or by a customer who took the roll, they are all by definition uncirculated.

It follows that some unc coins are better than others. This is not different for other grades. I think it is also not a problem. While wear is continuous, grading is in steps. A grade is always an approximation of the wear and defects on a coin.

As noted above, grading is important only in circumstances where you are buying and selling coins unseen. Since we have the internet and electronic photography, grading has to a large extent become a non-problem. The real problem is people fixing up the pictures or offering pictures that are not of the coin they are selling. This is no different from people offering coins with an incorrect description.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

translateltd

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Re: Grading coins
« Reply #6 on: July 08, 2009, 09:32:08 PM »
Patrick Finn in 1970 described "uncirculated" as a fairly recent term of American origin.  I'd love to know some dates to confirm just when our grading terms (all of them, for that matter) were first documented.  Just when *did* people start using expressions such as "Fine", "Very Fine", etc., as part of a sequence with theoretically fixed meanings to describe coins?


Offline Prosit

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Re: Grading coins
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2009, 11:41:19 PM »
Stolen shamelessly from some website:

Historically, an adjectival system was virtually the only one used to grade coins, however, in the late 40's a numerical system was devised by an American, Dr. William Sheldon, using numbers from one to seventy. The circulated grades were assigned numbers from 1 to 59, while the numbers from 60 to 70 were used for the Mintstate grades. The basis of his number selection was the relationship of prices of early American copper coins with their grades. For example, in the late 1940's, the price of a typical Mintstate coin (MS-60) was about five times the price of a typical Fine (F-12) example of the same date and variety.

I first read something like this in the 1960's but make no claim to accuracy.
Dale

translateltd

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Re: Grading coins
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2009, 01:05:48 AM »

Historically, an adjectival system was virtually the only one used to grade coins,


Thanks, Dale - it is getting more details on the quoted bit above that seems very difficult!


Offline UK Decimal +

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Re: Grading coins
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2009, 04:01:28 AM »
Now I'm really going to stir it up, but please remember that I've done this for two reasons.

1) I needed a singe character code to fit on the spreadsheet that I've prepared in such a way that my whole collection can be prnted on one A4 sheet of paper as a quick check list.

2) All the coins that I'm dealing with are no more than about forty years old (UK decimals).

This is a copy of what I've posted in my group and previous entries there are in line with the beginning of this topic.   Comments appreciated!

Quote -

Here is my version. For comparison I've included the generally recognised classifications. I would be glad to hear your views on my system.

A - Absolute - Proof - Mint Proof.
As received from the Royal Mint as a 'Proof' issue.

B - Brilliant - BU - Brilliant Uncirculated
As received from the Royal Mint as a 'Brilliant Uncirculated' issue.

C - Change - UNC/EF - Uncirculated/Extremely Fine
Any coin that appears 'as new' but has been in general circulation, even if only handled a couple of times.

D - Dusty - VF - Very Fine
A coin that has had very little use, but shows general signs of wear on the highest surfaces.

E - Earthy - F - Fine
A coin that has been in circulation and shows general signs of wear, but all legends and date are clearly visible.

F - Forget - Fair - Fair
A coin extensively worn but still quite recognisable and legends readable.

G - Ghastly - Poor - Poor
A coin very worn and only just recognisable.

Bill.
Ilford, Essex, near London, England.

People look for problems and complain.   Engineers find solutions but people still complain.

Offline tonyclayton

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Re: Grading coins
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2009, 08:49:29 AM »
FDC (fleur du coin) is simply the French (and Dutch) equivalent of "uncirculated" in English. There's no difference in meaning between the two.

In UK numismatic circles FDC was a term meaning 'as struck'.

In other words as it left the press, and thus is really only used for proof or pattern coins that undergo special handling and avoid the rough and tumble of mass produced coins intended for circulation.

Thus there is a subtle distinction between that and 'Uncirculated'

Coins taken out of a Royal Mint Uncirculated set could be described as FDC, as opposed to one from a new bag of coin from the bank.

Tony

Offline UK Decimal +

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Re: Grading coins
« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2009, 04:58:47 PM »
I agree with Tony.   To me, as soon as a coin has been handled other than in controlled conditions it must immediately drop to UNC.   Any 5 that I have got from a Post Office are 'C' (as received in change) in my classification.   If in doubt, always go one lower and gain respect rather than self esteem.

I do not intend to open the sealed sets that I have bought from the Royal Mint although I would love to have them sorted in the same way as my 'loose' coins.

Useful aside.   Now that I have a mixture of packaged sets, packaged single coins and loose ones received as change, any quick thoughts on a good way of storing then for semi-display (meaning that I want to admire them occasionally)?   I have most of them sorted in packs for each year with the best ones kept individually protected.

Bill.
Ilford, Essex, near London, England.

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Offline Einstein

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Re: Grading coins
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2012, 11:40:26 AM »
Can anybody will tell me about Grading a coin? Means what & how may types of Grades are there to grade a coin? I know only one & that is UNC. Need Your valuable comments...
Regards-
Shekhar.

Offline Bimat

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Re: Grading coins
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2012, 03:02:00 PM »
Following topic should answer all your questions:

http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php/topic,29.0.html

There's another 70 points' scale (mostly used by US collectors/grading agencies/dealers) but you need not worry about it at this stage. :)

Aditya
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Offline Coinsforever

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Re: Grading coins
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2012, 03:54:39 PM »
but you need not worry about it at this stage. :)


Lol grading which most of  collector bother about !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Cheers ;D
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