Sheldon coin grading scale

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A coin graded MS64 by PCGS

The Sheldon Coin Grading Scale is a 70-point coin grading scale used in the numismatic assessment of a coins quality. It is used by nearly all major coin grading companies, the main two being NGC and PCGS. The scale was invented by William Herbert Sheldon.

Original Sheldon Scale (1949)[edit]

In 1949 the original scale was first presented in "Dr. William H. Sheldon's Early American Cents" titled "A Quantitative Scale for condition" as a way to grade Large cents the scale is known today as the Sheldon scale.[1]

# Grade
1 Basal State-1
2 About Good
3 About Good
4, 5, 6 Good
7, 8, 10 Very Good
12, 15 Fine
20, 30 Very Fine
40 Extremely Fine
50 About Uncirculated
60 Mint State
65 Mint State
70 Mint Station

Adopted scale (1970s–present)[edit]

By 1953 the original Sheldon scale had become outdated. It was not until the 1970s, however, that the ANA chose to adopt the scale for use on all US coins.[2] The scale used today is a modification of the original Sheldon scale, with added adjustments, additions, deletions, and modifications to it.[3][4]

Note: Some early American coin varieties are almost always found to be weakly struck in places. This does not bring the grade of a coin down and is considered normal for early coins.[5]

Circulated grades[edit]

# Grade Grade code(s) Description
1 Poor Never Abbr. Clear enough to Identify, date may be worn smooth with one side of the coin blanked. Coins that are very badly corroded may also fall under this category.
2 Fair Never Abbr. Some detail shows
3 - 3.5 About Good, Almost Good AG Readable lettering although very heavily worn. The date and design may be worn smooth.
4 Good G, G4 Rims of the coin are slightly worn, design is visible, but faint in areas, with many parts of the coin worn flat. Peripheral lettering nearly full.
6 Choice Good G+, G6 Rims of the coin are complete. Peripheral lettering is full.
8 Very Good VG, VG8 Slight detail shows, with two to three letters of the word LIBERTY showing in coins with this feature.
10 Choice Very Good VG+, VG10 Slightly clearer design-features, with five or possibly six letters of the word LIBERTY showing in coins with this feature.
12 Fine F, F12 Some deeply recessed areas show detail. All lettering is sharp. The letters in the word LIBERTY show completely in coins with this feature, but may be weak. Moderate to considerable, but even wear throughout the coin.
15 Choice Fine F+, F15 Slightly more detail in the recessed areas of the coin.
20 Very Fine VF, VF20 Moderate wear on the higher surface features.
25 Very Fine VF25 All lettering and major features are sharp. Light to moderate, but even wear is seen on the surface and high points of the coin.
30 Choice Very Fine Ch.VF, VF+, VF30 All lettering and major features are sharp. light,but even wear is seen on the surface and high points of the coin.
35 Choice Very Fine Ch. VF, VF+, VF35 All lettering and major features are sharp. Light, but even wear is seen on the surface and high points of the coin. Traces of mint luster may show.
40 Extremely Fine/Extra Fine Ex. Fine, EF40 Overall sharpness. Light wear seen at the highest points of the coin. Details of the coin are sharp. Traces of mint luster may show.
45 Choice Extremely Fine Ch. Ex. Fine, EF45 Slight, overall wear is seen at the highest points of the coin (examples being raised features). All the details are full and very sharp. Mint luster may show only in protected areas of the coin's surface (Such as between the star points).
50 About Uncirculated/Almost Uncirculated AU, AU50 Traces of wear at the highest points of the coin. At least half of the original mint luster remains.
55 Choice About Uncirculated Ch. AU, AU55 Three-fourths of the original mint luster remains.
58 Choice About Uncirculated Ch. AU, AU58 Almost all of the original mint luster remains

Uncirculated grades[edit]

An example of a coin graded MS66

Mint State most commonly refers to a coin's condition and is attributed to a coin, minted for regular distribution, but has never experienced general circulation. The coin can therefore be described "as new" or "Uncirculated".[3]

In modern-day United States numismatics, mint state coins are given a number from 60 to 70 inclusive, with 70 being perceived as a perfect coin with no visible blemishes. Coins with a lower grade (60-63), although unworn, may suffer from weak striking, bag marks and other defects that make them less attractive to the collector. Some early coins appear quite worn-looking in mint state, due to striking problems or problems with the coin's planchet and/or metal quality. Other, similar-date, specimens are currently unknown to exist in uncirculated condition.[6][7] The terms Brilliant (Abbr: BU), Choice, and Gem have been used to describe Uncirculated grades. A Brilliant uncirculated coin can describe any coin over the grade of MS60. Choice Uncirculated is used for coins MS-64 and above, while Gem Uncirculated is used for coins graded MS65 and above.[8]

# Grade Grade code Description[4]
60 Mint State 60 MS60 Unattractive, dull or washed-out, mint luster typify this coin. There may be many large detracting contact marks (bag nicks), or damage spots, but absolutely no trace of wear. There could be a heavy concentration of hairlines, or unattractive large areas of scuff-marks. Rim nicks may be present, and eye appeal is very poor. Copper coins may be dark, dull and spotted.
61 Mint State 61 MS61 Mint luster may be diminished or noticeably impaired, and the surface has clusters of small contact marks throughout. Hairlines could be very noticeable. Scuff-marks may show as unattractive patches on large areas or major features. Small rim nicks, striking or planchet defects may show, and the quality may be noticeably poor. Eye appeal is unattractive. Copper pieces will be generally dull, dark and possibly spotted.
62 Mint State 62 MS62 Impaired or dull luster may be evident. Clusters of small marks may be present throughout with a few large marks or bag nicks in prime focal areas. Hairlines may be very noticeable. Large unattractive scuff-marks might be seen on major features. The strike, rim and planchet quality may be noticeably below average. Overall eye-appeal is generally acceptable. Copper coins will show a diminished color and tone.
63 Mint State 63 MS63 Mint luster may be slightly impaired. Numerous small contact marks, and a few scattered, heavy marks may be seen. Small hairlines are visible without magnification. Several detracting scuff marks or defects may be present throughout the design or in the fields. The general quality is average, but overall, the coin is rather attractive. Copper pieces may be darkened or dull.
64 Mint State 64 MS64 Coin has good, overall average luster and even strike for the type. Several small contact marks in groups, as well as one or two moderately heavy marks may be present. One or two small patches of hairlines may show under low, (3-4x) magnification. Noticeable, light, scuff marks or defects may be seen within the design or in the field. Attractive overall quality with a pleasing eye appeal. Copper coins may be slightly dull.
65 Mint State 65 MS65 Coin shows an attractive high quality of luster and strike for the date and originating mint. A few, small, scattered, contact marks, or two larger marks may be present, and one or two small patches of hairlines may show under (5x+) magnification. Noticeable, light, scuff marks may show on the highest points of the design features. Overall quality is above average and eye appeal is very pleasing. Copper coins have full luster with original or darkened color.
66 Mint State 66 MS66 Coin has above average quality of strike and full original mint luster, with no more than two or three minor, but noticeable, contact marks. A few very light hairlines may show under (6x+) magnification, or there may be one or two light, scuff marks showing on frosted surfaces or in the field. The eye appeal must be above average and very pleasing for the date and originating mint. Copper coins display full original or lightly toned color.
67 Mint State 67 MS67 Coin has a sharp strike with full, original luster, May have three or four very small contact marks and a single, more noticeable, but not detracting mark. On comparable coins, one or two small single hairlines may show under (6x+) magnification, or one or two partially hidden scuff marks or flaws may be present. Eye appeal is exceptional. Copper coins have lustrous original color.
68 Mint State 68 MS68 Coin has a sharp strike with full original luster, with no more than four, lightly-scattered, contact marks or flaws. No hairlines or scuff marks show. Copper coins have lustrous original color. Eye appeal is exceptional.
69 Mint State 69 MS69 Coin has a sharp strike with full original luster, with no more than two small non-detracting contact marks or flaws. No hairlines or scuff marks are visible. Eye appeal is exceptional.
70 Mint State 70 MS70 The perfect coin, as minted. Has no trace of wear, handling, scratches or contact with other coins from a (5x) magnification. Coins in this grade are almost non-existent in older coins with very few examples known. Copper coins are bright with full original color and luster. Eye appeal is exceptional.

Proof Coins[edit]

See also: Proof coinage

Like circulated grades, proof coins are graded on the Sheldon scale from 1 to 70. Proof coins graded 60 to 70 are mirrored to those of Uncirculated grades with the difference that the coin was not made for circulation. Proof coins with the grade of Pr63 are sometimes called "Choice Proofs".[9] Proof coins that are below the grade of 60 and show signs of circulation or mishandling have been classified as Impaired Proofs, these are not included alongside circulated coins as they were never intended or issued for circulation in the first place.[10]

# Grade Grade code(s) Description
1 - 59 Impaired Proof N/A Grades for impaired proofs mirror those for circulated grades.
60 Proof Pr, Pr60 Grade mirrors uncirculated grade. (See chart in above section)
63 Proof Pr63 Grade mirrors uncirculated grade.
65 Proof Pr65 Grade mirrors uncirculated grade.
67 Proof Pr67 Grade mirrors uncirculated grade.
70 Proof Pr70 Grade mirrors uncirculated grade.

References[edit]

  1. ^ James F. Ruddy. Photograde: Official Photographic Grading Guide for United States Coins. Retrieved 2013-06-24. 
  2. ^ Richard Giedroyc. The Everything Coin Collecting Book: All You Need to Start Your Collection ... Retrieved 2013-06-24. 
  3. ^ a b "The ANA Coin Grading Scale". www.usmint.gov. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  4. ^ a b "How United States Coins are Graded". www.pcgs.com/. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  5. ^ "Strike". www.coingrading.com. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  6. ^ "Grading Draped Bust Cents". www.ngccoin.com. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  7. ^ Ken Potter, Brian Allen. Strike it rich. Retrieved 2013-06-16. 
  8. ^ "Coin Grading Tutorial". coins.ha.com. Retrieved 2013-12-21. 
  9. ^ "What Are Proof Coins? What Should You Know About Them?". www.coinnews.net. 2007-09-14. Retrieved 2014-03-05. 
  10. ^ "Official ANA Definition of an Impaired Proof". coins.about.com. Retrieved 2013-06-16.