Denver’s coin grading experts is Rocky Mountain Coin
What You Need to Know about Coin Grading in Denver
Before you attempt to sell your home or jewelry, you know it’s important to get an appraisal. The confidence you gain from knowing their value allows you to get a fair price. Coins are no different.
We recommend you know as much as possible about your rare coin. Graders will not only examine your coin, but they’ll also tag it and encapsulate it. Encapsulated coins are worth more and eliminate the danger of trading inferior coins or being victimized by misrepresentation.
You can get an exact valuation of your coins with coin grading in Denver today, but it wasn’t always that way.
The History of Coin Grading
The grade of a coin, in numismatics, is a code that describes the physical condition of the coin. When coin collecting was still young, grading was far simpler. Early grading systems had three levels:
The design on these coins was still visible, but they were worn by mass circulation.
The details on these coins withstood the test of time better than “good” coins and still had some mint luster.
These coins were new condition with clearly defined details and a fresh off the mint appearance.
Three designations were enough to get by in those days when coin trading was among an elite few. As it became more popular, it was clear that a better grading system was needed. Discerning collectors noticed that some Fine coins were better than other Fine coins and that not all Uncirculated coins had the same luster and detail.
They added Very Good, Very Fine, Extra Fine, Almost Uncirculated and Gem Uncirculated to the system for more accurate evaluation standards. It didn’t take long for these to become outdated.
Today’s Grading System
By 1948, grading became much more comprehensive and efficient. Dr. William Sheldon standardized a system which has undergone very little change in the time since. The Sheldon Scale adopted the Good, Fine, Uncirculated designations and added a numerical scale from 1–70. “1” represented a coin worn almost into oblivion, and “70”, perfection.
Sheldon intended his system to apply to his favorite large coins, but others began using it and it adapted to become a worldwide standard.
- MS-60 to MS-70–Uncirculated or Mint State.
- AU-58–Very Choice About Uncirculated.
- AU-55–Choice About Uncirculated.
- AU-50–About Uncirculated.
- EF-45–Choice Extremely Fine. In discussion, most numismatists call this grade “XF.”
- EF-40–Extremely Fine.
- VF-30–Choice Very Fine.
- VF-20–Very Fine.
- VG-8–Very Good.
- AG-3–About Good.
- **There is also a separate descriptive prefix, “PR”, reserved for Proof coinage. Numeric descriptors for the these coins remain the same.
Each number in the Mint State scale (uncirculated coins only) has its own specific definition. This list comes from the Fifth Edition of the Official ANA Grading Standard for United States Coins published by the American Numismatic Association:
- MS-70–The perfect coin. Has very attractive sharp strike and original luster of the highest quality for the date and mint. No contact marks are visible under magnification. There are absolutely no hairlines, scuff marks or defects. Attractive and outstanding eye appeal. Copper coins must be bright with full original color and luster.
- MS-69–Must have very attractive sharp strike and full original luster for the date and mint, with no more than two small non-detracting contact marks or flaws. No hairlines or scuff marks can be seen. Has exceptional eye appeal. Copper coins must be bright with full original color and luster.
- MS-68–Attractive sharp strike and full original luster for the date and mint, with no more than four light scattered contact marks or flaws. No hairlines or scuff marks show. Exceptional eye appeal. Copper coins must have lustrous original color.
- MS-67–Has full original luster and sharp strike for date and mint. May have three or four very small contact marks and one more noticeable but not detracting mark. On comparable coins, one or two small single hairlines may show under magnification, or one or two partially hidden scuff marks or flaws may be present. Eye appeal is exceptional. Copper coins have lustrous original color.
- MS-66–Must have 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 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 mint. Copper coins display full original or lightly toned color as designated.
- MS-65–Shows an attractive high quality of luster and strike for the date and mint. A few small scattered contact marks may be present, and one or two small patches of hairlines may show under magnification. Noticeable light scuff marks on the high points of the design. Overall quality is above average and overall eye appeal is very pleasing. Copper coins have full luster with original or darkened color as designated.
- MS-64–Has at least average luster and 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 magnification. Noticeable light scuff marks or defects might be seen within the design or in the field. Attractive overall quality with a pleasing eye appeal. Copper coins may be slightly dull. Color should be designated.
- MS-63–Mint luster may be slightly impaired. Numerous small contact marks, and a few scattered heavy marks or defects 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 about average, but overall the coin is rather attractive. Copper pieces may be darkened or dull. Color should be designated.
- MS-62–An impaired or dull luster may be evident. Clusters of small marks may be present throughout with a few large marks or nicks or dings 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.
- MS-61–Mint luster may be diminished or noticeably impaired, and the surface has clusters of large and small contact marks throughout. Hairlines could be very noticeable. Scuff marks may show as unattractive patches on large areas ore major features. Small rim nicks, striking or planchet defects may show, and the quality may be noticeably poor. Eye appeal is somewhat unattractive. Copper pieces will be generally dull, dark and possibly spotted.
- MS-60–Unattractive, dull or washed out mint luster may mark this coin. There may be many large detracting contact marks, or damage spots, but absolutely no trace of wear. There could be 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.
Standard Setting for Coin Grading
Though the Sheldon Scale was leaps and bounds better than the earliest system, there was still room for error and disagreement. The uneducated eye missed seeing what the educated eye did and traders waged pricing wars on the basis of opinion. Without proper training and experience it was difficult to distinguish the difference between MS64 and MS65, which might mean hundreds or thousands of dollars.
A professional works with the precision of years of practice and training. When one tiny flaw changes the value of a coin by thousands of dollars, a professional assessment is a necessary element of coin trading.
If coin trading was limited only to rare coin dealers, there would be less need for standardizing the grading system. A wide array of people collect and trade coins with little training. It’s a popular addition to an investment portfolio today.
Though these collectors don’t know much about the grading system, they realize the value professional graders offer in helping them avoid missing out on the superior value of one coin over another. An MS64 has far higher value than an MS65 even though an investor can’t see a difference between them.
Sadly, untrained collectors can be victimized by dealers who pass off an inferior MS64 coin as an MS65. In the absence of a professionally certified standard, and it happens far too often. That’s why the industry finally turned to recognized grading services that untrained collectors can trust.
Professional graders receive training through seminars with The American Numismatic Association from beginner to advanced levels. If you are interested in learning the art of grading, start with ANA’s book Official ANA Grading Standards for United States Coins or attend their annual summer conference.
By the 1980s two professional grading services became recognized as the standard setters in the industry:
- Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS)
- Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC)
Each of these services carefully examine rare coins, identify their serial numbers, and determine their grades. They also tag the coin with this info and encapsulate it. Encapsulation protects the coin and actually makes it more valuable because it guarantees the coin has undergone grading by one of the accepted professionals in the industry.
All coin grading in Denver and other locations involves sonic sealing of the capsule and tamper-evident precautions. Encapsulated coins, called “holdered” or “slabbed” coins, constitute the majority of valuable rare coins traded on the market today.
Holdered coins have a guarantee by the grading services, the grade and value of the coin and result in honest trading and fair market values in exchanges. Certified coins eliminate your risk and possible misrepresentation from dealers.
Make the most of your rare coin exchanges. Secure the investment in your collection with professional coin grading in Denver.