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A Beginners Guide To Coin Collecting: How Coins are Graded

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Grading helps to determine the value and authenticity of a coin. The official grading scale for coins is called the Sheldon Scale or the American Numismatic Association (ANA) Grading System. It defines 17 individual grade points, ranging from poor (1) to perfect uncirculated (70).

Professional certified coin graders use the ANA Grading System to determine the grade of a coin. Higher coin grades often sell for higher prices and are more desirable to collectors. Here are 7 details that numismatists should examine when grading coins.

1. Mint Luster

The coin collection has a lot to do with mint luster. The amount of shine or gloss on a coin’s surface indicates how the coin was struck. Coins with higher luster will generally get a better grade than coins with lower luster.

2. Number

Coin grades are assigned on a numerical value. Coins graded 1-10 are considered poor, 11-20 are fair, 21-30 are about good, 31-40 are good, 41-50 are very good, 51-60 are fine, and 61-70 are uncirculated. When numismatists grade a coin using numbers, they look at its general wear, marks, scratches, and other flaws.

3. Placement and Depth of Bag Marks

Coins should have no marks or hazing (milky discolorations) on them, as this can affect the coin’s grade. If there are any marks, they should be small and shallow. Bag marks are small indentations on the coin from where it has made contact with other coins. The placement and depth of these bag marks can affect the coin’s grade.

4. Strike Strength

The coin’s strike refers to the sharpness and clarity of the coin’s design. Poorly struck coins with a weak design will be given lower grades. For example, numismatists would give a weakly struck coin from the center to the edges a lower quality. While on the other hand, a coin that is sharply struck with all details visible such as the coin’s date and mintmark, would be given a higher grade.

5. Surface Preservation and Condition

The coin’s surface must be free from damage, scratches, nicks, and other imperfections. The coin should also have no signs of wear, such as archives (irregular lines), contact marks, or die polishing.

6. Eye Appeal

Most coin collectors rely on the coin’s eye appeal when determining its grade. Eye appeal is how pleasing or attractive a coin looks and is often used when deciding between two coins of the same grade.

The coin’s overall condition and beauty are considered between coins of the same grade. For example, a coin with red and brown toning may appear more attractive than another coin with no toning but the same grade.

7. Mint State

The coin’s mint state refers to coins that have not been circulated and are in the same condition as when they left the mint. A coin’s mint state is assessed by looking at its original surfaces, luster, and strike strength.

Get Your Coin Graded

Grading coins is a skill that takes practice, patience, and knowledge. By understanding coin grades, coin collectors can determine a coin’s value and whether a coin is authentic or not. To ensure you’re getting the most accurate coin grade, you should have your coins certified by a professional coin grader.

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