The|Coinologist.

Always Buying Coins, Currency, and Cool Stuff.

Coin Grading Basics

with 2 comments

A Post By Robert Fazio, President of Goldline International, an advertising sponsor.

It’s rare (no pun intended) for a coin—gold or otherwise—to be identified without a description of the coin’s condition. That description, however, can be confusing to someone who isn’t familiar with coin grading especially since, like most industries, the coin world often relies upon initials or slang to describe their products.

To help you better understand some of the more common grades and descriptions, I’ve set forth a brief primer below. As you read these descriptions, keep in mind that grading is more art than science. While the prominent coin grading services like Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Coin Guaranty (NGC) work hard to standardize their grading, experts may disagree about a coin’s condition even when applying the same objective standards.

Circulated Coins

When a coin is graded as “circulated,” it means the coin shows wear and tear. Look at the coins in your pocket or purse and you’ll see evidence of this wear from nicks and scratches to worn surfaces as coins rub together or are handled over time. While collectors often prefer coins that are “uncirculated” or in “Mint State” condition, there is an allure to a circulated coin which, at one time, was used as common currency hundreds or thousands of years ago. For example, Goldline has offered Ancient Constantine coins which were struck between 307-337 during the reign of Constantine the Great (280-337 A.D.), the first Christian Roman Emperor. Amazingly, these coins are in About Uncirculated (AU) condition and appear as they did when struck nearly 1,700 years ago.

Uncirculated Coins

A coin that shows no wear is designated an uncirculated coin. This does not mean, however, that the coin may not show signs of age. By their nature, metals react with the environment and, over time, begin to display what is commonly referred to as “tarnish” and what the coin world calls “toning.” Many people new to rare coins often prefer a coin free of toning while experienced collectors value toning for its beauty and evidence of the coin’s history and age. In fact, some unscrupulous dealers have been known to artificially tone coins.

Uncirculated coins generically may be referred to as “Brilliant Uncirculated” or “BU” coins. Goldline offers Swiss 20 Francs gold coins, which were minted between 1883 and 1949, that are Brilliant Uncirculated coins, appearing as they did when minted up to 125 years ago. If graded, BU coins will have a minimum grade of Mint State 60 (or MS-60).

This brings us to the Mint State (“MS”) system of grading which grades coins on a scale of 1-70. Coins in uncirculated condition will be graded between MS-60 and MS-70 with MS-70 representing the perfect coin.

An MS-60 through MS-62 coin, although uncirculated, will show “bag marks” (marks which come from coins striking each other, something that often occurs in bags of coins) and minor scratches. Some or all of the original luster will be present.

An MS-63 or MS-64 grade is sometimes referred to as “Choice Brilliant Uncirculated” or “Choice BU.” MS- 65 coins, or “Gem” or “Superb Gem” coins, usually possess bright luster and very few bag marks. MS-66 though MS-69 coins in nearly any denomination are quite scarce and the values rise significantly from lower graded coins.

The MS-70 coin is flawless. Coins dated pre-1964 in MS-70 are extremely uncommon. Even more modern coins graded a perfect MS-70 are uncommon when compared to the total population of those graded coins.

For more information regarding coin grades, coin collecting and buying gold coins you may reach a Goldline Account Executive or numismatist at 877-376-2646.

This post was originally published in Goldline’s newsletter, American Advisor. ©Goldline International, Inc. All rights reserved.

Written by Robert L. Wilson

August 19, 2011 at 8:00 am

2 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. […] Read more: Coin Grading Basics « The|Coinologist. […]

  2. i have a constantino I 280-337 dc coin. its in really good shape i would say uncirculated… cant really find anything about what its worth. ive seen that they forged fakes in the day. this mite b a fake one they forged thats just what i read online cant really find a whole lot about wat its worth….

    Josh Campbell

    August 19, 2011 at 1:59 pm


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: