Updated 09/19/2006

Grading Tips

Lessons Learned
Brit Tips
Coins for Sale

Coin Grading Tips

Thoroughly check out the coin on both sides - grading is fairly easy when you're looking at a poor/fair coin, a fine coin, a VF or an EF.  You can look at these with the naked eye and pretty much know what you're getting.  Also look for discolorations, spots, hairlines (possible evidence of cleaning) and large scratches.

Is it UNC? - in theory, "uncirculated" means exactly that -the coin has not even been put into a till or in the hands of a bank customer.  In practice, it simply means "no wear."  It is very difficult to tell an UNC from an EF, since either or both such specimens can have lustre.  I recommend a microscope to check for wear.  At a show, use the best magnifying glass you can get your hands on.

Check for wear at the highest points of the coin - wonderful advice, I suppose - if you know where to look!  The first place to look on most coins is the obverse.  Many coins have excellent reverses but are a grade lower on the head.

Some examples of where to look for wear

If you wish for more detail, click on the denomination of the coin desired.  You will find the links in the left margin.  Please note:  some pages are still under construction.

George V head - in the picture below you see a brilliant uncirculated example of a George V halfcrown - or is it?  Closer inspection under a scope revealed that it actually is not.  Look at the mustache, the cheek and the tip of the ear.  All have signs of the slightest rubbing that the scan can not capture.  This is a nice coin, but can not be called UNC.

Seated Britannia reverse - the pennies, halfpennies and farthings of 1895-1936 have a similar seated Britannia such as the one shown below in the uncirculated 1902 (low tide) penny.  The picture is marked at some of the highest points on the coin.  The first place to look is at the fingers of the hand gripping the trident (this is also true for other versions of seated Britannia 1860-1894 and 1937-1967).  The fingers must all be visible and full.  Rubbing will be evident upon close inspection with a magnifying glass, as shown in the "circulated" picture.  Note that the bust may sometimes look worn when other areas look fine.  This is largely caused by "ghosting," which is found extensively on bronze coins of this era.  "Ghosting" is caused by the high relief strike of the obverse, which prevents a well struck reverse from occurring.  You can see the silhouette of the head on the reverse in many cases.

1902 Low tide penny

 Locations of some high points




Jubilee Head of Victoria - it is easy to overgrade a coin from this series.  The design is extremely detailed and ornate.  The areas outlined in the Jubilee sixpence shown below indicate the first areas to look for wear.  The head covering has a lacy border which has very high relief compared to the rest of the obverse.

1892 Sixpence

Look for wear here  

Detail close-up