Coin Grading Standards

clodeupCoins are graded based on a scale known as The Sheldon Scale of Coin Grading, this is a 70-point scale for grading coins, developed by Dr. William Sheldon in 1949. A slightly modified form of the Sheldon Scale has become the de facto standard for grading U.S. coins today. It is used by the major third party grading services when assigning a grade to a coin. The adjectival grading system was the predecessor to today's 70-point grading scale and the adjectival terms are still used to help clarify the numeric equivalent.
 
Uncirculated coins can range in grade from MS60 to MS70 and proof coins from PR60 to PR70. MS60 would be a coin that although considerably scratched, has never been in circulation. A MS70 coin is one that is absolute perfection with no marks, scratches or other distractions.
 
An "average" uncirculated coin (also called Choice BU) falls in the MS63/MS64 range. Coins above an MS66 are considered rare and worth considerably more than the average coin.
 
Following is the definition of each grade in uncirculated coins. A similar definition applies to proof coins.
P-1 / FR-2 / AG-3 / G-4 / G-6 / VG-8 / F-12 / VF-20 / VF-30 / EF-40 / XF-45 / AU-50 / AU-55 / AU-58 / MS-60 / MS-61 / MS-62 / MS-63 / MS-64 / MS-65 / MS-66 / MS-67 / MS-68 / MS-69 / MS-70
 
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.
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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.
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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 original color.
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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.
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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 of 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.
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MS-65. Shows an attractive high quality of luster and strike for the date and 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 magnification. Noticeable light scuff marks may show 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.
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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 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.
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MS-63. 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 about average, but overall the coin is rather attractive. Copper pieces may be darkened or dull. Color should be designated.
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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 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.
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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 or 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.
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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 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.
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AU-58 (Choice About Uncirculated) - Virtually uncirculated, except for minor wear marks on high points. Nearly all mint luster must be present, and must have outstanding eye appeal.
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AU-55 (Good About Uncirculated) - Sharp legends and devices show only a hint of wear on the high points. Remaining mint luster must be at least half; great eye appeal.
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AU-50 (About Uncirculated) - Sharp legends and devices show only a trace of wear on the highest points. There must be some remaining mint luster.
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XF-45 (Choice Extremely Fine) - Legends and devices are clear and sharp, with slight wear on the high points, and great eye appeal.
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EF-40 (Extremely Fine) - Legends are sharp, devices are clear with slight but obvious wear on the high points.
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VF-30 (Good Very Fine) - Legends are clear, devices show all detail with little wear; high points are lightly worn.
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VF-20 (Very Fine) - Clearly readable but lightly worn legends, devices show good detail, rims are clean, but the whole coin shows moderate wear on the high points and a little wear below.
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F-12 (Fine) - Distinct rim, all legends readable, clear devices showing some detail, but the whole coin is moderately, but evenly worn.
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VG-8 (Very Good) - Full rim with clearly discernable devices and features. Most legends are readable clearly, but the whole coin is still significantly worn.
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G-6 (Good-plus) - Coin has a full rim plus major devices and features are clearly outlined. Heavy wear.
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G-4 (Good) - Major devices and features are evident as outlines. although the coin overall is heavily worn.
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AG-3 (About Good) - Type and date are discernable, although some spots may be worn out. Some lettering should be apparent, if not necessarily readable.
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Fair-2 or FR-2 (Fair) - Type and date are barely discernable, but otherwise the coin is damaged or extremely worn.
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Poor-1 or P-1 (Poor) - The type is barely discernable, but little else, due to the coin being badly damaged or worn smooth.
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