The grading of coins is not something you can expect to learn overnight, but with experience, handling more coins and practice you can gain this skill, it is always worth remembering grading is subjective so you will not always see eye to eye with everybody on this skill. It is always worth remembering when starting your collection to buy from reputable dealers affiliated with the UK trade body the BNTA – and also dealers who see grading the same as yourself, look at different dealers gradings and pricing and study the differences between grades, this will help you build up your own experience and expertise in this area.
First we will look at the four main grades used when assessing a coins condition, starting from the lowest collectable grade to the highest, we will note the finer detail you are looking for in each grade as well as photos to support each grade.
Fine condition (F)
This is a coin grading to describe a coin that has been in general circulation and shows signs of wear and considerable use, although the coin will have wear on the raised surfaces, all legends and date have to be clearly visible.
Very Fine Condition (VF)
This is a coin grading to describe a coin that has been in circulation but has very little or limited use, the higher surfaces / points of this coin will be showing signs of slight wear however the coin will have a nice appealing look.
Extremely Fine Condition (EF)
This is a coin grading to describe a high grade coin, the higher surfaces / points on this coin will be sharp in detail and show very faint signs of circulation, these signs can include minor surface marks but should only be seen on closer inspection.
Uncirculated Condition (UNC)
This coin is a high grade coin and has no visible wear, there could be some very minor contact marks with other coins during the minting process.
Secondly we look at grades that fall between two of the more common grading terms. For example AUNC – this is a term for near / almost uncirculated. This coin will be better than Extremely fine but NOT good enough to achieve an uncirculated grade. Sometimes coins can find their grading home between grades and many dealers will use these terms to be fair to collectors, using grades like Good Fine, Good Very Fine or Near Extremely Fine. These grades are designed to help collectors and dealers place coins that fall between grades, a near uncirculated coin should NOT be given an uncirculated price but perhaps a price slightly above the (EF) Extremely Fine price.
The final note on grading would be to reiterate the main point, practice grading by examining different coins, making sure you are happy with the grade and price of a coin before purchasing and enjoy learning how to grade coins, the better you are able to get at this skill will help you identify any potential bargains and also help steer you away from overpriced and over graded coins.