AEJ Coin Grading Guide
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If anyone would like further information on your whole collection, or perhaps any piece that you want to know more about, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to consult on that elusive coin. If you are not sure about a certain coin's value or grade, feel free to send a JPG file of the coin in question and we will get a free valuation for you. Do you need to know how much your next coin purchase will be worth? How much you really should spend? Let us help you research your coin's value, provide guides and references to finding certain coins.
Our prime objective here is to provide you with a wide range of information about coins for your investment and collection purposes, catering for beginners and more experienced alike.
In this page you will be able to find information on grading coins and deciding which types will suit your needs, whether they be choice condition investment coins, rare ancients or locating that missing piece of a series. Beginners will find a comprehensive bibliography covering a range of coin interests.
A History of Coins
From the birth of coinage twenty-seven centuries ago, people have always wanted to know the true value of a certain coin, whether it was for a payment of goods and services or to gauge the a coin's value as a store of wealth. The creation of coinage occurred as a response to help standardise trade payments between Greek and Lydian merchants in Ionia, on the coast of Asia minor at around 700 B.C. By striking small pieces of Electrum (a naturally occurring alloy of Gold and Silver, found in alluvial deposits), an 'internationally recognised' medium of exchange was created.
Whatever currency was struck, at whichever mint, since these early days in Ionia, history has been directly influenced by the economic power of even the smallest of states. The money to build the triremes (galleys) which saved the Greeks at Salamis, came from the Attic silver mines coined into the famous Athenian 'Owls'. The Roman empire needed more than two million kilos of silver Denarii a year to pay its far-flung Legions. The American West was opened to all as a result of the Gold rush, which helped build the 'Great Republic'.
At every turn in history, these small often beautifully made tokens of wealth have recorded the great events and turning points in human history.
Coin Grading Introduction
One of the most essential techniques any coin collector should develop is his/her ability to grade a coin confidently. There are two systems for grading coins, firstly, for US coins the 'Sheldon Grading System' is used; developed by Dr. William H. Sheldon. The other method is the International coin grading system, which uses expressions to relay the state of a coin. An outline of both these systems follows below.
Note On Grading Coins
When you see coins listed for sale, you may have seen the following description of its condition, XF-40/ VF-20. This is the way collectors classify coins with different amounts of wear on either side of a coin. That is, on a number of coins it will be found that one side may have a different level of preservation than the other. This is expressed with the abbreviation, for example of XF40/VF-20; which means that a coin has an extremely fine obverse and a very fine reverse.
Grading Coins - Sheldon Grading System
This grading system was developed by Dr. William H. Sheldon, who was a collector of early American cents. He developed this scale of coin condition in which a completely worn, unmutilated, coin was represented by 1; whilst the best possible condition of preservation was expressed by 70.
There were also some financial reasons behind this numerical system, namely that Sheldon found that a coin in condition 50 tended to be worth around fifty times more than the same coin-type in condition 1. He then used the most recognised abbreviations for describing every condition and thus created the Sheldon Grading System.
This system was primarily developed for grading US cents and was then extended to describe all US coinage. Currently, there is an attempt by a number of Australian collectors to introduce this system into Australia. Its one advantage over the traditional International grading system is its ability to accurately express the grade of coins in the higher conditions of preservation, ie, coins in Mint State.
The Sheldon Grading System
In different coin types a further grade for general use exists which includes the quality of impression from that coin's minting. Namely coins struck when a die is new display even finer detail on the highest points, and sharper detail on a crisper looking field of frosted mirror-like surfaces. These are called 'first strike' coins and are in a distinct class of their own. This is why a 'Mercury' Dime of this exceptional grade will be graded as a MS-65 FSB (Fully Split Bands), referring to the clearly visible bindings around the Fasces' rods, which stand out as being clearly separate from each other. Many such 'grade refinements' exist for various types and it is well worth your while to research if this may apply to any of your own coins, as the difference in value may be exponential.
This kind of coin is specially manufactured using polished dies and selected planchets (blanks), to give the desired mirror effect. As they rarely enter circulation, their grading presents collectors with a different set of criteria for comparison between proof coins. Collectors grade them by using the Sheldon System's Mint State scale, from MS-60 through to MS-70.
Grading Ancient & Modern World Coins
This traditional system of grading coins by describing their condition by a series of words, is used all over the world for grading modern World and Ancient coins. Its basic categories are the same as the Sheldon system. Below an outline follows showing each of these categories.
Note on minor grades - In this system there will be found a number of sub-grades which are used regularly. These are "about" ("a") which is used as a prefix to denote a coin not completely of that grade, eg. an about uncirculated is annotated as "aUnc". The other sub-grade is the "good" ("g") sometimes shown as an addition sign ("+") after the grade; this prefix denotes a coin which exceeds the majorgrade it is in but is not quite up to the standard of the next grade up: for example a "good very fine" may be shown in the following ways, "gVF" and "VF+".
International Grading System