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What’s the score? Your guide to coin grading

  • May 13, 2024
  • Learn
  • 5 minutes read

PO-1, VF, MS-69… You’ve seen these terms in coin guides or online listings, but what does it all mean? When determining a coin’s value, one of the biggest factors is its grade: a “score” that indicates the coin’s state of preservation and, to a lesser extent, the quality of the engraving or strike.

Admittedly, coin grading can feel a bit subjective at times, especially if your piece is assessed at a lower grade than expected due to something minor. It’s not unusual for dealers and collectors to have different interpretations, and that makes grading one of the more contentious aspects of coin collecting. But without it, coin values would be a lot more arbitrary; a coin that looks “good for its age” might not look good, period, and that’s the reason a grading standard exists: to provide an objective assessment of a coin’s state of preservation.

A trained eye and years of experience are required for accurate grading, and that’s why many numismatists submit their most important coins to third-party services for certified grading and authentication.

You can also approximate a coin’s grade yourself; it just takes careful research and study, plus a clear understanding of the criteria that can determine whether a coin is worth a few dollars or a few hundred or thousand dollars.

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Image courtesy Royal Canadian Numismatic Association

PO-1, VF, MS-69… You’ve seen these terms in coin guides or online listings, but what does it all mean? When determining a coin’s value, one of the biggest factors is its grade: a “score” that indicates the coin’s state of preservation and, to a lesser extent, the quality of the engraving or strike.

Admittedly, coin grading can feel a bit subjective at times, especially if your piece is assessed at a lower grade than expected due to something minor. It’s not unusual for dealers and collectors to have different interpretations, and that makes grading one of the more contentious aspects of coin collecting. But without it, coin values would be a lot more arbitrary; a coin that looks “good for its age” might not look good, period, and that’s the reason a grading standard exists: to provide an objective assessment of a coin’s state of preservation.

A trained eye and years of experience are required for accurate grading, and that’s why many numismatists submit their most important coins to third-party services for certified grading and authentication.

You can also approximate a coin’s grade yourself; it just takes careful research and study, plus a clear understanding of the criteria that can determine whether a coin is worth a few dollars or a few hundred or thousand dollars.

good 6, Very good 8, Very good 10 good 6, Very good 8, Very good 10
Understanding the sheldon coin grading scale.
extra fine 40, about uncirculated 50, mint state 64 extra fine 40, about uncirculated 50, mint state 64