Grading coins is one skill that every collector must possess. It doesn’t matter whether you want to appraise those U.S. coins you’ve just collected, or you want to buy ancient coins from a dealer, understanding how coins are graded is essential.

More than anything else, the condition of a coin is what determines its value. In turn, coin values are primarily determined by their grades. This suggests that when you’re considering buying a coin, you should know how to accurately grade it, to ensure that the price you’re getting from a dealer is a fair one for the coin grade and issue.

This consideration also applies when you are selling; knowing your coin grade helps you tell if the dealer is offering a fair price for your coin.

Coin grading is the process of determining the condition of a coin, its state of preservation or the amount of wear and tear the coin has undergone.

There are three main areas that are often considered when grading a coin: (1) The quality of coin die and any striking characteristics (2) Condition and characteristics of the coin Amount and type of wear and damage (if any), (3) and the overall eye appeal of the coin.

For most circulated coins, however, the third item above is often the primary focus of coin grading efforts—i.e. how much wear the coin has experienced and the type of damage it has suffered, such as scrapes, dents, and dings.

Meanwhile the most frequently used scale for coin grading in recent times is called the SHELDON SCALE. It comprises of a points-scale which ranges from 1 to 70. In addition, this grading method includes an adjective (often abbreviated) which is appended to each scale for clarity.

Thus, combining both features (numeric figures and descriptive terms), it’s common to see coin grades stated as VF-20, which stands for “Very Fine 20”, or EF-45, meaning “Extremely Fine 45”, also MS-60, for “Mint state 60”.

But to successfully use this, or for that matter, any other scale, you must also understand how the grading scales work. This happens to be the most frequently misunderstood aspect of coin grading. But it need not be. Simply think of ALL your collected coins as belonging to either of three “buckets,” or categories.

The first “bucket” is for coins that have fully circulated (denoted as C). The second bucket is for those coins that are categorized as About Uncirculated (denoted as AU). Then the third bucket is for coins that are absolutely Uncirculated, still in their mint state, and appropriately denoted by the initials MS (meaning Mint State). The MS coins are on a separate scale, which ranges from MS-60 to MS-70, 60 being the bottom grade.

Similarly, the AU coins (About Uncirculated) starts at 50 and runs through 59. Bear in mind though that AU coins might never have actually been used in real commercial transactions. But because they’ve acquired some marks and a few rough edges as a result of repeated runs at coin-counting machines and similar handlings, they are no longer considered as mint state coins.

Therefore, one of the most important tasks before you as you set out to grade your coins is to determine, first, which bucket the coins belong: is it Mint State (MS), About Uncirculated (AU), or the fully circulated (C) category? Your ability to determine that will give you a fair idea about what your coins are truly worth.

Are you into coin collecting? If so then you should take the time to learn the essentials of coin grading. It’s not all that difficult, really. More importantly, it could protect you against fraud.

Buying Gold and Silver Coins right now could be the best decision you ever make during this economic meltdown. There is a huge economic storm that is coming to a breaking point, and people holding on to dollar related assets are going to suffer the loss of financial security.

There is a lot of talk out there about a recovery in the economy. Let me just say one thing for sure. There is NO recovery! Just look around you and see the jobless rate.

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