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Coin Grading Explained

The Sheldon Scale

The Sheldon Scale was created by a man named Dr. Sheldon in 1949. It was originally released in a book he wrote called Early American Cents. The scale assigned coins a grade from a poor 1 to a perfect grade 70. The scale quickly popular and was adopted by the American Numismatic Association to assess the numismatic quality of a coin in the 1970s. The original Sheldon Scale was more bare boned and then was modified by the ANA in the 1970s to be more in depth and is now the current coin grading scale.

Conditions of Coins Explained (The Sheldon Scale)

AG 3- About Good

-Some parts of letters and date smooth. Date may be hard to read. Very worn.

G4- Good

-Visible design but sometimes faint. Details can be flat and heavily worn.

VG 8- Very Good

-Main features clear but rather flat.

F 12- Fine

-Potentially moderate to considerable wear. Bold design.

VF 20- Very Fine

-Major features clear. Moderate wear. 

VF 30- Choice Very Fine

-Main features and lettering shown. Light wear on high points and surface.

EF 40- Extremely Fine

-Features are sharp, light wear on whole coin, potentially some luster shown.

EF 45- Choice Extremely Fine

-Sharp designs, some luster, light wear on high points.

AU 50- About Uncirculated

-Has half of luster or more from mint. Light distractions/wear on high points of coin.

AU 55- Choice About Uncirculated

-Most luster is in tact from mint. However, high points of coin friction can be seen.

MS 60- Uncirculated

-May have contact marks, lack luster, or have some spots. No trace of wear.

MS 63- Choice Uncirculated

-May be issues with luster. Some distracting issues in main areas of the coin. 

MS 65- Gem Uncirculated

-A few marks on the rim or surface. Coin is above-average for a uncirculated specimen. 

MS 70- Perfect Uncirculated

-No sign of wear. Best quality possible. Brand new condition.

PF 60- Proof

-There might be some dull luster and eye appeal. A few small imperfections such as hairlines, marks, or rubs.

PF 63- Choice Proof

-No major issues. Reflective finishes visible. Only a few imperfections in main focal areas.

PF 65- Gem Proof

-No blemishes or flaws are noticeable. Very few hairlines or nicks. Brilliant condition.  


*Coins that have been cleaned or damaged can make them worth significantly less than ones that aren't. It is important to look for signs of cleaning or damage if buying a coin that is not certified by PCGS or NGC.

Coin grading is a art, not a science. However, there are four major grading services that have been established over the last 40 years that have made the coin industry a much safer and more transparent place to be involved in. Each coin grading service uses what is widely known as the Sheldon Scale to assign the correct grade to each coin. Although all four grading services are well respected, NGC and PCGS have taken the lead in being the most used and trusted by industry professionals. First we will divulge into the background of each grading service and its history.


The Numismatic Guaranty Company was founded in 1987 in Parsippany, New Jersey. Their current headquarters is in Sarasota, Florida. It’s primary purpose is to grade rare coins of all sorts, such as ancient coins, shipwreck coins, modern rare coins, classic rare coins, and even some rare collectibles. They provide the grading service worldwide, with their biggest presence in the United States. 

NGC certifies their work and offers conditional guarantees for the coins they grade. They first authenticate the piece in question, then grade it, and then lastly place it in a well designed hard plastic protective case that is air tight. This quality work was noticed by many, and because of their hard work they became the official grading service of the ANA, and the PNG! NGC is also known for being one of the few companies to certify ancient rare coins and world coins.


PCGS was found in 1985 by a small group of coin experts who realized that there was a need for authenticating coins and protect collectors from buying over graded or fake coins. The Professional Coin Grading Service wanted to make sure coins were graded properly and give people peace of mind that they were buying authentic coins. After PCGS does its due diligence, coins that are sent in for certification are encapsulated, and then go through a final quality check, which verifies that the integrity of the coin was not compromised.

PCGS has been handling rare coins for 45 years, they provide services around the world and do it with trustworthy quality control. They were founded in California, and have stayed there ever since. Their current headquarters is in Santa Ana, California. 


ANACS, short for American Numismatic Association Certification Service, was the first major third party American coin grading service. It was founded in 1972 and was created in an effort to combat the growing number of counterfeit coins in the 1960’s. It was founded in Washington D.C. and originally was controlled and operated by the ANA (American Numismatic Association). 

In 1976 ANACS moved to Colorado, when the ANA sold it to a private third party. From that point business took off and so did the popularity of coin grading. They began grading more and more coins a month. They began certifying coins and giving out a photo of both sides of the coin to show its grade. This was before anyone thought of encasing them. A fun fact about ANACS is that it was once ran by Kenneth E. Bressett, the editor of the “Red Book”.


Independent Coin Graders was founded in 1998. They are another third party grading service. They offer fast turnarounds on their orders, and low prices, and they pride themselves on reliability and integrity when grading coins. ICG offers certification on regular issue coins, this means that they check for authenticity, grade the coins, and place them in protective holders. ICG is reputable, however one of the smaller coin grading services out there.