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A Guide to Coin Grading

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Numismatics, or coin collecting, is one of the most popular collection hobbies in the United States and around the world. It can also be a very expensive hobby. Some of the rarest pieces sell for millions of dollars at auction. The value of a coin is tied to its rarity and the coin’s condition, or grade. It is as much of an art as a science, and a lot hinges on the preferences of the grader. Still, any coin collector should have a basic understanding of how coin grading is done. This helps the collector understand what other collectors and purchasers are looking for when putting a dollar value on a coin.

The Criteria

Coin grading experts will look at a range of criteria when evaluating a coin’s condition. The best coins will show very little wear, and all design elements will be visible. Graders also consider the patina of the coin, the sharpness of the details, and whether the metal is corroded. For older coins, a readable inscription and a lack of planchet defects are signs of a high grade.


While there is some variation between ancient coins and more recently minted pieces, circulated coins are generally graded from good to extra fine, with grades in the middle including very good, fine, and very fine. In some auction catalogs, it’s common for coins to have a description as almost extra fine or almost very fine. This indicates that the coin would rate a higher grade but for some imperfection. The highest grade is for uncirculated or “mint condition” coins that retain the same quality as when they were struck at the mint. The common term used to refer to these coins is “mint state.” Mint state grades range from 60-70, with 70 being a perfect grade.

A Matter of Preference

As one might guess, with so many different criteria and indefinite lines from one grade to another, there is a lot of room for subjectivity. While a higher grade generally makes a coin more valuable, individual collectors may be willing to pay more for a very fine coin than an extra fine specimen if the former has a better patina, such as rainbow toning, or is a more aesthetically attractive coin with original surfaces.

If you’re looking to sell your coins, or just want to know how much a piece might be worth, visit Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers. We offer various coin evaluations and appraisal options. We will even walk you through the factors that we consider in grading your coins. If you aren’t located in the Atlanta area, that’s not a problem. We can make coin purchases by mail. Contact us today at 404-236-9744 to schedule an appointment.

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Tony Davis
Tony Davis is the owner of Atlanta Gold & Coin Buyers, a full service Atlanta based coin and bullion dealer specializing in buying, selling and appraising coins and coin collections of all types and sizes. Tony frequently writes on various economic and numismatic related topics affecting the coin and bullion markets and has been published on some of the industry’s leading websites, including Coin Week, the American Numismatic Association, Coin Collector, Coinflation, and Coin Auctions Help, just to name a few. Visit Atlanta Gold & Coin’s website at atlantagoldandcoin.com to obtain additional information on the products, services and educational resources offered by his company. Tony can be reached at sales@atlantagoldandcoin.com or at 404-236-9744

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