grading standards

At NCGS we follow the Sheldon 70 point grading scale. (partly summarized below). We adhere to the newer ANA standards and our 20 years of coin industry expertise.


MS70 - MS60  All coins in these grades are uncirculated. Eleven Mint State (MS) grades exist. An MS70 coin is flawless. Period. The other ten grades, MS60-MS69 have some (however small) area of concern. These concerns particularly in the upper grades of MS67 - MS69 may only be visible through magnified or reflective light. Coins noted as MS65-MS66 may appear near perfect but close eye inspection could reveal a few very gentle marks. Marks such as nicks or lines are generally produced by the coin being bagged or rolled upon leaving the mint. Coins in the MS60-MS64 grade will exhibit somewhat heavier or more numerous marks. A final grade is  determined by the degree of mint luster, strength of strike, amount and location of marks, general eye appeal and overall condition of the coin. Some toning considering the coins age is acceptable.

AU58, AU55, AU50 These are the three commonly recognized grades of those coins that fall just below the Uncirculated grades. About Uncirculated coins will show in varying degree just a few signs of wear. Generally half of the original mint luster is visible. No serious marks or damage.  Overall strike is strong. Imperfections may include gentle bag marks, spots, nicks or scratches. Only light wear to high points. Some otherwise mint state coins may fall into the AU grades due to a significant problem that removes them from MS Uncirculated consideration.

EF45, EF40 (aka as XF45, XF40) Coins deserving of the Extremely Fine grades will show some wear which is limited to the high points of the design. Some mint luster may be visible to the protected areas. Strike is good and clean.

VF30, VF20 Coins found in the Very Fine grades will show light, even wear on most of the high design points. All details remain clear but may appear smooth or flat.

F12 Coins graded Fine show obvious signs of circulation. Major design elements (such as lettering, rim, hair lines, etc.) remain bold and complete. Wear is generally even but with a few design elements noticeably smooth and flat.

VG8  Coins in the Very Good grade shows signs of considerable wear. Up to half of the design elements are smooth, flat, nicked, faded or exhibiting some condition of concern. Dates are fully legible but unless the coin of early origin (e.g. Colonials) or low mintage (key date) it is generally not considered of much interest to collectors.

G4 Coins graded Good have lost the detail to most if not all design elements. Outlines of portrait are there but the details like hairlines are smoothed over. Date and mint mark are legible but may be difficult to identify. Commonly circulated coins of little no real use to collectors unless of early origin or low mintage.

F2 Coins noted as Fair have heavy wear on most if not all areas. Many areas may be difficult to view or completely smoothed. Date and mint mark may be a guess.

P1 Coins noted as Poor are culls.

Own, study, collect & enjoy

Coin collecting in the United States is once again on the rise. There exists numerous resources to help you identify coins as well as judge their value and rarity.  The Handbook of United States Coins (Blue Book) and the Guide Book of United State Coins (Red Book) are excellent sources of detailed information. They include coin images, values, dates, varieties and mintage totals. Both are available through Amazon
Or check your local library.

The Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter also known as the 'BLUE LIST' is a highly followed guide for Certified coins. Published weekly it lists the coin values dealers are reporting. Their website is:

Another great source of information is the United States Mint. Their website: is loaded with information on upcoming issues.