Foreword by Said Diviny:
The grading of coins has always been a bone of contention. Many
different grading systems are used the world over, all to describe what basically
amounts to a lump of metal. But grading IS important both for the beginner and the
experienced numismatist. I give credit to Klaus Ford for championing the system
of grading used by our company. Thanks to his tireless efforts I am now able to
bring you the entire unabridged copy of his grading standard.
[Editor's note: English spellings are used throughout this
This grading standard for Australian pre-decimal coinage is a reflection of the
way in which most Australian auction houses and coin dealers grade the coins which
they offer for sale. However not all are using similar terms or definitions and
in some instances only vague definitions, if any, are available. This standard attempts
to select the most commonly used terms and give them a definition as accurately
The aim of this document is to assist especially new collectors in obtaining
knowledge which will make it possible for them to make an informed judgement as
to the grade, and therefore the value of the coin they may purchase. It should go
a long way towards instilling confidence in one of the most enjoyable hobbies a
person may pursue. - Klaus Ford
Grading of Australian coins has become a somewhat controversial subject in recent
times. Attempts to introduce a Numerical Grading System which originated in the
USA are being made. Klaus' thoughts on this issue were published in the June 1995
Australian Coin Review, and collectors who are new to our wonderful hobby or who
have missed the original article can obtain one by contacting Mr. Ford direct.
We, as professional pumismatists, have much to answer for the frigidity and indecisiveness
with which we have treated the issue of grading coins in the past. Whilst our "unofficial
system" has and is serving us well in the area BELOW Uncirculated, it certainly
is not doing so where it counts most and where real money is involved: the
condition of Uncirculated. The solution as I see it is twofold.
FIRSTLY, an authoritative body, preferably from within the numismatic industry,
must be called upon to consider the issue with the aim of establishing a standard
with detailed definitions. At this moment in time, those bodies might be ANDA (the
Australian Numismatic Dealer's Association), and the Numismatic Association of Australia.
SECONDLY, once a definitive standard has been established, it must be made available
in print, be widely promulgated and promoted, and most importantly it must be accessible
to anyone who wants to show an interest. Professional dealers would be expected
to use and support it. With the authority of the two organisations mentioned above
behind it, acceptance of the standard is virtually guaranteed. A degree of regulation
may be imposed.
Most professional dealers and established collectors have a fair expertise in
assessing the condition of a coin and relating a value to the result, especially
if that coin belongs to a series in which they may specialize. Unfortunately that
expertise is currently fairly difficult to procure, as it will only be obtained
by constant and intensive involvement with the hobby. It is the lack of uniform
descriptive terminology and detailed definitions which is of most concern, particularly
to those collectors and investors who are willing to get involved, but are frustrated
by the lack of uniformity.
With little or no sign of a solution to the issue emanating from any authoritative
body within the numismatic industry it is little wonder that private interests should
attempt to address the problem. However we should be aware that problems can provide
the spawning ground for seemingly meritorious solutions which some time down the
track can leave us with even bigger problems than those with which we began so any
proposed solutions ought be open to thorough examination. If they are presented
in a fait accompli fashion then they can expect criticism and detailed analysis.
In my opinion the unsolicited appearance of a Numerical Grading Standard in this
country has caused considerable confusion with many collectors and investors looking
to assemble a collection or portfolio of coins in high grade. The most contentious
feature of the system is also the most important one, as it involves REAL MONEY.
The Standard suggests a graduation of the condition UNCIRCULATED into ELEVEN DIVISIONS!
This proposal does not examine in detail why such numerous divisions for one
grade is, in the eyes of many numismatists, unworkable. The well known and respected
British numismatist, dealer and catalogue publisher, Richard Lobel simply calls
it "crazy". I will however, offer some thoughts and comments on the issue.
************** In the USA, where the standard has been used, opinions and definitions
of the individual grades have changed since its introduction. In some cases significantly.
************** Whilst the [USA] standard was adopted in the 1970's, some 25 years
later there is still no significant uniformity to be found in definition procedures.
Companies offer opinions on your coins for a fee.
************** A basic criterion of any workable grading standard for coins must
be a high likelihood of reproduction of a similar grade by different experts. In
the States, as numerous tests have shown, the numerical standard, especially at
the upper end where it matters most, has on many occasions failed to achieve that
The condition of a coin will always embody a degree of subjectiveness, even in
the eyes of experts. Coins are simply not obliging critters. They can rarely be
slotted into convenient pigeon holes. Remember the catch twenty-two of grading coins
- the more pigeon holes you provide, the greater the degree of error! When one is
faced with a tenfold difference in price between one grade and another - say MS64
to MS65 - as can be the case in the USA, one had better be certain about the correct
grade one wishes to purchase! If a buyer is confident about the integrity of the
seller and the assigned grade of the coin, there may well be no need to ever acquire
skill in the art of grading. However in a world where it appears acceptable to stand
on a football field and seemingly proclaim without justification that the Earth
is flat, a healthy level of knowledge about any issue one is likely to encounter
is not only desirable but smart. If the tools to acquire such knowledge are not
suplied by the purveyors of the concept then I for one will have no part in it.
So is there ANY good news at all? For those of you who are new to the hobby trying
to understand what the hell we are all on about..................
What has not changed are the coins themselves. They are still exactly the way
they were yesterday! And the vast majority of dealers and collectors still grade
them in the same way today, using familiar terminology. In my opinion, in essence,
this will continue to be so tomorrow. The only "change" (if it can be
called that) which should and is likely to occur isa more definitive and uniform
Grading Standard, especially in the area of UNC. Whilst I hope to see the issues
involved being addressed in the not too distant future by greater authorities than
yours truly or any other private interests, as a numismatist with 20 years experience
in the industry I will present you with my version of what grading coins is all
about, and what it should be about where at present it appears vague. You will see
that much of what you read is the same as in any coin guide, though my definitions
are more detailed as they include many important aspects one should take into account
when grading a coin. I am sure that what I offer here will not be the last word
on the subject, and I am asking you all for comments
and suggestions regarding this guide.
This Standard, and the issue of grading Australian coins will be on the agenda
of the Australian Numismatic Dealers Association in the not too distant future,
where it will no doubt come under scrutiny and criticism, hopefully constructively.
In the meantime it is my opinion and hope that what you will find in the next few
pages will convey, especially to the budding collector, a fair and reasonably comprehensive
picture of what the grading of Australian Pre-decimal coins is and should be about.
This Standard favours the adjectival terms used by most Australian coin dealers
and auction houses when describing the condition of a coin. It attempts to offer
a uniformly acceptable approach to the terminology used for the purpose. In areas
where more than one term is currently being used to describe a similar meaning,
it settles for one. In other areas it uses percentages and parameters as a means
of conveying a picture. On one occasion it offers not a new term but a new way
of expressing an existing term in a condensed manner - (ChU = Choice Uncirculated).
Nothing about this system is revolutionary; most has been, and in various ways is
being, used right now. But therein lies the problem; IT IS NOT USED UNIFORMLY,
and because of this is viewed at first suspiciously, then cynically, and in too
many cases with eventual resignation by new collectors who often just give up and
A definitive and uncomplicated standard which is used by all and is freely available
should go a long way toward promoting interest in the hobby and confidence in those
who may be considering taking it up.
When establishing definitions for the individual grades, all major aspects which
affect the grade and value of the coin were taken into consideration. The aim is
not to produce a scientific analysis or account for every single peculiarity which
may affect individual coins from date to date. Maybe someday we'll see someone undertake
such a daunting task, and good luck to the poor sucker I say! What I've attempted
here is to present a concept which is reasonably easy to follow and which can be
understood without years of study, a tool which sellers can use to offer their wares
using descriptive terminology relating most of the important aspects needed to visualize
a coin. At the same time it allows the purchaser to make a judgement by reference
to the definitions, which in turn, with the help of a reputable coin guide, should
result in a fair assessment of the value of a coin.
What this standard or any standard cannot do is to avoid misuse if misuse is
the intention. However, by defining the terms and making them freely available to
everyone, a purchaser should have a reasonable chance of assessing the value of
a coin and making a judgement based both on the coin itself and the integrity of
the dealer as to whether or not to proceed with the purchase.
What you can expect from this standard is a common sense approach to what is
no easy subject in more ways than one. As time goes by, it is likely that I will
be made aware by colleagues and collectors about aspects which may need to be included
or changes that may need to be made. I doubt, however, that such further changes
will affect the integrity of the principles behind this guide.
Readers are advised to consult Greg McDonald's publication "Collecting
and Investing in Australian Coins and Banknotes" and the relevant section
on grading coins. The many illustrations and comments, when used in conjunction
with this guide, will further assist in coming to grips with what can seem to be
a difficult subject area.
Experienced numismatic dealers and collectors will probably not easily be swayed
to make even the slightest changes to their ingrained habits; nevertheless their
comments will be greatly appreciated.
New collectors to the hobby will however find that by using this Standard they should,
in a relatively short time and within realistic parameters, be able to grade
a coin and estimate a fair value. And that should be important to all of us.
This grading standard advocates FOUR grades of Uncirculated. All terms used to
define those four grades are familiar to Australian collectors, with the exception
of the term ChU in its abbreviated form. It simply means "Choice Uncirculated"
and as such is already widely used. "ChU" can be a very useful abbreviation
in advertising where space may be a consideration.
Opinions as to what constitutes an uncirculated coin vary widely. Most are coloured
by vested interests, depending on whose point of view you are taking, be it the
buyer's or the seller's. Taken in its purest form there should only be one instance
where a coin is uncirculated, and that is at the moment it has been minted. For
all practical purposes, this is NOT a realistic expectation!
Initially then, a consensus must be reached as to which terms and how many should
be used to describe the various impediments an uncirculated coin may display. This
standard offers the following suggestions -
FDC - Fleur de Coin: English "Flower
of the die" - A well established term in numismatics, referring to the best
possible condition. It is widely used internationally.
GEM - Gem Uncirculated: A
familiar and already often used term to describe a nearly but not quite perfect
coin. Gem engenders a high degree of quality.
CHU - Choice Uncirculated: An abbreviation
for choice uncirculated makes a most useful condensation in advertising where space
is a consideration - (Why hasn't anyone thought of this before?). May also be used
in its un-abbreviated form if so desired.
UNC - Uncirculated: An abbreviation
for "Uncirculated - typical".
All of the above terms are being used by Australian dealers and collectors. What
has been missing is an official definition with the basic criteria of four grades
for uncirculated coins in place. What we need next is a reference scale of characteristics
affecting the grade of a coin. This in turn will allow us to consider a definition
that describes the coin more accurately.
1 : Quality of Strike:
weak or strong, diecracks, coarse fields.
2 : Detracting Marks:
a collective term for bag marks, contact marks, abrasions, rim nicks, hairlines,
3 : Lustre: degree
of (for silver coins).
4 : Brilliance:
degree of (for copper coins). This standard takes the view that if present, brilliance
is the most appropriate term to use in relation to the color of a copper coin.
5 : Toning or Patina:
degree of colour relating to 3 and 4.
6 : Eye Appeal:
the aesthetic appeal of a coin. This condition relates to all of the above. It does
also include considerations relating to the placement of characteristics 1 and 2
in focal areas.
7 : Wear: self
explanatory but initially not an issue with the four grades of UNC to FDC.
Not considered are the more serious defects such as graffiti, verdigris, severe
detracting marks and obvious damage as well as unprofessional attempts at cleaning.
Such problems should always be mentioned in addition to the grading of the coin.
Having established a definitive grading scale and characteristics affecting the
grade of a coin, we can now attempt to put into words a definitive grading standard
which does not solely rely on subjective interpretation, or to put it in the vernacular,
"a gut feeling".
Split Grades : On some occasions the condition of the obverse as
related to the reverse of a coin may differ. Therefore, in the interests
of accuracy - and only if necessary - this standard favours dual grades
ie: the obverse of the coin (the side showing the monarch's head) is graded first;
for example CHU/UNC means the obverse is in choice uncirculated condition while
the reverse is in typical uncirculated condition.
Percentages : Most people will be familiar with the mathematics of percentages
or (%) . Where it is reasonable, percentages are used to illustrate a point.
Parameters are suggested where they may be feasible.
Relating Grade to Value : It is suggested that the latest edition of a
current coin guide is used when assessing the Value of a coin. My personal
preference lies with the McDonald publications. McDonald uses the grades UNC and
BU at the upper end of the scale. The following is the same as related to my grading
This standards' grade as opposed to McDonalds'
grade and value
UNC:................................................... UNC - TYPICAL
CHU:................................................... UNC +20% to 40% of given value
The value of the grade FDC is the hardest to assess. Coins in such high
grade are scarce even in common dates, and rare in the pre-1938 years so a value
is usually speculative. Whenever a rare date qualifying for the grade FDC
is offered at auction, it tends to bring record prices. These prices are often well
in excess of the highest graded price listed in any coin catalogue or guide.
In the Circulated range : Coins graded with the adjective "g"
for "good" as in gVF are worth approximately 15% to 30% above
the listed price for the main grade.
On occasions, general numismatic terms may be used with this Standard which may be unfamiliar to new collectors. Please consult the glossaries of your coin catalogue or Guide for the definitions of these terms.
SILVER COINS :
A perfect or virtually perfect coin. A sharp strike with details fully formed.
Slightest hint of one or two detracting marks or die cracks may be
visible under three times plus magnification only. Full mint lustre may be
present. If a coin features attractive toning (Patina) with considerable
eye appeal then this may be described as FDC-AT being FDC - Attractive
toning. Eye appeal is outstanding and "KNOCKS YOU OUT".
COPPER COINS : Toning or lack of brilliance
is less acceptable on copper coins. A copper coin graded FDC must have 95%+
of its original brilliance. Due to the various shades of brilliance possible on
copper coins, adjectives such as "blazing red", "deep orange"
etc. are permissible. All other minor imperfections, as for silver coins, are acceptable.
ADDITIONAL NOTES ON THE GRADE FDC : Whilst there is
little disagreement between numismatists that the term FDC implies the
best quality available, some do argue that this term should be reserved for
proof coins only. However, proof is not a term relating to the condition
of a coin but rather to the method of manufacture. FDC is a term relating
to the condition and this standard takes the view that it can be applied
to either proof coins or to exceptional circulation strike coins. What is important
is the definition of the term FDC, and that clearly relates to condition
rather than method of manufacture.
Another concern may be the acceptance of minute imperfections with the definition of the term FDC. This standard takes the view that NO COIN STRUCK FOR CIRCULATION IS EVER ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! Under strong magnification, even coins deserving the highest of praise will show minute flaws. It is the degree of these flaws with which we need to be concerned. Parameters for this are difficult to establish, but it may help if we were to picture the full range of conditions from the lower end of UNC to the top grade of FDC as per the definitions here. For a coin to grade as FDC it should be in the top 2% of that range. Back
SILVER COINS : A hint of flatness of strike. Just
a few detracting marks may be visible to the naked eye. Insignificant die cracks
may be present. Almost full mint lustre is evident. Toning or patina must be fairly
attractive and if so described as GEM-AT (Gem Uncirculated, Attractive Toning).
Lots of eye appeal is present.
COPPER COINS : Brilliance may range from fully
brilliant (GEM-FB) to fully toned (GEM-FT). GEM-FB describes a
coin which is GEM Fully Brilliant. From this grade on and below, brilliance remaining
may be described in percent. This is optional. Thus: GEM-50%B will describe
a coin retaining 50% of brilliance. Increments of brilliance are: 25%B - 50%B -
75%B - 90%B. Parameters for percentages; see below. A copper coin with only traces
of brilliance (ie. less than 15%) may be described as GEM-TRB or GEM showing
traces of brilliance. A fully toned copper coin is GEM-FT or GEM fully
toned. Adjectives like "Blazing Red","Deep Orange", etc.
may be used. All other criteria as for silver coins.
IMPORTANT NOTE : This Standard takes the view that a coin
which has developed an unattractive patina, (blotchy, or aesthetically unappealing
toning), cannot receive the grades FDC or GEM.
IMPORTANT NOTE, OPTIONAL ADJECTIVES : In the context of this
Standard, the use of the following additional adjectives is optional. They are included
merely because they may be useful in advertising where space is a consideration.
If an advertiser has space available to relate a degree of brilliance or toning
in a more descriptive manner, then he may choose to assign the main grade to a coin,
and then add an appropriate description of brilliance or toning, color or patina
in a more wordy way.
BRILLIANCE on copper coins, and the degree of it remaining,
is a most important issue for collectors who wish to purchase the series in high
grade. A way should then be found to adjectivally draw a picture of the actual status
of that brilliance or the lack of it. This standard will use additional adjectives
to address the issue. These additional adjectives are :
Actual brilliance, if present, should be indicated by a percent
value and adjective after the main grade and limited by parameters. The following
increments are suggested:
Using the main grade, GEM, the following are examples of
the use of additional adjectives and the parameters for their application:
The above additional adjectives do not take into account
the different shades of colour which especially a copper coin may feature. The attractiveness
and desirability of coins displaying such attributes is very much in the eye of
the beholder. The effect which they may have on the value of a coin should not concern
us here, though this may become a negotiating point when it comes to selling or
buying such a coin.
This Standard takes the view that lustre on
silver coins cannot be expressed in percentages with the same definitive qualities
as with brilliance on copper. It is therefore recommended in instances where
lustre is not in keeping with the grade of the coin, expressions such as "Full
Mint Bloom" or "Underlying Lustre" are appropriate. However
in order to facilitate the use of condensed terms for toned silver coins
(colored, patinated), this Standard will settle for two additional adjectives:
AT = Attractive Toning and T = Toned (no
matter to what degree) as in GEM-AT and CHU-T
As with most aspects relating to grading coins, an absolutely
precise judgement is next to impossible to make. There will always be a coin which
is on the borderline between one grade and another, no matter where that borderline
is placed. However within stated parameters, percentage steps for degree of brilliance
on copper should be assessable within an accuracy range of two steps at the worst.
Greater errors are more likely due to optimistic interpretations of the Standard
rather than the Standard itself!
ADDITIONAL COMMENT : From this grade on and below,
definitions for Silver and Copper coins are similar. Brilliance remaining on silver
and toning on copper should be mentioned as earlier discussed if so desired. Back
SILVER COINS :Still fairly well struck but small details
of the design, especially on the high points, may not be fully formed. Lack of such
detail must not be confused with wear. Detracting marks are of a fairly
minor nature but may be seen with the naked eye. Moderate die cracks may
be present, but should be mentioned if significant. Mint Lustre is apparent
but may appear subdued. Toning or Patina may neither enhance nor detract
from the overall eye appeal. It may be mentioned as CHU-AT if aesthetically
appealing or as CHU-T if not particularly attractive. Overall though eye appeal
COPPER COINS :Brilliance may range from fully
brilliant to fully toned and is indicated by the appropriate adjective or percentage.
If all other criteria for CHU as for Silver coins is met, adjectives for brilliance
or toning are the same as previously explained. Back
SILVER and COPPER COINS :As the term would suggest,
a coin which has seen little, if any, circulation in the commercial sense. Wear
is not apparent to the naked eye, though slight rubbing or cabinet friction
may be present under magnification. A coin may feature some flatness of strike,
which may be common for that date and type. UNC allows for a number of relatively
small but nevertheless obvious detracting contact marks visible to the naked
eye. Significant marks must be separately mentioned. Lustre on silver may be subdued,
possibly from well worn dies. Eye appeal is still pleasing.
ADDITIONAL COMMENT : This Standard takes the view
that a coin which is "weakly struck as usual for type" cannot receive
the grades FDC or GEM, even if it would qualify in every other respect for those
grades. The highest grade which can be given to such a coin, assuming its condition
meets all other criteria, is CHU or Choice Uncirculated. Back
For the purpose of conformity we have settled with the adjectives
"a" for "almost" and "g" for
"good" to describe coins which are "not quite" or "a
little better than" the main grade. These grades are referred to as intermediate
[Editor's note: The "a" prefix is often read
as "about" but Mr Ford's "almost" is obviously more apt and
this document has been amended to use that word consistently.]
IMPORTANT NOTE : From this point on, WEAR becomes the predominant
criterion when considering the condition of a coin. The degree of wear allowable
for a particular grade is often quite difficult to define in words. Most coin guides
offer only definitions of the main grade leaving definitions for intermediate grades
at the discretion of your imagination! This standard will attempt to also define
those intermediate grades in a comprehensible manner, one which allows the reader
to visualize the item being described. In addition it will use percentages for wear
to reinforce the picture. It is realized that not everyone is comfortable with the
use of percentages in this manner, yet others have commented favorably. If you are
not at ease with percentages then disregard them for the purpose of definition.
IMPORTANT : Wear in percent relates to the main design area
of a coin, and initially to its highest points. Back
aUNC = almost Uncirculated Similar to UNC but with faint traces of wear to the highest points
of the design. Expressed in percent, this would not amount to any more than 2%.
Care must be taken not to mistake a flat strike with wear. A few more detracting
marks as for UNC may be apparent but none must be of a serious nature. Some lustre
on silver or brilliance on copper may still be apparent. For copper this may be
expressed in percent as discussed for GEM. If there is no brilliance on a copper
coin a simple aUNC will suffice. Eye appeal is virtually the same as for UNC. Back
gEF = good Extra Fine Wear is a little more evident than with the previous grade and can
just be seen with the naked eye. It may extend to all the high points of the design.
Expressed in percent, this would not amount to more than 5%. Detracting marks now
include some light contact marks obviously originating from circulation. Very light
hairline scratches may be visible to the naked eye, usually in the fields. Some
luster or brilliance may still be evident in "protected areas". Overall
a coin with nice eye appeal. Back
EF = Extra Fine Light overall wear on the high points of the design now easily visible
with the naked eye. Expressed in percent, this would not amount to more than 10%.
Care must be taken not to mistake a weakly struck UNC coin for EF. Detracting marks
are just a few more in number than for the previous grade (see comment below). Traces
of lustre may still be present but their importance is now superseded by wear and
ADDITIONAL COMMENT : As one gains experience in the
art of grading by looking at and comparing coins in your friendly local dealer's
and at coin shows, one will get a "feel" for the amount and the severity
of wear and detracting marks which are allowable for any given grade. Establishing
the grade of a coin will never be an accurate science but most dealers who sell
coins for a living and most collectors who have seriously collected coins for a
number of years do have a fair idea of the (albeit unofficial) grade and therefore
the value of their coins. However, with humanity being what it is, the budding collector
(purchaser) too must gain a degree of expertise to eventually be able to make up
his or her mind as to the value of their purchases. It will always come down to
a matter of whether or not buyer and seller can reach agreement on description and
Whilst this grading Standard will attempt to engender a high
degree of accuracy by definition, errors by a small margin, even by experts, are
always possible. Coins are rarely exactly one grade or another. What we are
attempting is to define steps of a continuum, if possible, within parameters.
What a defined grading standard can do within reason, is to limit abuses by ignorance,
vested interests or simple dishonesty. Back
aEF = almost Extra Fine Wear is just a little more noticable than for the main grade EF.
In percentage terms it would amount to no more than 11% to 15% on the high points
of the design. Under magnification, small flat areas may be starting to appear on
these high points. If an aEF coin, from a point of wear, has virtually no detracting
marks, then, in allowing for its increased desirability, it may be elevated one
third of a grade to EF. Alternatively, a greater than average number of detracting
marks can see the coin demoted in grade by one third to gVF. Severe edge nicks and
any other detracting marks should be mentioned as well as the grade. Back
gVF = good Very Fine Wear is now affecting all small details on the high points of the
design. If the details were intricate they may have worn away completely. Expressed
in percent, wear will amount to around 16% to 25% from the high points of the main
design. Detracting marks are in keeping with expectations for wear. Lack or abundance
of moderate detracting marks and degree of eye appeal may either demote or elevate
this coin by one third of a grade. Back
VF = Very Fine The design will now display obvious wear with small detail
missing. However, major detail is still quite prominent. Moderate flat spots may
show. Expressed in percent, werar is in the region of 26 to 35%. Detracting marks
are in keeping with expectations for a coin with up to 35% wear, but they must never
be severe. There may be rim nicks of a quite minor nature, but if significant,
should be mentioned separately. Exceptional eye appeal or lack of detracting marks
may elevate this coin by a third, the opposite may lower it by the same amount.
PLEASE NOTE : No definitions for intermediate grades
(aVF, gFine etc.) are given below the grade VF. When familiar with the main grades,
(Fine, VG, Good, Fair, Poor) the user of this Standard will easily recognise a coin
that is a little better or worse than the main grade. The prefixes "a"
for almost and "g" for good can then be used accordingly.
However, usage of these adjectives for coins below the grade VG is not encouraged.
F = Fine By now a coin exhibits extensive evidence of having been in circulation.
The general design is easy to recognize, but most of the significant parts of the
detail have worn away. In percent, wear is around 35-50% however, if detracting
marks are in keeping with wear, then especially silver coins can have attractive
eye appeal as many do develop a natural color or patina.
WARNING: Cleaning silver coins graded fine or below by removing
their natural patina, (even if it IS dirt!), will invariably result in something
that will look like a flat, dull, unattractive silver disk. Don't do it. Back
VG = Very Good A misleading term but still used everywhere coins are collected.
Wear is now around 51% - 70% and the high areas of the design are well and truly
worn flat. However on pre-1938 silver coins the words "Advance Australia"
below the coat of arms can still just be read, though not always fully or clearly
in the lower denominations (3d, 6d and 1/-). All design outlines are still sharp.
Many coins will have acquired an attractive patina and can still feature pleasant
eye appeal. Back
G = Good Wear is now 71% to 85%. On pre 1938 silver coins, most letters in
"Advance Australia" are worn away, but the legend and outline of the overall
design can still be fully read and seen. Coins retaining their acquired color can
still have reasonable eye appeal. Back
Fr = Fair Wear is now about 86% - 95%, and in some places, the design may be
fully worn away. Coins of this type are rarely collected as they are fairly unattractive.
Except as fillers until a better one comes along, or if they are EXTREMELY
rare, such coins are not recommended for a collection. Back
P = Poor A flat round piece of silver or copper showing only traces of the
design of a coin. May be bent, scratched, even mutilated. No date in the Australian
Pre-Decimal series is scarce enough to warrant this grade to be collected. (Even
1930 Pennies still need the date to be visible to distinguish them from any other
GRADING HINT : It is recommended that when grading,
one should initially establish which main grade to which a coin seems to
belong, ie; UNC-EF-VF etc. Once this has been done, further considerations by reference
to the DEFINITIONS can be made as to if the coin being graded closely identifies
with the actual main grade, or if it qualifies for an intermediate grade and the
additional adjectives "almost" or "good". Back
This Grading Standard has been framed especially with Australian
Pre-Decimal Commonwealth coins in mind. Most of what is presented would also be
applicable when grading other types of coins. It was felt, however, that Australian
Pre-Decimal Commonwealth coins are the predominantly collected area of numismatics
in this country, and therefore in principle, criteria affecting those coins in particular
were taken into account. It should be left to other experts to develop, for instance,
a Standard for Australian Gold Coins, if it were felt that criteria other than those
considered here were relevant.
It must also be said that no matter how accurately a grading
standard can be defined, it will not be fully understood without practical experience.
A visit to your local dealer and a friendly chat (when he's not busy naturally),
will greatly assist you in becoming competent with the subject. Attending coin shows
will offer you the opportunity to inspect hundreds of coins, thereby improving your
skills at grading. Whilst doing so you might put any newly acquired knowledge to
good use in the search for a bargain. The opinions of experienced collectors is
invaluable, as they usually have no vested interest when judging the grade of your
latest acquisition. Consider joining a local coin club, if there is one. Other invaluable
advice you may get from experienced collectors is by word of mouth recommendations
of dealers who do NOT push the "envelope of integrity" outside its accepted
NO GRADING STANDARD IS EVER PERFECT. Minor variations of
interpretation and therefore difference of opinion as to the condition of a coin
are always likely to exist, even between experts. However, what a GRADING STANDARD
should be able to offer, is a degree of accuracy which results in no more than one
grade difference of "opinion" between those who have studied it and are
using it with integrity. And even then, such differences of opinion should be reserved
for those coins whose condition resides somewhere in that grey area between the
definitions for one grade and the next.
It is felt that this GRADING STANDARD meets those goals and
is a most useful tool for the purpose proposed. Back
"Fleur De Coin"||
A perfect, or virtually perfect coin. Fully struck up, no detracting
marks, full lustre or mint bloom, 100% brilliance on copper. Eye appeal KNOCKS YOU OUT!! Rarely are these
coins made available.|
A superior coin. Almost a perfect strike. May show one or two
minute detracting marks only. Virtually full lustre or mint bloom is present. Copper
coins should be expressed in terms of their percentage of lustre (i.e GEM-50%B).
Additional adjectives may be used to describe the coin to its full potential. Will
have exceptional eye appeal.|
A fairly good strike, but some weaknesses are allowed in this
area. If seemingly excessive, but common for the date and type of coin, then this
should be separately mentioned. Very few, if any, detracting marks, better than
average lustre or mint bloom. Copper expressed in percentage. This coin will be
very pleasing to the eye.|
The typical uncirculated Australian coin will still have its
faults. It may suffer from a weak strike or have a few detracting marks, however
if these are serious they should be separately mentioned. Lustre or Mint Bloom may
be present but they also may have been subdued over time due to storage. The slightest
rubbing or cabinet friction is allowable. Eye appeal is pleasing. For copper coinage
mint lustre is expressed in percentage.|
Similar to UNC but with faint traces of wear on the highest
points of the design. It is important not to confuse wear with a flat strike. It
should also be noted that often coins graded as aUNC are more attractive to the
collector than UNC ones with a weaker strike!|
"good Extra Fine"||
A little more wear of about 2% - 5% on the high points of the
design. Usually features non-serious detracting marks, obviously from circulation.
Lustre and brilliance is still possible in protected areas.|
Light overall wear of about 5% - 10% on the high points of the
design. A few more detracting marks as with gEF may be apparent. Traces of lustre
and brilliance in protected areas is still possible but unlikely. Pleasant eye-appeal
to the naked eye.|
"almost Extra Fine"||
Wear is now around 10% - 15% from the highest points of the
design. Lightly scattered detracting marks are obvious. Still overall a pleasant
"good Very Fine"||
Wear is around 15% - 20% from the highest points of the design.
Detracting marks are obvious but not serious, in keeping with the grade.|
Wear is around 20% - 35% of the design. Detracting marks in
keeping with expectations for a circulated coin. As with all grades any significant
detracting marks must be listed separately if unduly obvious.|
Wear is around 35% - 50% from the high points of the design.
Intricate detail is well worn away, but coins can still have a pleasant appearance.|
Wear may be uneven but is still some 50% - 80% of the main design.
However all outlines of the main design are intact.|
Wear is above 80% of the design and in places close to 100%.
A coin still just features the full outline of the design and a discernable date.|
Mr Klaus Ford
P.O. Box 238
Niddrie, VIC 3042
Phone: (03) 9337 8705
Fax: (03) 9331 1383