Coin grading

If you are still a little new to the world of numismatics, if you have found coins, for example, inherited them, or you have come across the wonderful world of collecting coins by any other route, we would like to give you a few tips about handling coins in general and specifically explain so-called coin grading to you.

The quality of a coin is specified by means of a coin grade. The better/higher the grade, the higher the collection value of the coin.

The grade is determined primarily with the naked eye by an expert. This is based on many years of experience and takes account, among other things, of the general condition of the coin, any damage, and wear as a result of circulation and handling of the coin.

Some damage may be normal for a specific grade, such as discoloration, so-called “patina”; other defects, such as holes in a coin because it was on a chain (technical term: “mount marks”), for example, faults on the edge of the coin or even to the coin blank (technical term: “flan”) are mentioned specifically, in addition to the grade.

Narrower gradations may be indicated by suffixes. The mathematical signs “+” for slightly better and “-” for slightly poorer than the grade specified have become established in this context.

We would like to take this opportunity to advise against any form of cleaning or even polishing of a coin in an attempt to increase its value by improving its appearance. Superficially, the shine created may support this expectation, but on closer inspection an expert will see under a magnifying glass that there are clear traces of the treatment (usually fine scratches), which have an extremely negative impact on the grade.

The expert gains a purely subjective general impression of the coin by looking at it and assigns a grade to it, giving the coin-collecting world a subjective guide to its value to collectors.

A comparison is then possible with other examples of the coin in question in the relevant literature and an aspiring collector thus has the opportunity to compare, add to or value his collection. It may be that the coin is available in a better/higher grade and the collector can then turn to the professionals to obtain it.

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there is not always a consensus about the grade assigned. This is one of the great attractions of the hobby of numismatics and of trading in coins.

Once you have experienced for yourself how passionate the argument about a “+” or a “-” can be, coin collection will become an obsession for you, too.

It should also be mentioned here that in the USA, for example, there are private companies that will determine the grade of a coin in return for a fee. The PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) and NGC (Numismatic Guarantee Corporation) are just two of the best known companies of this sort at the moment.

But once again, the purely subjective allocation of a grade is not always the final word on the matter in the professional sphere, as ultimately even this assessment is carried out by a person. It is therefore always advisable to consider carefully whether the cost of valuing a coin in this way is justifiable.

Here are the grades in German, English and French:

DEAbk. DE.
Polierte PlattePP
StempelglanzSt. stgl.
UnzirkuliertF. Stg.
Vorzüglich-StempelglanzVz-St
VorzüglichVz. vzgl.
Vorzüglich aus polierter PlatteVz aus pp
Sehr schönSs
SchönS
Sehr gutSge
Gering erhaltenGe
ENAbk. EN
ProofPF
Brillant uncirculatedBU
UncirculatedUNC
Almost uncirculatedAU
Extremely fine XF, EF
Impaired proofIMP. PF
Very fineVF
FineF
Very goodVG
PoorPO
FRAbk. FR
Flan bruniFB
Fleur de coinFDC
Non CirculeNC
Presque non circulePNC
SuperbeSUP
Tres Tres beauTTB
Tres beauTB
BeauB
X
X

It should also be pointed out here that Proof (PR) is not, strictly speaking, a grading in the proper sense but rather a term that designates a production process. In Europe, coins that are given the gradings “Very good / Poor” are hardly considered worth collecting, if at all.

We hope that we have explained a few of the basic principles of numismatics here and that we have perhaps sparked your curiosity a little. If you have any questions in this connection, we would be very happy to answer them in confidence.

We are also happy to provide you with advice and practical assistance in all matters relating to numismatics!