Since it is condition that's so important in determining coin values, let's try to understand something about coin grading.
Proofs – A specially made coin distinguished by sharpness of detail and usually with a brilliant mirrorlike surface. Proof refers to the method of manufacture and is not a grade.The term implies perfect condition unless otherwise noted.
- Gem Proof (PF-65) - Surfaces are brilliant, with no noticeable blemishes or flaws. A few, scattered, barely noticeable marks or hairlines.
- Choice Proof (PF-63) - Surfaces are reflective, with only a few blemishes in secondary focal places. No major flaws.
- Proof (PF-60) - Surfaces may have several contact marks, hairlines, or light rubs. Luster may be dull and eye appeal lacking.
Mint State - The terms Mint State (MS) and Uncirculated (Unc.) are interchangeable and refer to coins showing no trace of wear. Such coins may vary slightly due to minor surface imperfections, as described in the following subdivisions:
- Perfect Uncirculated (MS-70) - Perfect new condition, showing no trace of wear. The finest quality possible, with no evidence of scratches, handling, or contact with other coins. Very few regular-issue coins are ever found in this condition.
- Gem Uncirculated (MS-65) - An above-average uncirculated coin that may be brilliant or lightly toned and that has very few contact marks on the surface or rim.
- Choice Uncirculated (MS-63) - A coin with some distracting contact marks or blemishes in prime focal areas. Luster may be impaired.
- Uncirculated (MS-60) - A coin that has no trace of wear, but which may show a number of contact marks, and whose surface may be spotted or lack some luster.
Choice About Uncirculated (AU-55) - Evidence of friction on high points of design. Most of the mint luster remains.
About Uncirculated (AU-50) - Traces of light wear on many of the high points. At least half of the mint luster is still present.
Choice Extremely Fine (EF-45) - Light overall wear on the highest points. All design details are very sharp. Some of the mint luster is evident.
Extremely Fine (EF-40) - Light wear on the design throughout, but all features are sharp and well defined. Traces of luster may show.
Choice Very Fine (VF-30) - Light, even wear on the surface and highest parts of the design. All lettering and major features are sharp.
Very Fine (VF-20) - Moderate wear on high points of the design. All major details are clear.
Fine (F-12) - Moderate to considerable even wear. The entire design is bold with an ON erall pleasing appearance.
Very Good (VG-8) - Well worn with main features clear and bold, although rather flat.
Good (G-4) Heavily worn, with the design visible but faint in areas. Many details are flat.
About Good (AG-3) - Very heavily worn with portions of the lettering, date, and leg¬end worn smooth. The date may be barely readable.
Important: Undamaged coins are worth more than bent, corroded, scratched, holed, nicked, stained or mutilated ones. Flawless Uncirculated coins are generally worth more than values quoted in this book. Slightly worn coins ("sliders") that have been cleaned and conditioned ("whizzed") to simulate Uncirculated luster are worth considerably less than perfect pieces.
Unlike damage inflicted after striking, manufacturing defects do not always lessen values. Examples include colonial coins with planchet flaws or weakly struck designs; early silver and gold coins with weight-adjustment "file marks" (parallel cuts made on the planchet prior to striking) and coins with "lint marks" (surface marks due to the presence of dust or other foreign matter during striking).