Rare Coin Grading System


In order to determine a coin’s specific value, we must first determine where it lands on the Rare Coin Grading System. The primary purpose of grading a coin is to determine what the coin’s market value is based on how well the coin was originally struck, how well the coin metal itself has been preserved, and how much wear and damage the coin has suffered since it was minted. For most practical purposes, especially for beginners, we’re going to be concerned with how to tell how much wear the coin has had, and where it fits on the 70-point scale.

Numismatists (experts in evaluating Rare Coins) use what is known as the numerical “Sheldon Scale” to assign a specific grade to a coin. This Rare Coin Grading System has been in continual use for over 65 years! Dr. William Sheldon’s coin grading scale consists of a number from 1-70 as well as a few short descriptive words to give it meaningful context. If a coin is assigned aP-1 rating it is described as “Poor” on the scale. An EF-40 grade is in the middle of the scale and is designated as “Extremely Fine” and an MS-60 grade is a coin in mint condition.  

Rare Coins of higher value and rarity often end up being sent to a third party independent Grading Service for authentication and to be graded (assigned a number on the Rare Coin Grading System – The Sheldon Scale).  Institutions such as the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) (Coin people are fond of acronyms!)  will, for a fee, authenticate coins, assign them a grade on the Rare Coin Grading System, then encapsulate them in a sealed hard plastic contain (refer to the 1909-S VDB Cent pictured above in a PCGS holder).  This can assist in the liquidity of a rare coin when a collector goes to sell it.

If you have questions about grading rare coins or having your coins graded, please feel free to contact us for more information!

La Jolla Coin:  jeffrey@lajollacoin.com   858-459-2228

San Diego Coin:  chad@sandiegocoin.com   858-569-5222

4 thoughts on “Rare Coin Grading System”

  1. Dear Jeffrey and or Chad. My name is Victoria Beason and I have silver dollars raging from 1880 to 1923 . I need info about theses coins any help would do. Thank you very much .

  2. Hello Victoria!

    Thank you for your comment! Exact value on your silver dollars will depend on the exact date, mint mark, and condition of each coin.Generally speaking, these coins tend to average value between $18-$25 each. For further details contact me at my email address: jeffrey@lajollacoin.com



  3. I’ve always wanted to start buying ancient coins. The history behind them is so fascinating to me. I really liked your tip about determining a coin’s value. Being able to tell how much wear a coin has seems like a very important skill to have when buying ancient coins.

  4. Thank you for your comment Deanna! Ancient coins and their history are truly fascinating! If you have question, please contact us directly at San Diego Coin or La Jolla Coin!!

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