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Coin Grade and Condition

Collectors of modern coins know very well that this is of the outmost
importance in determining the value of a coin. While still an issue
forancient coins, an equally important factor that comes into play here
is its condition. This could reflect the way it was made (condition of
manufacture), what happened to it while in circulation, or underground
(condition of preservation).


Modern coins are made by machines, are all perfectly round and
centered, and all that is talked about is the amount of wear, which is
the grade. However, every single ancient coin was made by hand, by
placing a coin blank between two dies and hitting it with a hammer.

Therefore, many coins are not round, show cracks in the flan (the
piece of metal from which the coin has been made), have chips missing,
are poorly centered or may had been clipped at the edges to test if it
is solid silver for example. Furthermore, being buried underground for
almost two thousand year, it could have undergone corrosion, developed a
thick or rough patina, or be whacked by a shovel on its way out of the

Awesome! All these factors make them look really ’ancient’ and more
fun to collect (recall Figure 3 for some imperfections). Please, give
the coin a break, its been underground for so long it deserves a chance…

Given a coin with the same amount of wear (same grade), most
collectors will pay more for the one that has less ’defects’, and hence
is in better ’condition’. But other collector may not mind at all that
the flan has a small crack and that you can’t read a few of letters,
especially since the price for such a less-than-perfect coin will be

To make another point, one coin might look like it has less wear and
more details than another, but it could actually be in a lower grade.
The reason is that the weaker coin was struck with dies that were worn
down, but overall has less wear than the nicer looking coin. If you’re
specialized enough to collect by such die details, then you might pay
more for the weakly struck coin.

Determining the condition and grade of ancient
coins is tricky, and it may be often reduced to simply ’Nice’.

Ancient Coin Grades

Grade Abbreviation Grade Sheldon Scale Equivalent
PR Poor 1
FA Fair 2
AG About Good 3
G Good 4-6
VG Very Good 8-10
F Fine 12
Ch F Choice Fine 15
VF Very Fine 20-25
Ch VF Choice Very Fine 30-35
XF Extremely Fine 40
Ch XF Choice Extremely Fine 45
AU About Uncirculated 50-53
Ch AU Choice About Uncirculated 55-58
MS Mint State 60-62
Ch MS Choice Mint State 63-64
Gem MS Gem Mint State 65-70

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