I don’t think it’s possible to over emphasis the importance of being able to assess a coin’s grade and despite what some people would have you believe, it’s not all that difficult to do. We have all made mistakes though – I admit to a couple of costly errors of judgement (oops!, oh well..).
Anyway, the key to grading is to be consistent so you know what you’re getting into when you are looking to add a coin to your collection. There are plenty of online sources that go into grading in detail (just google “coin grading”). I’m not going to add to stuff that’s already been done better than me by others but a couple of resources I’ve found useful for determining and understanding coin grades are:
- Renniks Australian Coin & Banknote Values, pretty much a ‘must have’ book – it contains a section that compares the Australian Adjectival System (VG, Unc, etc) with the Sheldon scale – it calls it the PCGS scale – which uses both letters and numbers (EF40, MS64, etc)
- PCGS Photograde – lots of lovely pictures of graded Morgan Dollars and other coins
It’s critical to be clear about which grading system is being used because you can easily get confused.
For example, the listings in the Krause books (World Coin Catalogs, bigger than a bible!) use the Sheldon scale but they abbreviate it. A coin in Krause that has a dollar value for VF is actually talking about an ‘F’ or ‘Fine’ under the Australian system. Krause VF is really ‘VF20’.
A trap for collectors is when a coin is called “almost uncirculated”. In Australia that is ‘aUnc’. The Sheldon scale also has a category called “almost uncirculated”, it includes AU50 which is only a ‘VF+’ under the Australian system – that’s a big difference.
You will see some sellers trying to pull this misrepresentation on you, so be careful.
For the record I always try to give both the Australian and Sheldon grades when describing a coin, for example ‘1956 Florin in EF, Sheldon scale: AU58’, that way it’s all clear and above board.
You can quickly see what various grades of Australian coins actually look like by checking out the coin grading section of this website!