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We try to grade as carefully as possible but as each person and in each country can have their own special quirks grading cannot be standardised. We therefore consider that "Coin grading is an opinion and not an exact science".
We do not like to use the grade UNC - uncirculated, for coins, as we believe that it is a misnomer as most currency coins had to be obtained from circulation i.e. banks, shops, etc. It is really only the coins taken from sets, etc. that can really be considered as uncirculated.
The grading of bronze and copper coins accurately with lustre can be more difficult than silver coins as the amount of lustre still on the coin can effect the price. With descriptions such as GEF, UNC with lustre, about BU, BU but toning, etc. one can never be sure what the coin may look like.
In 1986 in our book on the "British Bronze Penny" we introduced an idea for grading bronze or copper coins, which had lustre remaining - which would give one a clearer idea of what the coin may look like.
Originally we suggested using EF [+ a percentage] but have reconsidered and now suggest using AU [+ a percentage]. As the computer in search or find mode now only finds coins in (AU) i.e. lustrous coins, rather than all the EF coins as well.
We use the following grades:
AS: [As struck] A grade we tend to only use on perfect PROOF coins or a mind blowing superb coin. (All coins)
pAS: [practically As Struck] A coin that is about as good as you can get (Silver)
AU95: A coin that is about as good as you can get (Copper)
AU90/50: means that the coin has almost full lustre on the obverse but only half the lustre remaining on the reverse. [Many coins have uneven amounts of lustre] (Copper)
AU: [with anything from 5 - 95] suggests the amount of lustre remaining (Copper)
We then use the normal terms (EF) Extremely Fine, (VF) Very Fine & (F) Fine. But many coins are not precisely one grade or another and so we use (+) when we consider that the coin or note is better than that grade. For coins that we consider are below a grade we use (?).
So EF+ could be many people's idea of uncirculated. We only consider that the item is better than just EF, with bag marks, etc.
The other grades we use are EF., EF?., VF+., VF., VF?., F+., F., F?
We feel that these symbols are more internationally recognisable than those of, good, about, nearly, etc.
For rare or lower grade collectable coins below Fine we use:
Fair: The design and the legend are well worn but all the lettering in the legend is fully clear (which by some people are graded as Fine).
Fair?: The design and legend are well worn but now 1 or 2 letters or a part of the design is worn away.
Poor: About half of the letters of the legend are worn away.
C.D: (Clear Date) The date is the generally the only bit that is clear.
Any faults with the coin, such as, edge knocks, scratches, pitting, claggy, etc. are listed separately to the grade.
Pit marks, pitted or pitting: means have small incuse marks or indentations - mainly on bronze or copper where it has suffered a form of corrosion. This can be caused by extensive dampness or from being in the ground.
Claggy: Is the opposite to pit marks meaning that it has bits of congealed dirt or substance on the surface.