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Grading Jefferson Nickels

Coins have been collected as a hobby for centuries.  Ceaser Augustus was known to give foreign coins to friends as saturnalia gifts.  Numismatics was known as the “Hobby of the Kings” during the middle ages because of the interest in coins many European monarchs had.  Today, the hobby is a well defined industry, with standards for coin grading and mounting to ensure that flawless mint state coins get the distinction they rightfully command.

The sorting and grading of coins in the professional world is a competitive commercial enterprise.  There are several grading agencies, all of whom will take any coins submitted by clients and assign a specific alphanumeric designation of the coins overall appearance. Having coins graded professionally, also known as ‘slabbing’, will give coins higher premiums over the same quality ungraded coins, but the service is expensive and not always worth the cost for low value coins.  Not all grading services rate coins the same.  The most well know are PCGS, Professional Coin Grading Service, and NGC, Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.  Take note of the prices commanded by pieces in very high condition, MS-65 or higher for the same coin, as there may be significant differences in price for coins the same grade graded by different grading services.

Very few collectors can afford the expense of sending every coin they have to a professional service to determine the value of their collection, so every collector should know the basic Sheldon scale of coin grading.  The collectible condition of coins vary from perfect uncirculated, the best example of a minted coin, to about good, an example with little more that just the date visible on the coin. All coins rate on a scale of 0-70, with 70 being the best.  Additionally, letter designations are added to describe the overall appearance of coins.

The grading of coins from best quality to worst for Jefferson Nickels are:

MS-70  Perfect Uncirculated, a flawless coin representative of the best coins stuck for circulation made by the Mint.  Coins have full brilliance and luster.

MS-65  Choice Uncirculated, a coin with slight blemishes and trace nicks, scratches or uneven toning, still has full luster and brilliance.

MS-60  Uncirculated, may have apparent blemishes and bag marks, but absolutely no trace of wear.  Coins may or may not have full luster or brilliance.  To check to wear inspect the cheek bone, and the hair over the ear on the obverse of the coin, and the roof over the pillars on the reverse.

AU-55  Choice About Uncirculated, Jefferson’s cheekbone shows wear, and on reverse roof above pillars as well.  75 percent of mint luster should be remaining on coin.

AU-50  About Uncirculated, cheekbone and hair show wear, roof on reverse is also showing signs of wear.  Only half of mint luster needs to be remaining to qualify for this designation.

EF-45  Choice Extremely Fine, the bottom of the bust will show signs of wear, along with the cheekbone, hair and roof above the pillars. Must still have traces of original mint luster

EF-40  Extremely Fine, wear is more prominent on bottom of bust, cheekbone and hair.  On the reverse, the roof and middle beam show wear.

VF-30  Choice Very Fine, light to moderate signs of wear are visible on features of coin, all detail are clear however.

VF-20  Very Fine, over half of hair is worn away, some detail still remains in Jefferson’s collar.  Triangular roof on reverse is only partially visible

F-12  Fine, little detail shows in hair, other features weak but clear.  On reverse roof above pillars becomes indistinct.

VG-8  Very Good, this coin is well worn, but feature of face should be distinct, with a visible collar and few lines in hair.  On reverse, arch is now worn away, along with heavy wear to roof.

G-4  Good, very worn and faded, with some of script of the motto merging into the rim. Little detail remaining in design on both sides

AG-3  About Good,  all features heavily worn, with a weak but still visible date and motto.

These guidelines should help the aspiring collector know what coin they have, and what might just be worth the $30.00 or so to send their coins off to a professional coin grading company.

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