Grading Lincoln Wheat Cents

Pennies have been the perfect starter coin for beginning numismatists for many reasons.  The low denomination, coupled with the high mintages for almost all years, and a continuous minting since 1909, makes the starting and completing a collection attainable for all but select key dates.  So it is no surprise that penny collections range in quality from disfigured to pristine, and it is the job of the collector to sort them all out, from best to worst.  To do just that, follow this guide to grading Lincoln Cents.

In order from best to worst (Wheat Ear reverse)

MS-70, Perfect Uncirculated.  This coin has no wear, no marring scratches or bag marks or blemishes.  A gem of a coin, well struck and in fine detail.

MS-65, Choice Uncirculated.  Almost perfect, but with traces of fingerprinting, or tiny bag marks.  No wear at all, and must still contain full mint luster, all blemishes must be slight.

MS-60, Uncirculated. This coin’s rating is based solely on the absence of wear and obvious marring.  The coin may contain numerous bag marks, blemishing, uneven toning, or loss of luster.

AU-50, About Uncirculated.  This coin is almost uncirculated, except for slight traces of abrasion on highest points of the jaw, cheek, and wheat stalks.  Three quarters of mint luster should be present.

EF-40, Extremely Fine.  Wear now showing markedly on the cheek, jaw, and the hair above the ear.  Each stalk on reverse is clearly defined high points on the stalks are worn.

VF-30, Choice Very Fine.  Noticeably flat spots on the cheek and jaw, ear and bow tie, hair worn but details still present.  On reverse, lines of stalk tips are worn but defined.

VF-20, Very Fine.  Almost all details remain in hair, flat spots present around cheek and jaw.  Lines on reverse are still visible and clear, but worn

F-12, Fine.  At least some detain is still present in the hair, cheek and jaw are smooth.  On reverse, wheat stalk lines show separation, but no detail.

VG-8, Very Good.  Outline of hair present, but most details are missing, The legend and date are weak but clear.  Some detail and lines appear in wheat stalks on reverse.

G-4, Good.  Nearly  all detail gone, mostly outlines.  Wheat ears are worn flat but visible, with at least some kernels visible.

AG-3, About Good.  Outline of hair present, all details missing.  Date and legend are worn but readable.  Parts of motto merge with wreath on reverse.

The biggest misconception about grading coins lies in the thought that higher graded coins are “prettier” coins, and that correspondingly, a higher ranked coin will always have more “eye appeal” than a lower graded coin.  This is simply not true.  The fact is that the distinction between uncirculated and circulated coins, the first major separation between coins, takes into account only the condition of the wear of the coin.  Wear is defined by the parts of the design that were removed by abrasion. Grade coins based on the highest grade in which it has all detail specified by the grade.

The brilliance, tone, and scratch marks on the coin are important, but only to sort uncirculated coins from other circulated ones.  Coin grading is subjective to this distinction as well. For example, an uncirculated coin may be labeled as any number between 60-70, as the coins involved are of an already uniform standard enough to permit fine differences in grading between 61 and 62 etc.  Circulated coins however, are expected to be only labeled as declinations of 3, 4, 8, 12, 20, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, and 55.  Also, it is not necessary to add a “+” or “-” to any coins, the grade should speak for itself.  Grade your coins consistently and accurately, and when the time comes to sell the collection, your notes will give you invaluable insight into what your coins are actually worth.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012 Blog

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