Welcome to our section on how the coin grading system works, accurate grading of coins can take many years of experience to master properly, and the grades show below are intended as a guide only. Many coins do not fit exactly into a specific grade and may fall between; therefore in the English system it is not uncommon to see descriptions such as VF+ or Almost EF. The American system quoted here in brackets at the end of each comment does possess a slightly broader range of grading to be performed.
Fine (F): Worn over whole area, but only the highest spots are worn completely through. (US: VF-20)
1838 Q Victoria Shield Sovereign in about Fine condition.
Very Fine (VF): Detail clear, but obvious evidence of very limited circulation. High spots worn but detail remains. Traces of mint lustre may linger amongst the letters of the inscription. (US: EF-40)
1857 Q Victoria Sovereign in Very Fine Condition.
Extremely Fine (EF): Slight wear on high spots on close inspection, and all other detail clear and sharp. Much mint lustre may remain. May appear uncirculated to the naked eye. (US: MS-60)
1827 George IV Sovereign in Extremely Fine Condition.
Uncirculated (Unc): No wear at all, although it is possible for the design not to be fully struck up in the minting process. There may be bag abrasions. Older coins may be tarnished or toned.(US: MS-62 to 65)
1852 Queen Victoria Shield Reverse Sovereign in Uncirculated Condition.
Brilliant Uncirculated (BU): Usually implies full mint lustre.(US: MS-67)
1976 Queen Elizabeth II Sovereign in Brilliant Uncirculated Condition.
FDC (Fleur de Coin): Perfect mint state, with no abrasions or marks, and full lustre. Usually applied to proof coins only, or coins from sealed mint sets. (US: MS-70)
Proof: Not a condition, but the coin has been struck using specially prepared dies and blanks, and the minting process has been carried out usually twice with extra pressure to ensure the die is filled. Normally the fields are highly polished, with the design matte, however matte proofs where the whole coin is matte are known (especially the 1902 GB proofs), and sometimes even the design is polished (especially from the early 1970's for UK proof sets). Proof coins usually have very sharp edges.
A proof 1937 George V Sovereign in perfect as struck condition.
Please use this page only as a guide to grading as even the examples above may not fit exactly into grade!