Sheldon Grading Scale
Sheldon grading scale
The original Sheldon scale was presented by Dr. William H. Sheldon in 1949 as a way to grade his US Cents using a quantitative method. The scale was then adapted by the American Numismatic Association (ANA) in the 1970's to provide a grading scale for all US coins. The system has grown in popularity across the globe in the past 50yrs, and it is now possible to have any coin graded officially using the Sheldon scale.
The two main providers of what is commonly known as 'slabbing' are the 'Professional Coin Grading Service' (PCGS) and the 'Numismatic Guaranty Corporation' (NGC). Both have services available to UK collectors, NGC Europe is based in London while PCGS are based in Paris. Coins may be submitted to either by the collector and the fee paid for grading and 'slabbing' will depend on what they call the fair market value of the coin(s).
Up until a few years ago the systems popularity remained mainly in the United States where coin values can be greatly affected by the precise grade obtained. Even newly minted proof coins graded at PF/PR-70 (absolutely perfect) command far beyond their original new cost and are highly sought after. Although the system is yet to appeal widely to UK collectors, overseas collectors of British coins almost exclusively look to have coins graded and slabbed by one of the major providers.
Before we get into the details of the grading system, its interesting to see what the Royal Mint state you should expect a new issue UK proof coin to grade as using the Sheldon scale.
"Our quality standard is described below :
At the Royal Mint Proof coins are manufactured to the highest quality standards. Our coins will fall between the range of PF68 – PF70, using the internationally accepted Sheldon grading scale of 1 to 70, which was first used in the United States in the late 1940s.
We expect the vast majority of coins struck at The Royal Mint to achieve a PF69 grade - A fully struck coin with nearly imperceptible imperfections. Some coins will achieve a PF68 grade - Very sharply struck with only miniscule imperfections, which is still considered a very high quality Proof coin. On occasions the illustrious PF70 - A coin with no post-production imperfections at 5x magnification, will be manufactured during a production run, these coins are very sought after and due to the low mintages make them very valuable."
For reference we have used the 'NGC' system below which defers minimally from that of PCGS, one slight difference is that NGC use 'PF' for Proof coin pre-fix while PCGS use the term 'PR'. Once graded and slabbed all coins are kept on record, each coin has a unique reference number which if entered into the relevant site will reveal full details and grade obtained.
The Numismatic Guaranty Corporation' (NGC) Numismatic Grading System.
What is a 70?
NGC defines a Mint State or Proof 70 coin as having no post-production imperfections at 5x magnification.
MS Mint State. Coins struck in the same format as circulation issues. Applies to grades 60 to 70.
PF Proof. Coins struck in a special format for collectors.
SP Specimen. A hybrid between Mint State and Proof.
Numeric Grades MS / PF
|MS/PF - 70||A coin with no post-production imperfections at 5x magnification.|
|MS/PF - 69||A fully struck coin with nearly imperceptible imperfections.|
|MS/PF - 68||Very sharply struck with only miniscule imperfections.|
|MS/PF - 67||Sharply struck with only a few imperfections.|
|MS/PF - 66||Very well struck with minimal marks and hairlines.|
|MS/PF - 65||Well struck with moderate marks or hairlines.|
|MS/PF - 64||Average or better strike with several obvious marks or hairlines and other miniscule imperfections.|
|MS/PF - 63||Slightly weak or average strike with moderate abrasions and hairlines of varying sizes.|
|MS/PF - 62||Slightly weak or average strike with no trace of wear. More or larger abrasions than an MS/PF 63.|
|MS/PF - 61||Weak or average strike with no trace of wear. More marks and/or multiple large abrasions.|
|MS/PF - 60||Weak or average strike with no trace of wear. Numerous abrasions, hairlines and/or large marks.|
Numeric Grades AU - XF - VF
|AU - 58||Slight wear on the highest points of the design. Full details.|
|AU - 55||Slight wear on less than 50% of the design. Full details.|
|AU - 53||Slight wear on more than 50% of the design. Full details except for very minor softness on the high points.|
|AU - 50||Slight wear on more than 50% of the design. Full details except for minor softness on the high points.|
|XF - 45||Complete details with minor wear on some of the high points.|
|XF - 40||Complete details with minor wear on most of the high points.|
|VF - 35||Complete details with wear on all of the high points.|
|VF - 30||Nearly complete details with moderate softness on the design areas.|
|VF - 25||Nearly complete details with more softness on the design areas.|
|VF - 20||Moderate design detail with sharp letters and digits.|
Numeric Grades F - VG - G - AG - FR - PO
|F - 15||Recessed areas show slight softness. Letters and digits are sharp.|
|F - 12||Recessed areas show more softness. Letters and digits are sharp.|
|VG - 10||Wear throughout the design. Letters and digits show softness.|
|VG - 8||Wear throughout the design. Letters and digits show more softness.|
|G - 6||Peripheral letters and digits are full. Rims are sharp.|
|G - 4||Peripheral letters and digits are nearly full. Rims exhibit wear.|
|AG - 3||Most letters and digits are readable. Rims are worn into the fields.|
|FR - 2||Some details are visible. Rims are barely visible.|
|PO - 1||Enough detail to identify the coin's date and type. Rims are flat or nearly flat.|
Additional NGC designations
Plus & Star
(NGC Plus Designation) NGC assigns a + to coins at the high end of their assigned grade, approaching the quality requirements for the next
grade. For example, a coin graded NGC MS 64 is close to the quality of a coin graded NGC MS 65.
RD Red. A coin with full mint red luster.
RB Red Brown. A coin with a mix of red luster and brown patina.
BN Brown. A coin with full or nearly full brown patina.
Ultra Cameo Applies only to PF coins. The fields are deeply mirrored and the devices are heavily frosted for bold contrast on both sides of the coin.
Cameo Applies only to PF coins. The fields are deeply mirrored and the devices are frosted for moderate contrast on both sides of the coins.
DPL Deep Prooflike. The fields are deeply mirrored. Does not apply to Proof coins.
PL Prooflike. The fields are mirrored. Does not apply to Proof coins.
NGC Releases Designations
Early Releases NGC offers the Early Releases designation for selected coins received by NGC or an NGC-approved depository during the first 30
days of release.
First Releases NGC offers the First Releases designation for selected coins received by NGC or an NGC-approved depository during the first 30
days of release.