What is the Sheldon Scale of Coin Grading?

US Currency: Stacked quarter dollar coins, close-up
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What is the Sheldon Scale of Coin Grading?

Answer: The Sheldon Scale is a 70-point scale for grading coins, developed by Dr. William Sheldon in 1949. A slightly modified form of the Sheldon Scale has become the de facto standard for grading U.S. coins today, and is used by the major third party grading services when assigning a grade to a coin. The adjectival grading system was the predecessor to today's 70-point grading scale, and the adjectival terms are still used to help clarify the numeric equivalent.

The following are the standard Sheldon numbers and descriptions:

Poor-1 or P-1 (Poor)

The type of coin is barely discernible, but little else, due to the coin being badly damaged or worn smooth.

Fair-2 or FR-2 (Fair)

Type and date are barely discernible, but otherwise the coin is damaged or extremely worn.

AG-3 (About Good)

Type and date are discernible, although some spots may be worn out. Some lettering should be apparent, if not necessarily readable.

G-4 (Good)

Major devices and features are evident as outlines. although the coin overall is heavily worn.

G-6 (Good-plus)

Coin has a full rim plus major devices and features are clearly outlined. Heavy wear.

VG-8 (Very Good)

Full rim with clearly discernible devices and features. Most legends are readable clearly, but the whole coin is still significantly worn.

F-12 (Fine)

Distinct rim, all legends readable, clear devices showing some detail, but the whole coin is moderately, but evenly worn.

VF-20 (Very Fine)

Clearly readable but lightly worn legends, devices show good detail, rims are clean, but the whole coin shows moderate wear on the high points and a little wear below.

VF-30 (Good Very Fine)

Legends are clear, devices show all detail with little wear; high points are lightly worn.

EF-40 or XF-40 (Extremely Fine)

Legends are sharp, devices are clear with slight but obvious wear on the high points.

EF-45 or XF-45 (Choice Extremely Fine)

Legends and devices are clear and sharp, with slight wear on the high points, and great eye appeal.

AU-50 (About Uncirculated)

Sharp legends and devices show only a trace of wear on the highest points. There must be some remaining mint luster.

AU-55 (Good About Uncirculated)

Sharp legends and devices show only a hint of wear on the high points. Remaining mint luster must be at least half; great eye appeal.

AU-58 (Choice About Uncirculated)

Virtually uncirculated, except for minor wear marks on high points. Nearly all mint luster must be present, and must have outstanding eye appeal.

MS-60 to MS-70 (Mint State Basal)

Coins in this grade show no signs of wear from circulation, but they are ugly, dinged-up, bag-marked, ill-toned specimens, but they are in mint condition and free of any wear!

The grades from MS-60 to MS-70, as well as the Proof designations, are all based primarily on eye appeal, quality of luster and/or toning, and the presence or absence of contact marks, hairlines, etc. All coins MS-60 and higher are Mint State coins. It is worth noting that Proof is not a grade, but a type of coin.

Edited by: James Bucki