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Five Basics You Need To Be Aware When Grading Coins

by Kathryn Watson

Knowing how coins are graded is important if you are a collector or buyer and seller of coins.

If you want to have coins graded to determine their values, there are a few basic factors you need to be aware of to get an accurate idea of the grade. The following are five basics you need to be aware of when grading coins:

Flaws that are located in grade-sensitive areas may be harder to detect than other flaws.

If you want to grade accurately, it's important to pay special attention to grade-sensitive areas that are relatively high and exposed. A blemish on these areas will be more damaging to the value of a coin and the coin's grade than a blemish on an area that is somewhat camouflaged by engraving details.

Coins that have been artificially re-toned can be especially deceptive when you're grading.

Artificial toning is often done on coins to cover up imperfections, but artificial toning should not significantly raise the grade of a coin. When grading, it's important to look beneath any artificial toning because blemishes tend to continue to still be perceivable when coins are examined carefully with a magnifying glass.

Blemishes or imperfections like tooling, thumbing, scratches, and hairlines that are superficially covered up or diminished by toning should still detract from a coin's grade.

It helps to use a halogen lamp for inspection.

One of the most valuable and accurate tools available for coin grading is a halogen lamp or a pinpoint light source.

These light sources can make it so that imperfections are more apparent and easy to detect. They are especially useful with grading proof coins because they allow for careful detection of hairline scratches.

One of the signs of a lower grade that's harder to detect is worn down high points.

Any coin that has been circulated is likely to have worn down high points. However, even an uncirculated coin might still fail to be given a high grade because high points have worn down. 

In particular, analyze the color of high points when you're inspecting copper coins. Any high points will darken if friction has worn them down. 

Any unattractive features could detract from the grade.

It's important to use common sense in grading coins. A coin that generally appears unattractive and ugly for any reasons- including abnormal scratches or blotches in the toning- is not going to get a high grade.

There is a fairly high level of subjectivity involved in grading older coins, so the general attractiveness of old, rare coins is a big consideration. Click for more information.