European Coin Grading System
Where a coin is assesed as between grades, prefixes are sometimes used to indicate ‘nearly’, or ‘a bit better than’, as follows:
‘aVF’ may be used to indicate ‘about Very Fine’, or ‘almost Very Fine’. (not quite VF, but close, and better than ‘good Fine’).
‘gVF’ may be used to indicate ‘good Very Fine’. (a bit better than Very Fine, but not good enough to be ‘about Extremely Fine’.)
Often coin sides wear unevenly, or were better struck on one side than the other.
In such cases, it is not uncommon to see people state individual grades for each side of a coin. This is referred to as ‘split grading’.
When this is done, convention is that the obverse, (front, heads), is stated first, then the reverse, (back, tails), as follows:
‘VF/F’ would indicate that the obverse, (heads), has been assessed as ‘Very Fine’, while the reverse, (tails), has been assessed as ‘Fine’
Coin grading systems were created to try to bring about a standardised, methodical approach to evaluating a coins’ state of preservation, relative to mint state.
Many countries have their own versions or systems, however two primary systems have been adopted by most of the western world:
The European system is less defined than the Sheldon System, however takes a more conservative approach than the Sheldon system. For example, a coin grading at VF20 on the Sheldon system is likely to be assessed as closer to a ‘Fine’, or ‘good Fine’ using the European method.
It needs to be stressed from the outset that coin and banknote grading is subjective.
Many very experienced graders may look at the same coin and come up with different assessments, sometimes up to a whole grade, or more.
Grade often does not really take in to account detractors, although many will state a coin as ‘ungradable’ if it has significant detractors, such as cleaning, bumps, scratches, or corrosion.
One technique of evaluating such coins is to state ‘detail to …….’, meaning that the degree of detail would have see this coin evaluated at a certain grade, if it weren’t for the detractors.
While detractors in themselves will not make a valuable coin entirely worthless, they will significantly impact desirability to a collector, thus value.
In the end, the value of a coin is what someone will pay for it, based on their own judgement of condition, scarcity, value, desirability, and what they are willing to pay to own it.
If many people desire a particular coin and there aren’t many available, it makes sense that the value is going to be more than for a coin that is more common, in worse condition, or is less appealing.
For the purposes of our valuation guides, we assume that the coin in question has no significant detractors, and is solid example of the grade in question, in a natural, unaltered state.