How to Grade Old Coins

How to Grade Old Coins

28th March 2024

How to Grade Old Coins

Coin grading can be a complex and subjective endeavour, but it's essential for accurately assessing the value of old coins. Although no universally accepted grading system exists, you can follow these general steps to evaluate your old coins. If you'd like to get this process done with expert assistance, consider visiting Griffin's Auctioneers & Valuers Warwick office, or contacting us via email at

  1. Educate Yourself: Begin by gathering knowledge about the specific coins you are interested in. Research their history, various minting variations, and common factors that influence their grade.
  2. Inspect the Coin: Carefully examine your coin under good lighting conditions, using a magnifying glass if necessary. Pay close attention to the following aspects:
    • Date and Mint Mark: Identify the coin's date and mint mark, as these can significantly affect its value.
    • Design Details: Scrutinize the coin's design, noting any wear, damage, or scratches.
    • Surface Quality: Look for signs of corrosion, cleaning, or other surface alterations.
    • Lustre: Evaluate the coin's original lustre, which is the shine or reflectivity of the metal.
    • Wear: Assess the extent of wear on the coin's high points, such as raised portions of the design and lettering.
  3. Use a Grading Scale: While no universal grading scale exists, you can employ a commonly used one, such as the Sheldon Scale for U.S. coins or the British grading scale for British coins. These scales typically range from "Poor" to "Mint State" or "Uncirculated." Some examples of coin grading terminology include
    • Poor (PO): Design elements barely recognizable, heavy wear, and extensive damage.
    • Fair (FR): Very worn, with most details barely visible.
    • Good (G): Moderate wear, with some design elements still visible.
    • Very Good (VG): Well-worn with readable lettering and minor details.
    • Fine (F): Moderate wear but with clear details and lettering.
    • Very Fine (VF): Light wear, excellent details, and readable lettering.
    • Extremely Fine (XF or EF): Slight wear, excellent details, and sharp lettering.
    • About Uncirculated (AU): Trace wear on only the highest points.
    • Uncirculated (UNC or MS): No wear, in perfect condition.
  4. Compare and Grade: Compare your coin to descriptions and images of coins in various grades to determine its grade. Utilize reference books, online resources, or seek advice from experienced collectors or dealers.
  5. Consider Rarity: Remember that a coin's rarity can significantly impact its value. A common coin in excellent condition may not be as valuable as a rare coin in a lower grade.
U.S Coin Grading Scale
An illustration of different grades of a U.S Quarter

Seek Professional Opinions: If you're uncertain about your coin's grade or value, consider obtaining professional assistance. You can visit our Warwick office, where our experts can provide expert grading and evaluation services. Alternatively, you can email us at to enquire about our services and schedule an appointment.

Record and Document: Maintain a record of your coin's grade, accompanied by clear photographs. This documentation is essential if you plan to sell or insure your coin collection.

Remember that coin grading requires practice and experience to become proficient. Be patient and continue learning as you assess more coins over time. If you are passionate about coin collecting, consider joining a local coin club or attending coin shows to gain insights and expertise from fellow collectors and dealers.

Smart Collecting: How to Avoid Overpaying for Old Coins

Collecting old coins can be an exciting and rewarding hobby, but it's essential to be vigilant and informed to avoid overpaying for these precious artifacts. Whether you're a seasoned collector or just starting, understanding the factors that influence coin prices and adopting smart collecting practices can save you from overspending. In this article, we'll explore some strategies to ensure you never overpay for old coins.

  1. Educate Yourself: Knowledge is your most potent weapon against overpaying. Before diving into the world of coin collecting, take the time to study the coins you're interested in. Learn about their history, mintage figures, key dates, and common issues that affect their condition and value. Books, online resources, and numismatic experts can be valuable sources of information.
  2. Set a Budget: Determine your budget before making any purchases. This will help you avoid impulsive decisions and ensure you don't spend more than you can afford. Stick to your budget, even if you encounter a rare coin that's slightly out of reach. Patience and discipline are key to successful collecting.
  3. Use Grading Standards: Grading is a crucial aspect of coin collecting that significantly impacts a coin's value. Familiarize yourself with established grading standards such as the Sheldon Scale for U.S. coins or the British grading scale for British coins. This will enable you to assess a coin's condition accurately and determine its fair market value.
  4. Buy from Reputable Sources: When purchasing old coins, it's essential to deal with reputable sources. Established coin dealers, numismatic auction houses, and certified coin grading services can provide you with authentic and fairly priced coins. Avoid buying from unknown sellers or street vendors to minimize the risk of counterfeit or overpriced coins.
  5. Attend Coin Shows and Join Collector Communities: Coin shows and collector communities are excellent places to network with experienced collectors and dealers. By engaging in conversations and seeking advice from knowledgeable individuals, you can gain insights into fair pricing and make informed purchasing decisions.
  6. Verify Authenticity: Always verify the authenticity of a coin before making a purchase. Reputable dealers often provide certifications and guarantees of authenticity. Don't hesitate to request such documentation, especially when dealing with high-value or rare coins.
  7. Consider Numismatic Trends: Keep an eye on numismatic trends and market fluctuations. Coin values can change over time due to various factors, including economic conditions and collector demand. Staying informed about these trends will help you make well-informed decisions and avoid overpaying for coins that may have recently spiked in value.
  8. Seek Multiple Opinions: When contemplating a significant purchase, consider seeking multiple opinions from experts or experienced collectors. This can provide you with valuable insights and ensure that you're not overestimating a coin's value.

Collecting old coins is a captivating pursuit, but it requires diligence and knowledge to avoid overpaying. By educating yourself, setting a budget, using grading standards, buying from reputable sources, attending coin shows, verifying authenticity, monitoring market trends, and seeking expert opinions, you can make informed decisions and build a valuable coin collection without breaking the bank. Remember that patience and careful consideration are the keys to successful coin collecting.

When in Doubt, Consult a Professional

Learning to assess the value of old coins on your own is certainly possible, but it's crucial to understand that achieving a high level of accuracy in grading coins typically requires years of hands-on experience.

In our extensive involvement in the field, we've noticed that many collectors often tend to overestimate the condition of their coins. This underscores the importance of approaching coin evaluation with a degree of caution and a vigilant eye.

In practice, staying up to date with current coin valuations often necessitates active engagement in the buying and selling of coins, a practice that mirrors what we do at Griffin's Auctioneers & Valuers. This active involvement allows us to stay attuned to evolving trends in coin collecting and their direct impact on the actual selling prices of coins.

Remember, the value of a coin ultimately hinges on what a willing buyer is prepared to pay for it. In cases where two ardent collectors’ express interest in the same coin, it can lead to a noteworthy increase in its market price. To delve deeper into the world of coin valuations or to seek professional assistance, don't hesitate to reach out to us here at Griffin's Auctioneers & Valuers.

You can contact us by calling 01926 505012 or sending an email to

Subscribe to catalogue alerts & news