Australian coins grading


Klaus Ford's proposed grading standard for Australian pre-decimal Commonwealth coinage
Permission to reproduce the material on this page was granted by Said Diviny and Vicky de Lellis of SVC Collectables in the interest of all coin collectors.
Edited by Jon Saxton, Triton Technologies International Ltd.
Foreword by Said Diviny:
The grading of coins has always been a bone of contention. Many different grading systems are used the world over, all to describe what basically amounts to a lump of metal. But grading IS important both for the beginner and the experienced numismatist. I give credit to Klaus Ford for championing the system of grading used by our company. Thanks to his tireless efforts I am now able to bring you the entire unabridged copy of his grading standard. 



The early coins of the series were all minted in London but some of the 1914 issue and most of the 1915 issue were sub-contracted to Heaton & Sons of Birmingham. The Birmingham coins can be identified by the mintmark H under the date on the reverse.
From 1916 onwards florins were all struck in Melbourne with two exceptions. In 1924, 1925 and 1926 the Sydney mint shared the job of striking florins. There is no way known to distinguish the Melbourne and Sydney minting by inspecting the coins.
During World War II there was an increased demand for coinage and the Australian mints could not handle the workload. In 1942, 1943 and 1944 a substantial portion of the florins issued were struck at the U.S. Mint in San Francisco. These florins carry an "S" mintmark in the exergue above the date.



Grading of Australian coins has become a somewhat controversial subject in recent times. Attempts to introduce a Numerical Grading System which originated in the USA are being made. Klaus' thoughts on this issue were published in the June 1995 Australian Coin Review, and collectors who are new to our wonderful hobby or who have missed the original article can obtain one by contacting Mr. Ford direct.
We, as professional pumismatists, have much to answer for the frigidity and indecisiveness with which we have treated the issue of grading coins in the past. Whilst our "unofficial system" has and is serving us well in the area BELOW Uncirculated, it certainly is not doing so where it counts most and where real money is involved: the condition of Uncirculated. The solution as I see it is twofold.
FIRSTLY, an authoritative body, preferably from within the numismatic industry, must be called upon to consider the issue with the aim of establishing a standard with detailed definitions. At this moment in time, those bodies might be ANDA (the Australian Numismatic Dealer's Association), and the Numismatic Association of Australia.
SECONDLY, once a definitive standard has been established, it must be made available in print, be widely promulgated and promoted, and most importantly it must be accessible to anyone who wants to show an interest. Professional dealers would be expected to use and support it. With the authority of the two organisations mentioned above behind it, acceptance of the standard is virtually guaranteed. A degree of regulation may be imposed.
Most professional dealers and established collectors have a fair expertise in assessing the condition of a coin and relating a value to the result, especially if that coin belongs to a series in which they may specialize. Unfortunately that expertise is currently fairly difficult to procure, as it will only be obtained by constant and intensive involvement with the hobby. It is the lack of uniform descriptive terminology and detailed definitions which is of most concern, particularly to those collectors and investors who are willing to get involved, but are frustrated by the lack of uniformity.
With little or no sign of a solution to the issue emanating from any authoritative body within the numismatic industry it is little wonder that private interests should attempt to address the problem. However we should be aware that problems can provide the spawning ground for seemingly meritorious solutions which some time down the track can leave us with even bigger problems than those with which we began so any proposed solutions ought be open to thorough examination. If they are presented in a fait accompli fashion then they can expect criticism and detailed analysis.
In my opinion the unsolicited appearance of a Numerical Grading Standard in this country has caused considerable confusion with many collectors and investors looking to assemble a collection or portfolio of coins in high grade. The most contentious feature of the system is also the most important one, as it involves REAL MONEY. The Standard suggests a graduation of the condition UNCIRCULATED into ELEVEN DIVISIONS!
This proposal does not examine in detail why such numerous divisions for one grade is, in the eyes of many numismatists, unworkable. The well known and respected British numismatist, dealer and catalogue publisher, Richard Lobel simply calls it "crazy". I will however, offer some thoughts and comments on the issue.
************** In the USA, where the standard has been used, opinions and definitions of the individual grades have changed since its introduction. In some cases significantly.
************** Whilst the [USA] standard was adopted in the 1970's, some 25 years later there is still no significant uniformity to be found in definition procedures. Companies offer opinions on your coins for a fee.
************** A basic criterion of any workable grading standard for coins must be a high likelihood of reproduction of a similar grade by different experts. In the States, as numerous tests have shown, the numerical standard, especially at the upper end where it matters most, has on many occasions failed to achieve that aim.
The condition of a coin will always embody a degree of subjectiveness, even in the eyes of experts. Coins are simply not obliging critters. They can rarely be slotted into convenient pigeon holes. Remember the catch twenty-two of grading coins - the more pigeon holes you provide, the greater the degree of error! When one is faced with a tenfold difference in price between one grade and another - say MS64 to MS65 - as can be the case in the USA, one had better be certain about the correct grade one wishes to purchase! If a buyer is confident about the integrity of the seller and the assigned grade of the coin, there may well be no need to ever acquire skill in the art of grading. However in a world where it appears acceptable to stand on a football field and seemingly proclaim without justification that the Earth is flat, a healthy level of knowledge about any issue one is likely to encounter is not only desirable but smart. If the tools to acquire such knowledge are not suplied by the purveyors of the concept then I for one will have no part in it.
So is there ANY good news at all? For those of you who are new to the hobby trying to understand what the hell we are all on about..................

What has not changed are the coins themselves. They are still exactly the way they were yesterday! And the vast majority of dealers and collectors still grade them in the same way today, using familiar terminology. In my opinion, in essence, this will continue to be so tomorrow. The only "change" (if it can be called that) which should and is likely to occur isa more definitive and uniform Grading Standard, especially in the area of UNC. Whilst I hope to see the issues involved being addressed in the not too distant future by greater authorities than yours truly or any other private interests, as a numismatist with 20 years experience in the industry I will present you with my version of what grading coins is all about, and what it should be about where at present it appears vague. You will see that much of what you read is the same as in any coin guide, though my definitions are more detailed as they include many important aspects one should take into account when grading a coin.
This Standard, and the issue of grading Australian coins will be on the agenda of the Australian Numismatic Dealers Association in the not too distant future, where it will no doubt come under scrutiny and criticism, hopefully constructively. In the meantime it is my opinion and hope that what you will find in the next few pages will convey, especially to the budding collector, a fair and reasonably comprehensive picture of what the grading of Australian Pre-decimal coins is and should be about.



Principles and Purpose

This Standard favors the adjectival terms used by most Australian coin dealers and auction houses when describing the condition of a coin. It attempts to offer a uniformly acceptable approach to the terminology used for the purpose. In areas where more than one term is currently being used to describe a similar meaning, it settles for one. In other areas it uses percentages and parameters as a means of conveying a picture. On one occasion it offers not a new term but a new way of expressing an existing term in a condensed manner - (ChU = Choice Uncirculated). Nothing about this system is revolutionary; most has been, and in various ways is being, used right now. But therein lies the problem; IT IS NOT USED UNIFORMLY, and because of this is viewed at first suspiciously, then cynically, and in too many cases with eventual resignation by new collectors who often just give up and walk away...
A definitive and uncomplicated standard which is used by all and is freely available should go a long way toward promoting interest in the hobby and confidence in those who may be considering taking it up.
When establishing definitions for the individual grades, all major aspects which affect the grade and value of the coin were taken into consideration. The aim is not to produce a scientific analysis or account for every single peculiarity which may affect individual coins from date to date. Maybe someday we'll see someone undertake such a daunting task, and good luck to the poor sucker I say! What I've attempted here is to present a concept which is reasonably easy to follow and which can be understood without years of study, a tool which sellers can use to offer their wares using descriptive terminology relating most of the important aspects needed to visualize a coin. At the same time it allows the purchaser to make a judgement by reference to the definitions, which in turn, with the help of a reputable coin guide, should result in a fair assessment of the value of a coin.
What this standard or any standard cannot do is to avoid misuse if misuse is the intention. However, by defining the terms and making them freely available to everyone, a purchaser should have a reasonable chance of assessing the value of a coin and making a judgment based both on the coin itself and the integrity of the dealer as to whether or not to proceed with the purchase.
What you can expect from this standard is a common sense approach to what is no easy subject in more ways than one. As time goes by, it is likely that I will be made aware by colleagues and collectors about aspects which may need to be included or changes that may need to be made. I doubt, however, that such further changes will affect the integrity of the principles behind this guide.
Readers are advised to consult Greg McDonald's publication "Collecting and Investing in Australian Coins and Banknotes" and the relevant section on grading coins. The many illustrations and comments, when used in conjunction with this guide, will further assist in coming to grips with what can seem to be a difficult subject area.
Experienced numismatic dealers and collectors will probably not easily be swayed to make even the slightest changes to their ingrained habits. New collectors to the hobby will however find that by using this Standard they should, in a relatively short time and within realistic parameters, be able to grade a coin and estimate a fair value. And that should be important to all of us.


Technical Introduction

This grading standard advocates FOUR grades of Uncirculated. All terms used to define those four grades are familiar to Australian collectors, with the exception of the term ChU in its abbreviated form. It simply means "Choice Uncirculated" and as such is already widely used. "ChU" can be a very useful abbreviation in advertising where space may be a consideration.
Opinions as to what constitutes an uncirculated coin vary widely. Most are coloured by vested interests, depending on whose point of view you are taking, be it the buyer's or the seller's. Taken in its purest form there should only be one instance where a coin is uncirculated, and that is at the moment it has been minted. For all practical purposes, this is NOT a realistic expectation!
Initially then, a consensus must be reached as to which terms and how many should be used to describe the various impediments an uncirculated coin may display. This standard offers the following suggestions -

The Four Grades of Uncirculated in Descending Order

FDC - Fleur de Coin: English "Flower of the die" - A well established term in numismatics, referring to the best possible condition. It is widely used internationally.
GEM - Gem Uncirculated: A familiar and already often used term to describe a nearly but not quite perfect coin. Gem engenders a high degree of quality.
CHU - Choice Uncirculated: An abbreviation for choice uncirculated makes a most useful condensation in advertising where space is a consideration - (Why hasn't anyone thought of this before?). May also be used in its un-abbreviated form if so desired.
UNC - Uncirculated: An abbreviation for "Uncirculated - typical".
All of the above terms are being used by Australian dealers and collectors. What has been missing is an official definition with the basic criteria of four grades for uncirculated coins in place. What we need next is a reference scale of characteristics affecting the grade of a coin. This in turn will allow us to consider a definition that describes the coin more accurately.

Characteristics Affecting the Grading of a Coin
1 : Quality of Strike: weak or strong, die cracks, coarse fields.
2 : Detracting Marks: a collective term for bag marks, contact marks, abrasions, rim nicks, hairlines, scratches etc.
3 : Lustre: degree of (for silver coins).
4 : Brilliance: degree of (for copper coins). This standard takes the view that if present, brilliance is the most appropriate term to use in relation to the color of a copper coin.
5 : Toning or Patina: degree of color relating to 3 and 4.
6 : Eye Appeal: the aesthetic appeal of a coin. This condition relates to all of the above. It does also include considerations relating to the placement of characteristics 1 and 2 in focal areas.
7 : Wear: self explanatory but initially not an issue with the four grades of UNC to FDC.
Not considered are the more serious defects such as graffiti, verdigris, severe detracting marks and obvious damage as well as unprofessional attempts at cleaning. Such problems should always be mentioned in addition to the grading of the coin.
Having established a definitive grading scale and characteristics affecting the grade of a coin, we can now attempt to put into words a definitive grading standard which does not solely rely on subjective interpretation, or to put it in the vernacular, "a gut feeling".


Additional comment

Split Grades : On some occasions the condition of the obverse as related to the reverse of a coin may differ. Therefore, in the interests of accuracy - and only if necessary - this standard favors dual grades i.e.: the obverse of the coin (the side showing the monarch's head) is graded first; for example CHU/UNC means the obverse is in choice uncirculated condition while the reverse is in typical uncirculated condition.
Percentages : Most people will be familiar with the mathematics of percentages or (%) . Where it is reasonable, percentages are used to illustrate a point. Parameters are suggested where they may be feasible.
Relating Grade to Value : It is suggested that the latest edition of a current coin guide is used when assessing the Value of a coin. My personal preference lies with the McDonald publications. McDonald uses the grades UNC and BU at the upper end of the scale. The following is the same as related to my grading scale:
This standards' grade as opposed to McDonalds' grade and value

UNC:................................................... UNC - TYPICAL
CHU:................................................... UNC +20% to 40% of given value
GEM:................................................... BU
FDC:.................................................... BU+++
The value of the grade FDC is the hardest to assess. Coins in such high grade are scarce even in common dates, and rare in the pre-1938 years so a value is usually speculative. Whenever a rare date qualifying for the grade FDC is offered at auction, it tends to bring record prices. These prices are often well in excess of the highest graded price listed in any coin catalogue or guide.
In the Circulated range : Coins graded with the adjective "g" for "good" as in gVF are worth approximately 15% to 30% above the listed price for the main grade.
On occasions, general numismatic terms may be used with this Standard which may be unfamiliar to new collectors. Please consult the glossaries of your coin catalogue or Guide for the definitions of these terms.




For Australian Circulation Pre-Decimal Commonwealth Coins By Klaus Ford

SILVER COINS : A perfect or virtually perfect coin. A sharp strike with details fully formed. Slightest hint of one or two detracting marks or die cracks may be visible under three times plus magnification only. Full mint lustre may be present. If a coin features attractive toning (Patina) with considerable eye appeal then this may be described as FDC-AT being FDC - Attractive toning. Eye appeal is outstanding and "KNOCKS YOU OUT".
COPPER COINS : Toning or lack of brilliance is less acceptable on copper coins. A copper coin graded FDC must have 95%+ of its original brilliance. Due to the various shades of brilliance possible on copper coins, adjectives such as "blazing red", "deep orange" etc. are permissible. All other minor imperfections, as for silver coins, are acceptable.
ADDITIONAL NOTES ON THE GRADE FDC : Whilst there is little disagreement between numismatists that the term FDC implies the best quality available, some do argue that this term should be reserved for proof coins only. However, proof is not a term relating to the condition of a coin but rather to the method of manufacture. FDC is a term relating to the condition and this standard takes the view that it can be applied to either proof coins or to exceptional circulation strike coins. What is important is the definition of the term FDC, and that clearly relates to condition rather than method of manufacture.

Another concern may be the acceptance of minute imperfections with the definition of the term FDC. This standard takes the view that NO COIN STRUCK FOR CIRCULATION IS EVER ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! Under strong magnification, even coins deserving the highest of praise will show minute flaws. It is the degree of these flaws with which we need to be concerned. Parameters for this are difficult to establish, but it may help if we were to picture the full range of conditions from the lower end of UNC to the top grade of FDC as per the definitions here. For a coin to grade as FDC it should be in the top 2% of that range.


GEM = Gem Uncirculated

SILVER COINS : A hint of flatness of strike. Just a few detracting marks may be visible to the naked eye. Insignificant die cracks may be present. Almost full mint lustre is evident. Toning or patina must be fairly attractive and if so described as GEM-AT (Gem Uncirculated, Attractive Toning). Lots of eye appeal is present.
COPPER COINS : Brilliance may range from fully brilliant (GEM-FB) to fully toned (GEM-FT). GEM-FB describes a coin which is GEM Fully Brilliant. From this grade on and below, brilliance remaining may be described in percent. This is optional. Thus: GEM-50%B will describe a coin retaining 50% of brilliance. Increments of brilliance are: 25%B - 50%B - 75%B - 90%B. Parameters for percentages; see below. A copper coin with only traces of brilliance (ie. less than 15%) may be described as GEM-TRB or GEM showing traces of brilliance. A fully toned copper coin is GEM-FT or GEM fully toned. Adjectives like "Blazing Red","Deep Orange", etc. may be used. All other criteria as for silver coins.
IMPORTANT NOTE : This Standard takes the view that a coin which has developed an unattractive patina, (blotchy, or aesthetically unappealing toning), cannot receive the grades FDC or GEM.
IMPORTANT NOTE, OPTIONAL ADJECTIVES : In the context of this Standard, the use of the following additional adjectives is optional. They are included merely because they may be useful in advertising where space is a consideration. If an advertiser has space available to relate a degree of brilliance or toning in a more descriptive manner, then he may choose to assign the main grade to a coin, and then add an appropriate description of brilliance or toning, color or patina in a more wordy way.


Additional Adjectives and Parameters for Brilliance on Copper Coins

BRILLIANCE on copper coins, and the degree of it remaining, is a most important issue for collectors who wish to purchase the series in high grade. A way should then be found to adjectivally draw a picture of the actual status of that brilliance or the lack of it. This standard will use additional adjectives to address the issue. These additional adjectives are :
FT = Fully Toned   TRB = Traces of Brilliance   FB = Fully Brilliant
Actual brilliance, if present, should be indicated by a percent value and adjective after the main grade and limited by parameters.
The following increments are suggested:
25%  -  50%  -  75%  -  90%
Using the main grade, GEM, the following are examples of the use of additional adjectives and the parameters for their application:

  1. GEM-FT = GEM-Fully Toned
  2. GEM-TRB = GEM-Traces of brilliance - about 1% to 14%
  3. GEM-25%B = GEM 15 to 40% of Brilliance
  4. GEM-50%B = GEM 41 to 60% of Brilliance
  5. GEM-75%B = GEM 61 to 85% of Brilliance
  6. GEM-90%B = GEM 86 to 95% of Brilliance
  7. GEM-FB = GEM-Fully Brilliant (96 to 100% Brilliance)

The above additional adjectives do not take into account the different shades of color which especially a copper coin may feature. The attractiveness and desirability of coins displaying such attributes is very much in the eye of the beholder. The effect which they may have on the value of a coin should not concern us here, though this may become a negotiating point when it comes to selling or buying such a coin.


Additional Adjectives for Description of Silver Coins

This Standard takes the view that lustre on silver coins cannot be expressed in percentages with the same definitive qualities as with brilliance on copper. It is therefore recommended in instances where lustre is not in keeping with the grade of the coin, expressions such as "Full Mint Bloom" or "Underlying Lustre" are appropriate. However in order to facilitate the use of condensed terms for toned silver coins (colored, patinated), this Standard will settle for two additional adjectives:
AT = Attractive Toning and T = Toned (no matter to what degree) as in GEM-AT and CHU-T
As with most aspects relating to grading coins, an absolutely precise judgement is next to impossible to make. There will always be a coin which is on the borderline between one grade and another, no matter where that borderline is placed. However within stated parameters, percentage steps for degree of brilliance on copper should be assessable within an accuracy range of two steps at the worst. Greater errors are more likely due to optimistic interpretations of the Standard rather than the Standard itself!
ADDITIONAL COMMENT : From this grade on and below, definitions for Silver and Copper coins are similar. Brilliance remaining on silver and toning on copper should be mentioned as earlier discussed if so desired.


CHU = Choice Uncirculated

SILVER COINS :Still fairly well struck but small details of the design, especially on the high points, may not be fully formed. Lack of such detail must not be confused with wear. Detracting marks are of a fairly minor nature but may be seen with the naked eye. Moderate die cracks may be present, but should be mentioned if significant. Mint Lustre is apparent but may appear subdued. Toning or Patina may neither enhance nor detract from the overall eye appeal. It may be mentioned as CHU-AT if aesthetically appealing or as CHU-T if not particularly attractive. Overall though eye appeal is pleasing.
COPPER COINS :Brilliance may range from fully brilliant to fully toned and is indicated by the appropriate adjective or percentage. If all other criteria for CHU as for Silver coins is met, adjectives for brilliance or toning are the same as previously explained.


UNC = Uncirculated Typical

SILVER and COPPER COINS :As the term would suggest, a coin which has seen little, if any, circulation in the commercial sense. Wear is not apparent to the naked eye, though slight rubbing or cabinet friction may be present under magnification. A coin may feature some flatness of strike, which may be common for that date and type. UNC allows for a number of relatively small but nevertheless obvious detracting contact marks visible to the naked eye. Significant marks must be separately mentioned. Lustre on silver may be subdued, possibly from well worn dies. Eye appeal is still pleasing.
ADDITIONAL COMMENT : This Standard takes the view that a coin which is "weakly struck as usual for type" cannot receive the grades FDC or GEM, even if it would qualify in every other respect for those grades. The highest grade which can be given to such a coin, assuming its condition meets all other criteria, is CHU or Choice Uncirculated.


Grades Below Uncirculated

For the purpose of conformity we have settled with the adjectives "a" for "almost" and "g" for "good" to describe coins which are "not quite" or "a little better than" the main grade. These grades are referred to as intermediate grades.
[Editor's note: The "a" prefix is often read as "about" but Mr Ford's "almost" is obviously more apt and this document has been amended to use that word consistently.]
IMPORTANT NOTE : From this point on, WEAR becomes the predominant criterion when considering the condition of a coin. The degree of wear allowable for a particular grade is often quite difficult to define in words. Most coin guides offer only definitions of the main grade leaving definitions for intermediate grades at the discretion of your imagination! This standard will attempt to also define those intermediate grades in a comprehensible manner, one which allows the reader to visualize the item being described. In addition it will use percentages for wear to reinforce the picture. It is realized that not everyone is comfortable with the use of percentages in this manner, yet others have commented favorably. If you are not at ease with percentages then disregard them for the purpose of definition.
IMPORTANT : Wear in percent relates to the main design area of a coin, and initially to its highest points.


aUNC = almost Uncirculated

Similar to UNC but with faint traces of wear to the highest points of the design. Expressed in percent, this would not amount to any more than 2%. Care must be taken not to mistake a flat strike with wear. A few more detracting marks as for UNC may be apparent but none must be of a serious nature. Some lustre on silver or brilliance on copper may still be apparent. For copper this may be expressed in percent as discussed for GEM. If there is no brilliance on a copper coin a simple aUNC will suffice. Eye appeal is virtually the same as for UNC.


gEF = good Extra Fine

Wear is a little more evident than with the previous grade and can just be seen with the naked eye. It may extend to all the high points of the design. Expressed in percent, this would not amount to more than 5%. Detracting marks now include some light contact marks obviously originating from circulation. Very light hairline scratches may be visible to the naked eye, usually in the fields. Some luster or brilliance may still be evident in "protected areas". Overall a coin with nice eye appeal.


EF = Extra Fine

Light overall wear on the high points of the design now easily visible with the naked eye. Expressed in percent, this would not amount to more than 10%. Care must be taken not to mistake a weakly struck UNC coin for EF. Detracting marks are just a few more in number than for the previous grade (see comment below). Traces of lustre may still be present but their importance is now superseded by wear and detracting marks.
ADDITIONAL COMMENT : As one gains experience in the art of grading by looking at and comparing coins in your friendly local dealer's and at coin shows, one will get a "feel" for the amount and the severity of wear and detracting marks which are allowable for any given grade. Establishing the grade of a coin will never be an accurate science but most dealers who sell coins for a living and most collectors who have seriously collected coins for a number of years do have a fair idea of the (albeit unofficial) grade and therefore the value of their coins. However, with humanity being what it is, the budding collector (purchaser) too must gain a degree of expertise to eventually be able to make up his or her mind as to the value of their purchases. It will always come down to a matter of whether or not buyer and seller can reach agreement on description and price.
Whilst this grading Standard will attempt to engender a high degree of accuracy by definition, errors by a small margin, even by experts, are always possible. Coins are rarely exactly one grade or another. What we are attempting is to define steps of a continuum, if possible, within parameters. What a defined grading standard can do within reason, is to limit abuses by ignorance, vested interests or simple dishonesty.

aEF = almost Extra Fine

Wear is just a little more noticable than for the main grade EF. In percentage terms it would amount to no more than 11% to 15% on the high points of the design. Under magnification, small flat areas may be starting to appear on these high points. If an aEF coin, from a point of wear, has virtually no detracting marks, then, in allowing for its increased desirability, it may be elevated one third of a grade to EF. Alternatively, a greater than average number of detracting marks can see the coin demoted in grade by one third to gVF. Severe edge nicks and any other detracting marks should be mentioned as well as the grade.


gVF = good Very Fine

Wear is now affecting all small details on the high points of the design. If the details were intricate they may have worn away completely. Expressed in percent, wear will amount to around 16% to 25% from the high points of the main design. Detracting marks are in keeping with expectations for wear. Lack or abundance of moderate detracting marks and degree of eye appeal may either demote or elevate this coin by one third of a grade.


VF = Very Fine

The design will now display obvious wear with small detail missing. However, major detail is still quite prominent. Moderate flat spots may show. Expressed in percent, werar is in the region of 26 to 35%. Detracting marks are in keeping with expectations for a coin with up to 35% wear, but they must never be severe. There may be rim nicks of a quite minor nature, but if significant, should be mentioned separately. Exceptional eye appeal or lack of detracting marks may elevate this coin by a third, the opposite may lower it by the same amount.
PLEASE NOTE : No definitions for intermediate grades (aVF, gFine etc.) are given below the grade VF. When familiar with the main grades, (Fine, VG, Good, Fair, Poor) the user of this Standard will easily recognise a coin that is a little better or worse than the main grade. The prefixes "a" for almost and "g" for good can then be used accordingly. However, usage of these adjectives for coins below the grade VG is not encouraged.


F = Fine

By now a coin exhibits extensive evidence of having been in circulation. The general design is easy to recognize, but most of the significant parts of the detail have worn away. In percent, wear is around 35-50% however, if detracting marks are in keeping with wear, then especially silver coins can have attractive eye appeal as many do develop a natural color or patina.
WARNING: Cleaning silver coins graded fine or below by removing their natural patina, (even if it IS dirt!), will invariably result in something that will look like a flat, dull, unattractive silver disk. Don't do it.


VG = Very Good

A misleading term but still used everywhere coins are collected. Wear is now around 51% - 70% and the high areas of the design are well and truly worn flat. However on pre-1938 silver coins the words "Advance Australia" below the coat of arms can still just be read, though not always fully or clearly in the lower denominations (3d, 6d and 1/-). All design outlines are still sharp. Many coins will have acquired an attractive patina and can still feature pleasant eye appeal.


G = Good

Wear is now 71% to 85%. On pre 1938 silver coins, most letters in "Advance Australia" are worn away, but the legend and outline of the overall design can still be fully read and seen. Coins retaining their acquired color can still have reasonable eye appeal.


Fr = Fair

Wear is now about 86% - 95%, and in some places, the design may be fully worn away. Coins of this type are rarely collected as they are fairly unattractive. Except as fillers until a better one comes along, or if they are EXTREMELY rare, such coins are not recommended for a collection.


P = Poor

A flat round piece of silver or copper showing only traces of the design of a coin. May be bent, scratched, even mutilated. No date in the Australian Pre-Decimal series is scarce enough to warrant this grade to be collected. (Even 1930 Pennies still need the date to be visible to distinguish them from any other penny!)
GRADING HINT : It is recommended that when grading, one should initially establish which main grade to which a coin seems to belong, ie; UNC-EF-VF etc. Once this has been done, further considerations by reference to the DEFINITIONS can be made as to if the coin being graded closely identifies with the actual main grade, or if it qualifies for an intermediate grade and the additional adjectives "almost" or "good".



Concluding comment

This Grading Standard has been framed especially with Australian Pre-Decimal Commonwealth coins in mind. Most of what is presented would also be applicable when grading other types of coins. It was felt, however, that Australian Pre-Decimal Commonwealth coins are the predominantly collected area of numismatics in this country, and therefore in principle, criteria affecting those coins in particular were taken into account. It should be left to other experts to develop, for instance, a Standard for Australian Gold Coins, if it were felt that criteria other than those considered here were relevant.
It must also be said that no matter how accurately a grading standard can be defined, it will not be fully understood without practical experience. A visit to your local dealer and a friendly chat (when he's not busy naturally), will greatly assist you in becoming competent with the subject. Attending coin shows will offer you the opportunity to inspect hundreds of coins, thereby improving your skills at grading. Whilst doing so you might put any newly acquired knowledge to good use in the search for a bargain. The opinions of experienced collectors is invaluable, as they usually have no vested interest when judging the grade of your latest acquisition. Consider joining a local coin club, if there is one. Other invaluable advice you may get from experienced collectors is by word of mouth recommendations of dealers who do NOT push the "envelope of integrity" outside its accepted range.
NO GRADING STANDARD IS EVER PERFECT. Minor variations of interpretation and therefore difference of opinion as to the condition of a coin are always likely to exist, even between experts. However, what a GRADING STANDARD should be able to offer, is a degree of accuracy which results in no more than one grade difference of "opinion" between those who have studied it and are using it with integrity. And even then, such differences of opinion should be reserved for those coins whose condition resides somewhere in that grey area between the definitions for one grade and the next.


Abridged Version

Abbreviation Description Showing these featuresres
FDC "Fleur De Coin" A perfect, or virtually perfect coin. Fully struck up, no detracting marks, full lustre or mint bloom, 100% brilliance on copper. Eye appeal KNOCKS YOU OUT!! Rarely are these coins made available.
GEM "Gem Uncirculated" A superior coin. Almost a perfect strike. May show one or two minute detracting marks only. Virtually full lustre or mint bloom is present. Copper coins should be expressed in terms of their percentage of lustre (i.e GEM-50%B). Additional adjectives may be used to describe the coin to its full potential. Will have exceptional eye appeal.
CHU "Choice Uncirculated" A fairly good strike, but some weaknesses are allowed in this area. If seemingly excessive, but common for the date and type of coin, then this should be separately mentioned. Very few, if any, detracting marks, better than average lustre or mint bloom. Copper expressed in percentage. This coin will be very pleasing to the eye.
UNC "Uncirculated" The typical uncirculated Australian coin will still have its faults. It may suffer from a weak strike or have a few detracting marks, however if these are serious they should be separately mentioned. Lustre or Mint Bloom may be present but they also may have been subdued over time due to storage. The slightest rubbing or cabinet friction is allowable. Eye appeal is pleasing. For copper coinage mint lustre is expressed in percentage.
aUNC "almost Uncirculated" Similar to UNC but with faint traces of wear on the highest points of the design. It is important not to confuse wear with a flat strike. It should also be noted that often coins graded as aUNC are more attractive to the collector than UNC ones with a weaker strike!
gEF "good Extra Fine" A little more wear of about 2% - 5% on the high points of the design. Usually features non-serious detracting marks, obviously from circulation. Lustre and brilliance is still possible in protected areas.
EF "Extra Fine" Light overall wear of about 5% - 10% on the high points of the design. A few more detracting marks as with gEF may be apparent. Traces of lustre and brilliance in protected areas is still possible but unlikely. Pleasant eye-appeal to the naked eye.
aEF "almost Extra Fine" Wear is now around 10% - 15% from the highest points of the design. Lightly scattered detracting marks are obvious. Still overall a pleasant coin.
gVF "good Very Fine" Wear is around 15% - 20% from the highest points of the design. Detracting marks are obvious but not serious, in keeping with the grade.
VF "Very Fine" Wear is around 20% - 35% of the design. Detracting marks in keeping with expectations for a circulated coin. As with all grades any significant detracting marks must be listed separately if unduly obvious.
F "Fine" Wear is around 35% - 50% from the high points of the design. Intricate detail is well worn away, but coins can still have a pleasant appearance.
VG "Very Good" Wear may be uneven but is still some 50% - 80% of the main design. However all outlines of the main design are intact.
G "Good" Wear is above 80% of the design and in places close to 100%. A coin still just features the full outline of the design and a discernable date.




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