RPSeitz's Blog

20 May 2019

Ancient Coin Grades

Ancient Coins | RPSeitz

I am fairly new to Ancient Coin collecting and want to pass on what I learn to others that may also be new to Ancient Coins. Here is what I have learned about Ancient Coin grades.

Describing and grading a coin is very subjective. For those that collect modern U.S. Coins, you are most likely used to the Sheldon Grading Scale 1 - 70. The Sheldon Grading Scale is a 70-point scale for grading coins, developed by Dr. William Sheldon in 1949. For Ancient Coins it is a whole new world of grading, but, here is what you can expect to see when dealing with Ancient Coin grades.

FDC. Fleur de Coin, literally "flower of the die." This implies perfection of strike with an absence of wear. The equivalent on the Sheldon Scale would be MS-68 to MS-70.

Mint State. Without any wear whatsoever. The coin could be double struck, of poor style, or a gem. These other factors must be listed.

Superb. Implies an example of beauty and little or no wear. This grade, like FDC, combines the absence of wear with a special quality and no imperfections.

(These three grades above are extremely rare and are almost never given).

Most of the Ancient Coin Grades will be the following:

Extremely Fine (EF). Again, little or no wear; the highest points of the coin might show an indistinctness or be very slightly rubbed. This is normally as high a condition as one can aspire to in ancient coinage.

Very Fine (VF). Even wear with nice definition. A handsome coin to be proud of, in which the sharpness of an EF coin has been lost through gentle circulation. This grade encompasses split or "in-between" grading:

Choice VF. Implies a really handsome coin with VF grade wear.

VF+. Less wear than normal on a VF coin.

VF-EF. In terms of detail and wear, some aspects of VF and some of EF.

VF/EF. Very Fine obverse coupled with an Extremely Fine reverse.

About VF. Close to being a Very Fine coin in terms of circulation.

Fine (F). The relief of the coin has now been noticeably lessened, with further loss of detail; inscriptions are worn.

Very Good (VG). More wear than Fine, often losing all hair details in portraits.

Good (G). Normally the lowest condition for clear inscriptions and respectable types.

Fair, Poor, and Mediocre. Can be used to describe excessively worn, low-grade specimens.

Source: Collecting Ancient Greek Coins - A Guided Tour Featuring 25 Significant Types by Paul Rynearson. 2009 Whitman Publishing, LLC.



Level 5

Thank you! I am just getting into ancients, and appreciate the info! Cheers, NM

I. R. Bama

Level 5

You taught me something new, thanks so much!

Thank you for knowledge about Ancient Coins!

Grading and evaluating ancient coins is a real juggling act. In addition to wear, you also have to take into consideration centering, strength of strike, fullness of strike, die wear and decay, planchet surface and style. I disagree slightly (and with a bit of my tongue in my cheek) that given enough time you can find Mint State ancients. In only about 50 years of collecting Roman Republican Denarii, I have amassed about five or six ranging from MS to Gem MS (per NGC). Also you missed AU, which NGC recognizes as a grade for ancients. When you learn that my collection now stands at 25 coins, you get a sense of how picky I am (and how poor).


Level 4

Thank you for the education. I am like a sponge trying to soak up all the knowledge to learn all that I can about Ancient Coins. I really appreciate the lesson.


Level 6

Very interesting blog. I have a few ancient coins and will be using your research. Thanks and good hunting.


Level 5

Grading, in general, is subjective and tough to get agreeing opinions. To me, it seems like the older the coin, the more inconsistent the graders are. Someone who is proficient at grading modern coins minted with modern technology is not necessarily a qualified grader of ancients.

Thank you for the great information


Level 4

Great work. Thank you.


Level 4

Great blog. I have no ancients , but will perhaps one day- I will bookmark this. Also, I am impressed with your knowledge growth. You are passionate, like me and others here.

It's Mokie

Level 6

I used to have one ancient coin but I gave it to a YN auction as it did not look like an area I would ever follow. It was a small, Late Roman, bronze coin with a Good grade I believe. Thank you for keeping us all abreast of the ancient coin arena, it is one that a lot of us know little about.


Level 4

Rather than Sheldon’s 70-point scale, NGC Ancients will use the adjectival system. In the circulated grades the terms will strictly describe the amount of wear a coin has suffered; however, in the uncirculated grades it will take into account the overall appearance of the coin to distinguish among Mint State, Choice Mint State and Gem Mint State. However, the Grade is only one of four components of the appearance of ancient coins that they evaluate, the others being Strike, Surface and Style. If you go to this NGC link below. You will see, in ascending order, the grading terms (and their Sheldon equivalents). https://www.ngccoin.com/specialty-services/ancient-coins/grading.aspx


Level 6

Thanks for sharing your educational experience with us.


Level 7

Thanks for the work and information. Many countries have different grades like Britain is different than ours. I have only one ancient your way ahead of me with them. It's slabed and graded MS now I have seen some graded with numbers . Are these The way our grading company's grade them? Thanks again very interesting..

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