Coin Grading

No subject in numismatics raises so many opposing opinions as coin grading.

One may think that assembling a universal set of rules to judge the condition of a coin would be fairly straightforward. However, purely because any slight difference in the grade of a coin can translate into a sizeable difference in price, sellers will naturally attempt to stretch the rules whenever possible.

In 1949, Dr. William H. Sheldon wrote the numismatic classic "Early American Cents" later known as Penny Whimsy. Quite prophetic, Sheldon wrote, " ... a whole continent of numismatic distance does exist between EF and Mint State. It probably can be mapped as accurately as the distance between Fair and EF has been mapped, and this may constitute one of the pleasant exercises in numismatics."

In "Penny Whimsy", Sheldon proposed the use of a 70-point grading system for Large Cents, based upon the prevailing prices for the most common variety 1794 cents. In the fifty-plus years hence, the Sheldon Grading System has been stretched, extrapolated, interpreted and adapted to all U.S. Coins, and is the grading system used by both PCGS and NGC today.

The American Numismatic Association first defined Sheldon's numeric grades in 1977 within "Official A.N.A. Grading Standards for United States Coins". This book remains one of the most widely accepted grading guides today. At RARCOA, we employ a strict conservative interpretation of the A.N.A. standards for all of the non-certified U.S. coins.

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