Grading Circulated Pennies

Grading is the process by which the overall level of preservation of a coin is assessed. It is somewhat subjective but most collector and dealer use the Official ANA grading standard for US coins as guideline. For circulated coin, the amount of wear is quantified as being GOOD, VERY GOOD, FINE, VERY FINE, EXTREMELY FINE or ABOUT UNCIRCULATED.

In addition to the amount of wear, the eye appeal is the second most important factor when grading circulated coins. A coin “with problems” is holed and/or corroded and/or bent and/or scratched and its value is significantly less. Coins brightened by polish solution “cleaned” are also considered as “problem” coins.

How to grade a circulated Lincoln Wheat penny

Grade General Obverse (Lincoln Face) Coin Reverse (Wheat stalks) Coin
Grade GOOD General Very few details and heavily worn Observe (Lincoln Face) Readable date and legend Coin Lincoln_wheat-_GOOD_face Reverse (Wheat stalks) Some grains visible in the wheat stalks but lines at the top are missing Coin Lincoln_wheat-_GOOD_reverse
Grade VERY GOOD General Clear design but heavily worn Observe (Lincoln Face) Most bow tie is visible Cheek and jaw are smooth Coin Lincoln_wheat-_VERY_GOOD_face Reverse (Wheat stalks) 50% of the lines visible at the top of wheat stalks Coin Lincoln_wheat-_VERY_GOOD_reverse
Grade FINE General Entire design is clear and bold. Moderate to heavy even wear Observe (Lincoln Face) No missing letters in LIBERTY More details in hair above ear Cheek is defined Coin Lincoln_wheat_FINE_face Reverse (Wheat stalks) Top lines are worn but separated on the wheat stalks Coin Lincoln_wheat_FINE_reverse
Grade VERY FINE General All major features are sharp Observe (Lincoln Face) Small flat spot on cheek and jaw Coin Lincoln_wheat_VERYFINE_face Reverse (Wheat stalks) Almost full details on wheat stalks Coin Lincoln_wheat_VERYFINE_reverse
Grade EXTREMELY FINE General 50% luster present Observe (Lincoln Face) Slight wear in hair above ear Coin Lincoln_wheat_-EXTREMELY_FINE_face Reverse (Wheat stalks) Each line is clearly defined on the wheat stalks Coin Lincoln_wheat_-EXTREMELY_FINE_reverse
Grade ABOUT UNCIRCULATED General At least 75% luster present Observe (Lincoln Face) Very slight wear. Coin Lincoln_wheat-_ABOUT_UNCIRCULATED_face Reverse (Wheat stalks) Trace of wear shows on the top of the wheat stalks Coin Lincoln_wheat-_ABOUT_UNCIRCULATED_reverse

How to grade a circulated Indian Head penny

Grade General Obverse (Indian Face) Coin Reverse (Wreath) Coin
Grade GOOD General Very few details and heavily worn. Rim may be incomplete in spots Obverse (Indian Face) Readable date No LIBERTY visible Coin Good face Reverse (Wheat stalks) Shield line not visible Bow and arrows merges with wreath Coin Good face reverse
Grade VERY GOOD General Clear design but heavily worn. Rim is complete Obverse (Indian Face) At least 3 letters of LIBERTY visible Coin Very good face Reverse (Wheat stalks) Arrows distinct from wreath Some shield line separated Coin Very good face reverse
Grade FINE General Entire design is clear and bold. Moderate to heavy even wear Obverse (Indian Face) Full LIBERTY readable Coin Fine face Reverse (Wheat stalks) More details in wreath but many leaves appear to be blend Coin Fine face reverse
Grade VERY FINE General All major features are sharp Obverse (Indian Face) LIBERTY bold Wear on feather tips No diamond visible on lower ribbon Coin VERY fine face Reverse (Wheat stalks) Almost full details on wreath Lower edge of ribbon around the arrows is completely blended Coin VERY fine face reverse
Grade EXTREMELY FINE General Very light wear Obverse (Indian Face) Most of diamond design on lower ribbon shows Wear on hair above ear and lowest curl of hair Coin EXTREMELY fine face Reverse (Wheat stalks) Lower edge of ribbon around the arrows is separated Coin EXTREMELY fine face reverse
Grade ABOUT UNCIRCULATED General 50 to 75% lust present Obverse (Indian Face) 4 diamonds show on lower ribbon Coin UNCIRCULATED face Reverse (Wheat stalks) The highest point of bow (knot) shows evidence of wear Coin UNCIRCULATED face reverse