Numismatic interest usually starts with the ‘Fine’ grade, and go up from there. The basic standard UK grades are outlined below.
‘Fine’ coins will show a large degree of wear, and most of the fine details of the coin’s features will not be visible. Many of the higher features will likely be worn away.
• Very Fine
‘Very Fine’ coins are one step up from ‘fine’. It will show less wear than a ‘fine’ coin, most of its details will be fairly visible.
• Extremely Fine
Just as you’d expect, these are finer still. They will show only light wear on the highest features of the coins, a good amount of the original details should be seen.
• About Uncirculated or AUNC
These coins will show extremely light wear at most, usually just traces at the highest features. still have a bit of the original ‘mint luster’ (the shiny, untarnished color of a new alloy) remaining.
These coins show little to no wear, almost always because they have never been ‘circulated’ – that is, passed from hand to hand in the normal course of commerce. The coins may, however, show ‘bag marks’, which are artifacts of being mass produced and/or stored in large sacks at the mint itself.
• Fleur De Coin
Fleur De Coin, if you’ll pardon my French, is the ‘truly flawless’ grade of coins. They will have no wear or contact marks that can be seen with magnification, and even when examined closely will show no manufacturing marks. These have all (or nearly all) of their original luster.
There are also a few less ‘official’ grades that collectors or dealers will use to indicate a status ‘between’ two grades, such a ‘Good Very Fine’, ‘Almost Extremely Fine’, and ‘Good Extremely Fine’.
U.S. Coin Grades
If you are buying (or selling) coins in the States, it behoves you to know how their grading system works. They use a numerical value from 1 to 70, with abbreviations roughly equating to the European grades before the number. Thus, an F 12 coin would be ‘Fine’, and 12 of 70. VF 35 would be Very Fine, EF 45 would be extremely Fine, and AU 58 would be Almost Uncirculated. Above this, you will probably see MS (referring to ‘Mint Safe’) rather than Fleur De Coin or Brilliant Uncirculated.