Grading Currency, Script, & Paper

The following grading information is a guideline provided for edification and to promote the hobby of Numismatics. It is by no means all-inclusive and does not address anomalies which can mask grade or the different degrees of uncirculated. The format presented is generally accepted throughout the numismatic community in the USA and was established in the early part of the twentieth century. The numismatic communities of some countries use standards stricter by half grade, while the numismatic communities of other countries can be lenient by the same margin.

GradeNomenclature & Description
GU 70Gem Uncirculated, Perfect New
Perfect. Entirely original with no trace of imperfections. The printing is perfectly centered and the paper is pristine. This is truely a rare grade and may only be attainable for a modern note.
GU 65Gem Uncirculated, Gem New, Choice UNC

Appears to be perfect, but upon closer examination very minor detractions are evident. May have edge crinkles due to mis-handling one or two very slight corner rounding. Centering must be above average. Notes with wide margins may be slightly off-center. Absolutely no bends, creases, or folds.

UC 60Uncirculated, New, UNC

A perfectly preserved specimen; no mishandling. Paper is clean and firm; no discoloration or marks. Corners are sharp and the paper has a natural sheen. May have some appearence problems such as a slight loss of color, lifeless paper, slightly off center printing, or minor handling issues. No Folds. 
AU 58Choice About Uncirculated, Choice AU, AU/UNC

Virtually perfect, appears to be uncirculated at first. May have a couple of light corner bends or one light fold that reaches into the design. Paper is crisp with original sheen and corners are sharp.
AU 50About Uncirculated, About New, AU
Paper is clean and bright with no hard folds. May have evidence of mis-handling, bending that does not break the paper surface. May have one light fold. Corners are sharp
EF 45Extremely Fine, Choice EF, Choice XF, EF/AU, XF/AU
Above average eye appeal. Color is bright and paper is crisp. May have a few light folds or bends and only the slightest of soiling.
EF 40Extremely Fine, EF, XF
Very attractive with evidence of light handling. May have three light folds or one hard crease, one of which may be horizontal. Paper is clean and bright with some original sheen. Corners may be soft or beginning to round and may have evidence of wear in a crease. A couple of minor pin holes is acceptable.
VF 35 Choice Very Fine, VF/XF, VF/EF 

Has the appearance of an Extremely Fine, but has four to seven folds. Paper has substance and only slightly limp.
VF 30Very Fine, VF
Lightly circulated. May have light staining. There will typically be seven to ten folds.
VF 25Very Fine, VF
A note that shows modest evidence of circulation, but does not meet the criteria for VF30.
VF 20Very Fine, VF
Attractive note with evidence of more handling and wear. May have several folds both vertically and horizontally. Paper is relatively cris and may have minimal dirt or color smudges. Corners are rounded and edges show wear. There can be no tears.
F 15Choice Fine

Will have the appearance of a VF, but under closer examination will have too many folds or other evidence of circulation to warrant a Very Fine grade.
F 12Fine, F
Has evidence of considerable circulation-many folds, creases or wrinkling. No center holes. May be slightly dirty; color is not bright but clear. Edges are worn and paper is beginning to get soft. May have some tears, but connot go into the border design. One or two pin or staple holes are acceptable. Overall still pleasing to the eye.
VG 8Very Good, VG
Well used but still intact. Corners are rounded; nicks and tears can extend into the main design. Discoloration and staining may be present. May have center-holes or splits from excessive folding. Paper is soft.
G 6Good
Well worn and heavily used. Strong multiple folds and creases; may have multiple pin hles or splits, heavy stains or discoloration. Edges are split or torn into the main design. Paper is very limp.

G 4Good
Heavily circulated, totally limp, and has many problems. Low visual appeal. Many notes of this grade have pieces missing.
PoorPoor, Rag, Filler
Similar to good, but severly damaged. May have tape holding it together. Unless it is very rare, a note falling into this catagory is generally considered not collectible.

In conclusion, although grading is very technical in nature, the final assessment is an individual's own opinion. To date, no instrument has been invented that can differentiate all the variables of all circulating and non-circulating issues in the world, throughout all ages. Thus, it takes a good pair of eyes, lots of practice, and a forthright numismatist! We hope you find this guide helpful in your numismatic endeavors. Not sure of some of the industry specific terms? Check our Glossary.


Source Materials
Official black book, price guide to united states paper money,
     House of Collectibles, 2007
PMG paper money grading standards,
     www.pmgnotes.com/paper-money-grading/grading-scale/, 08/21/2016
PCGS numerical grading scale
     http://www.pcgscurrency.com/g_scale.html, 08/21/2016
Standard catalog of paper money, general issues,
     Krause Publications, 11th edition