General Grading Guide
Determinación del Grado de Conservación
The following is a brief general grading guide that can be applied to
the coins, medals and tokens of Panama (or any country). It is based on the
Sheldon grading scale of 1-70 which is widely used in the United States and
elsewhere including Panama.
It is tempting to be liberal when grading coins that one owns. I advise you
to resist that temptation and be a conservative grader. This means that
"almost" is not good enough! By being a conservative grader other collectors
will be more willing to trade with you, you will seek to improve your collection
when you might otherwise be complaisant, and you will become a better grader which
will help you make wiser purchases.
A number of specific grading guides are available for different coins and medals.
See the list below and select the link to go to that guide.
After the descriptions of the different grades below is a discussion of
how to grade damaged coins.
Sometimes referred to as the "basil state". This is an object that
is barely recognizable as having been a coin of a particular type.
The design is almost completely gone due to wear or corrosion.
The date is illegible. Except for very rare one year types, this coin
has no numismatic value.
Extremely heavy wear or damage. However, the coin is recognizable as to type
and date. The date can be severely worn or damaged, including missing digits,
but it must be recognizable.
Except for rare dates, this coin has no numismatic value.
About Good (AG-3)
Very heavily worn with portions of the lettering, date and legends worn smooth.
The rim is worn, and the design is very flat. Severe and numerous marks are allowed.
However, you must be able to make out the date and the mint mark (if applicable).
This is the lowest grade with some numismatic value. Collectors may buy an AG-3
condition coin to fill a hole in their collection until they can find a better
one, in the case of a rare date or type. Common dates and types have no
Heavily worn. Major designs visible but flat and may be faint in areas. The
peripheral lettering should be mostly full, and most legends should be visible.
The rim should be mostly intact, but worn rims are allowed in the case of some
coins designed with low rims. Numerous marks are allowed but should not be so
severe that a major design feature is unrecognizable.
This coin has no numismatic value unless it is a rare date or type.
Very Good (VG-8)
Well worn. Bold major designs but absence of fine details. All rims must be
intact and peripheral lettering must be full. Some letters in each motto or legend
may be worn away but some should be visible. Some marks are allowed but should not
be too severe. This coin has no numismatic value unless it is a rare
date or type.
Moderate but even wear. Bold entire design but with some weaknesses. Deep
recessed areas should retain their detail. About 50% of all the fine detail should
be present. Wear is noticable on Most letters in each motto or legend should be visible although some
may be weak. Some marks are allowed but should not be very deep, long, or distracting.
This coin generally has numismatic value and is the lowest grade listed in many catalogs.
Very Fine (VF-20, VF-30)
Generally light wear, moderate wear at high points. All major features must be
present and clear. About 75% of all the fine detail should
be present. Overall it should be an attractive coin.
Extra Fine (EF-40, EF-45)
Light wear on the highest points. Most of the devices on the
coin are sharp, clearly defined. About 90% of all the fine detail
should be present. Traces of luster may show. Overall it
should be an attractive coin.
About Uncirculated (AU-50, AU-55, AU-58)
Traces of wear or friction on the highest points. At least 50% of
the original mint luster should be present. The details and lettering
on the coin are very sharp and clearly defined. Overall it
should be a very attractive coin. A novice may describe it as "shiny"
and "new", and be unable to distinguish it from an uncirculated coin.
Uncirculated (MS-60 to MS-70)
No trace of wear whatsoever. Original mint luster fully present, but
can range from poor and unattractive to highly attractive. Coins may have
toning and copper coins may be anywhere from fully brown to fully red in color.
The coin may have few or many bag marks and hairlines from processes
during the minting and transportation process. Overall eye appeal will
range from unattractive to very attractive. MS-60 is an unattractive coin,
MS-63 is an average uncirculated coin, MS-65 is a very attractive coin,
MS-67 is nearly perfect to the naked eye, and MS-70 is perfect under 5X
magnification. MS-65 coins are rare (one in a hundred MS coins) and each
grade above that is rarer still. MS-68 coins are one in a 100,000!
How to Grade Damaged Coins
Coin which are bent can lose much of their value. A coin that has a minor bend
(a 10 degree or less angle) has a maximum value similar to an F-12 coin. With
a more significant bend, the maximum value is similar to a G-4 coin. The coin
is described by the grading and a description of the damage, as in: "VF-20 bent"
or "VF-20 with a slight bend."
A small neat hole that does not make the date unreadable reduces the value of
a coin about two grades. The coin is described by the grading and a description
of the hole, as in: "F-12 with a small hole for stringing". The value of this
coin would be about that of a G-4 coin. A Very Fine coin would have the value of
a Very Good coin, an Extra Fine coin the value of a Fine coin, and an AU coin the
value of a Very Fine coin. A sloppy hole might reduce the value by three grades,
and a random or severe hole would give the coin the value of an AG coin, even if
the coin was otherwise in great shape.
- Rim Dings
Coin rims can be damaged with bumps or dings, and a significant ding or rim bump
reduces the value of the coin about one grade. The coin is described by the
grading and a description of the damage, as in: "VF-20 with a rim bump on the obverse"
or "VF-20 with a rim ding at 2 o'clock
on the obverse." The value of this coin would be about that of a F-12 coin.
One or two rim dings to a G-4 or worse coin need not be mentioned.