Grading Guide for the Cinco Centésimos of 1904-1916
Determinación del Grado de Conservación
The following is a grading guide for the Cinco Centésimos of 1904-1916.
It is based on the Sheldon grading scale of 1-70 which is widely used in the
United States and elsewhere including Panama.
Grading is an art, and is subjective in nature. Different collectors and dealers
will have legitimately different opinions about the same medal. However,
there are generally recognized standards used as a basis for grading coins, medals
and tokens. Standards have been published for grading Panama coins by the Isthmian
Numismatic Society (now defunct) and the Asociación Numismática De Panamá (in Spanish).
The guide below is my application of the Sheldon grading scale
to the Cinco Centésimos of 1904-1916, taking into account the standards previously
Sometimes referred to as the "basil state". This is an object that
is barely recognizable as having been a silver Cinco Centésimos from Panama from this timeframe,
mostly due to its diameter. The design is
almost completely gone due to wear or corrosion and date is illegible.
This coin has no numismatic value, it is time to melt it down!
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.
A Cinco Centésimos in this grade might have some small numismatic value if it is
the 1916 date. Otherwise, the coin only has precious metal (silver)
About Good (AG-3)
Very heavily worn with portions of the lettering, date and legends worn smooth.
OBVERSE: Balboa is outlined with nearly all details worn away. Legend is merging
into the rim.
REVERSE: Coat of Arms, flags and eagle are outlined but flat with nearly all details
worn away. Legend is merging into the rim. Date is readable but worn.
The rim is worn, and the design is very flat. Severe and numerous marks are allowed.
A Cinco Centésimos in this grade will have some small numismatic value if it is
the 1916 date. Otherwise, the coin only has precious metal (silver).
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 or edge should be mostly intact, but worn edges are allowed.
Numerous marks are allowed but should not be so
severe that a major design feature is unrecognizable.
This low grade has some numismatic value, and of course has precious metal (silver) value.
Very Good (VG-8)
Well worn. Bold major designs but absence of fine details. Edges and rims
should be intact. The peripheral lettering should be full.
OBVERSE: No more than three letters in the legend "DIOS LEY LIBERTAD" are illegible.
Helmet shows considerable wear.
REVERSE: Three letters in the motto "PRO MUNDI BENEFICIO" may have disappeared.
Some marks are allowed but should not be too severe.
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
OBVERSE: Legend is still completely visible but "LEY" is faint. Beard and shoulder armor
of Balboa are worn.
REVERSE: Increased wear shows on the head and wings of the eagle. One of the letters in
the motto "PRO MUNDI BENEFICIO" may have completely disappeared.
Some marks are allowed but should not be very deep, long, or distracting.
A Cinco Centésimos in this grade has some numismatic value. Generally this is the
minimum grade that collectors prefer to have in their collection, with the
exception of scarce dates such as the 1916 Cinco Centésimos.
Example of a Cinco Centésimos in Fine (F-12) Condition
In the above example the legend "DIOS LEY LIBERTAD" is still legible, but the "S" and "LEY"
and are weak. The middle feather shows a lot of wear. Light wear is apparent
on Balboa's forehead, cheek, beard, shoulder and chest. On the reverse side, the "O" from
"BENEFICIO" is half gone. Wear is showing on the stars and drapery of the flags.
Each of the cantons of the coat of arms is showing wear; it is especially noticable
on the cornucopia. There is a slight amount of wear
showing on the eagle's head and breast.
Overall this is still a very attractive coin which I would like to give a higher grade.
However because of the weak legend (especially the "S"), I grade this coin as a Fine (F-12).
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
OBVERSE: Increased wear shows on the word "LEY" in the "DIOS LEY LIBERTAD" legend.
REVERSE: Increased wear shows on the eagle's breast. Wings and head of eagle show traces
of wear. One or two letters in the "PRO MUNDI BENEFICIO" motto are becoming faint.
Overall it should be an attractive coin.
Extra Fine (EF-40, EF-45)
Light overall 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.
OBVERSE: Slight wear on the middle feather on the hat. Slight wear on "LEY" in the
"DIOS LEY LIBERTAD" legend.
REVERSE: Slight wear on breast of eagle. Slight wear on the "PRO MUNDI BENEFICIO" motto
(generally on the last "o").
Traces of luster may show. Overall it should be an attractive coin.
Example of a Cinco Centésimos in Extra Fine (EF-40) Condition
In the above example the legend "DIOS LEY LIBERTAD" is quite clear, and all the letters
are strong. The toning is uneven and gives emphasis to the areas where there is some
wear. These areas are the middle feather on the hat and Balboa's eyebrow and cheek.
There is also light wear on Balboa's shoulder and chest. On the reverse side, some slight
wear can be seen on the eagle's breast and the mouth of the cornucopia. No wear is apparent
on the "PRO MUNDI BENEFICIO" motto. The toning is even more uneven on the reverse side,
but overall this is an attractive coin which I would grade as a Extra Fine
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.
OBVERSE: May have slight wear on the middle feather on the hat. No wear apparent
on the legend "DIOS LEY LIBERTAD".
REVERSE: Very slight wear on the stars and lines in the flags. No wear apparent
on the motto "PRO MUNDI BENEFICIO" or breast of the eagle.
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.
No trace of wear whatsoever. Original mint luster fully present, but
can be poor and unattractive. Numerous marks are allowed, but not so
many that the coins could be considered damaged. Overall this coin
is not attractive and has poor eye appeal.
Choice Uncirculated (MS-63)
No trace of wear whatsoever. A nice uncirculated coin which is attractive and has
positive eye appeal. There may
be numerous marks or hairlines, including several major marks in the main focal areas. If
there are distracting marks or hairlines on the major devices, then the fields should be
relatively clean. If there are distracting marks or hairlines in the fields, then the devices
should have less disturbance. The strike will range from about average to full.
The luster will range from about average to full.
There can be noticeable spotting, including several large spots or a group of small ones.
Overall this is an attractive coin with some minor distractions.
Gem Uncirculated (MS-65)
No trace of wear whatsoever. Blazing original luster and virtually no surface flaws.
A coin may grade MS-65 with scattered light marks, but with great luster and strike -
or a coin with virtually no marks but slightly impeded luster also could be MS-65.
The overall eye appeal must be very positive. There may be several scattered marks,
hairlines, or other minor defects. If the flaws are in a main focal area, then they must
be minor and fewer. Hidden marks and hairlines can be larger. The coin must be well-struck.
The luster must be above average, and any toning can only slightly impede the luster.
Overall this is a very attractive coin with nothing to detract from the eye appeal.