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The Sheldon scale

By CAA    |   Sunday, 4 August 2019

The Sheldon scale was first presented in 1949 as a way to grade United States cents, but it was only chose by the American Numismatic Association in the 1970s for all US coins. Used by all third party grading companies, it is a numerical grading system (1 to 70) instead of a word grading system like the adjectival standard system used, for example, by the ANDA.

Sheldon scale General description Adjectival standard correlation
P-1 (Poor) Clear enough to identify, date may be worn smooth with one side of the coin blanked. Coins that are very badly corroded may also fall under this category. -
FR-2 (Fair) Some detail shows compared to P-1. -
AG-3 (About Good) Design and date are discernable, although some spots may be worn out. Some lettering should be apparent, if not necessarily readable. -
G-4 (Good) Details are hardly visible in the hair and braid of the queen. Major illustrations and features are evident as outlines. although the coin overall is heavily worn. -
VG-8 (Very Good) Full rim with clearly discernable illustrations and features. Most legends are readable clearly, but the whole coin is still significantly worn. G
F-12 (Fine) Distinct rim, all legends readable, clear illustrations showing some detail, but the whole coin is moderately, but evenly worn. VG
VF-20 (Very Fine) Legends are sharp, illustrations are clear with slight but obvious wear on the high points. F
EF-40 (Extremely Fine) Sharp legends and illustrations show only a trace of wear on the highest points. There must be some remaining mint luster. VF to EF
AU-50 (About Uncirculated) Sharp legends and illustrations show only a trace of wear on the highest points. At least half of the original mint luster remains. EF to aUNC
MS-60 (Mint State) Unattractive, dull or washed-out, mint luster typify this coin. There may be many large detracting contact marks (bag nicks), or damage spots, but absolutely no trace of wear. There could be a heavy concentration of hairlines (minute scratches to a coin's surface), or unattractive large areas of scuff-marks. Rim nicks may be present, and eye appeal is very poor. Copper coins may be dark, dull and spotted. UNC
MS-64 (Mint State) Coin has good, overall average luster and even strike for the type. Several small contact marks in groups, as well as one or two moderately heavy marks may be present. One or two small patches of hairlines may show under low, (3-4x) magnification. Noticeable, light, scuff marks or defects may be seen within the design or in the field. Attractive overall quality with a pleasing eye appeal. Copper coins may be slightly dull. ChUnc
MS-66 (Mint State) Coin has above average quality of strike and full original mint luster, with no more than two or three minor, but noticeable, contact marks. A few very light hairlines may show under (6x+) magnification, or there may be one or two light, scuff marks showing on frosted surfaces or in the field. The eye appeal must be above average and very pleasing for the date and originating mint. Copper coins display full original or lightly toned color. GEM
MS-70 (Mint State) Coins in this grade are in mint condition and free of any wear. FDC

The comparison between the sheldon and adjectival systems above was simplified. There is no hard and fast conversion between them for many reasons including the fact that the adjectival system isn't used the same way in different countries.

The name Sheldon comes from it's creator: William Herbert Sheldon. He authored Early American Cents and later revised that work within Penny Whimsy (these were the most exhaustive catalogues of the varieties of early American large cents at that time). The Sheldon variety list for Early American Cents is still in use today.

Using pictures, effigies and descriptions, the grading section helps to determine the grade of a coin with the Sheldon scale.

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