An Amateurs Guide to Coin Grading

At South Cape Coins we often get enquiries from collectors who want to know what the value of their rare South African coins are. Unfortunately it’s virtually impossible to give an accurate value without actually seeing the coin in person, or having a high resolution, crystal clear picture of it (which is difficult unless you have a decent camera). Ultimately you need to know or have an idea of what grade your coin is before you can have it valued.

Unfortunately, sending your rare coin to be officially graded by an independent grading company such as the PCGS or NGC can be costly, and it’s not really worth doing so unless you’re certain your rare coin is genuine and valuable.

Don’t be discouraged though; there are a number of things you as a collector can do that will help you assess the grade of your coin. First things first, it’s important to remember that rare coins aren’t only graded on the metal content that they’re manufactured from. A coin’s rarity/scarcity, preservation (condition), supply and demand, and historical significance are also given careful consideration. As a hobbyist collector, you can’t be expected to know such intricate details of your coin and it would almost certainly require in depth research to gather that information. Of course, if you have the time and means, it would be an interesting project, but if you’re only interested in establishing the grade of your coin, the process is somewhat simpler.

The official coin grading system is known as ‘The Sheldon Scale’, which was developed in 1949. Today, a slightly modified version of it has become the standard grading system used by major coin grading companies. A coin grade indicates the condition or amount of wear on a coin, and this can vary considerably. It’s for this reason the scale has 70 points ranging from 1 (very poor) to 70 (perfect uncirculated), so even the slightest markings that may be invisible to the naked eye can result in a coin receiving a lower grade. It goes without saying that the higher the grade, the more valuable the coin is. In fact, next to its rarity and demand factors, a coin’s grade is the most critical factor in determining its value, which is why coin grading is such a prized skill. Here’s a full breakdown of the coin grading guide used by top grading company, PCGS. By reading through it, you should be able to see where your coin fits on the scale, based on the descriptions given for each point.

For more of a visual coin grading guide, you can compare your coins to the ones pictured on the South Cape Coins website. Although it doesn’t have example specimens for all 70 points, you can clearly see the difference between the grades, and together with the PCGS guide you’ll get a good idea of what grade your coin is. Good luck!

If you have any rare coins that you’d like to have professionally graded and valued, then South Cape Coins can assist you in getting a PCGS or NGC assessment of them.

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