If you have inherited a coin collection, but are unsure about the worth of the coins in your possession, then it is wise to have your coins graded. Coin grading services will determine the quality of the coin and thus its worth. You should know that a grading service will use a variety of different factors to come up with a specific coin grade. While the condition of the coin is one of these factors, there are several others that you should understand. Keep reading to learn about some of the more intricate factors that are used for grading.
You probably know that each coin goes through a minting process where it is manufactured to produce the image on the front and back of the coin. This process involves striking or the use a die to create the image. Specifically, two separate dies are used together with the raw material set in between the dies. Pressure is applied and the image is stamped into the coin. The actual action of image creation is called striking.
There are different types of strikes or mint processes that are used to create coins. The process is evaluated based on the image of the coin. Specifically, the clarity, depth, and preciseness of the details assist the grading service in determining the strike.
There are three separate, distinct strikes that may be noted when a coin is graded. These include circulation, proof, and special mint. Circulation strike is the most common and it is the striking process used to create coins that will be circulated. The dies used in this process are manufactured, mass produced, and set up in minting facilities to handle large volumes of blanks.
Circulation strike coins can vary greatly in grade, so they are inspected thoroughly. Specifically, the coin will be evaluated in relation to die wear and whether or not the coin was minted during the beginning or end of the coin circulation process. Coins that are created with newer dies will be worth more because the image will be cleaner with sharper features.
Proof and special mint coins are more rare and they are seen as having a much higher quality than circulation strike coins. Proof strike coins are the ones that are made with the dies first. The coins are used to evaluate the dies and to ensure quality before larger volumes are minted. Special mint coins are ones that are made with special handling of the dies, banks, and finished coins. Runs of these coins are much smaller than general circulation ones and you can often find them sold in sets.
Coins need to be kept in holders and stored properly to retain or preserve the coin itself. Proper handling and storage techniques help to elevate the preservation value of the coin. Preservation in terms of grading basically indicates how well the coin has been cared for over time. The better the care, the higher the grade.
There are some fairly obvious signs of care, mishandling, and storage issues that will be identified when your coins are graded. One of these signs is the appearance of hairlines. Hairlines are small scratches that appear on the coin and actually penetrate the surface of the metal. The lines appear if coins are polished incorrectly, set together, or even placed in a pocket for a short period of time.
Some hairlines are present at the time of striking or minting as coins are handled, so this is often something that is associated with circulated coins.
Bag-marks are another sign of a preservation issue and they are dings or marks in the surface of the coins. Some of these bag-marks are formed as the minted coins are placed in bags of bins with other coins at the minting facility. However, they can be caused by pressure and stress well after the coins are minted.
Contact marks and other sorts of blemishes may be noted as well as preservation is evaluated.