Coin Grading

Welcome to my new column called Tips and Observations.  This will replace my old column Market Perspectives, but at times will cover some similar topics as the previous column did.  The general topics of this new column will include tips on buying and collecting rare coins, tips on buying precious metals, and at times rare coin and precious metals observations.

In this first column, I will talk about some of the basic things you should know when buying coins.  One of the hardest aspects of coin collecting is grading. The variety of U.S. coins that were minted is staggering. In each series of coins, there are usually a variety of different striking characteristics and other things that make it hard for the novice to determine proper grades and values for the different years and mint marks.

Determining a weak strike vs wear on some coins can be hard to determine. Technically, a weak strike on a coin that is typically weakly struck does not detract from the actual grade or value of the coin. For example, 1922-D and 1924-D Lincoln Cents are typically very weakly struck. Therefore, when you look at the hair detail and wheat stalks of these coins they are usually two grades higher than their details look.

There are many coins that ae typically weakly struck ranging from the above mentioned to early S mint Buffalo Nickels, early and S mint Walking Liberty Halves, and many O mint silver dollars. It should be noted that if a coin is typically well struck, a weakly struck example will normally be downgraded.

A contradicting point to all of the above information, is that in the case of coins that are very rare and valuable, and are normally weakly struck, to obtain a high grade is contingent on it having an exceptional strike. A good rule of thumb is that the more valuable the coin is the more strict the grading should be.  Even though it shouldn’t be that way, It is not a non-discriminant world when it comes to uniform grading between common and rare coins.

A couple of key books we use when grading coins are “Making The Grade” which is published by Coin World, and “Grading United States Coins” which details a lot of good information on grading coins in general and lists coins that are typically weakly struck.

A lot of the guess work can be taken out of coin grading by buying certified coins – but not necessarily.  We’ll talk about that in the next newsletter.

Be sure to do as much research as you can before buying expensive coins and always buy from someone you know and trust – like Christopher’s Rare Coins!

Chris Seuntjens,


Christopher’s Fine Jewelry and Rare Coins