Although grading is still a subjective judgment by a trained eye, the industry adheres to these standard definitions.
Coin Grading Definitions
A coin showing no wear or evidence of circulation and also may have a numerical grade assigned such as MS-70, MS-65, MS-60, etc.
AU (About Uncirculated)
There are traces of light wear on the high points of the coin’s design.
XF (Extremely Fine)
The design features are well defined, although light wear is apparent throughout the coin.
VF (Very Fine)
Majority of the coin is clear although wear is evident; high points show moderate wear.
Moderate wear shows on many elements of the coin with heavy wear on the high points; the major design elements remain visible.
VG (Very Good)
There is heavy wear flattening the design elements, though the major features are clearly outlined.
The design is flat and visible in outline with some portions of the design possibly faint.
AG (About Good)
The design is flat and appears in the outline; parts of the rim are lost to wear.
The coin is identifiable, the design is flat and visible in outline, and the rim is essentially indistinguishable from coin fields.
Heavily worn; only the base details remains.
Currency Grading Definitions
Superb Gem Crisp Uncirculated (or Superb Gem CU)
A flawless note; no folds, bends, rounded corners, or counting crinkles are allowable at this grade level. Centering must be superior for the issue. The paper is crisp and original, and embossing bold with all four corners perfectly sharp. These notes command a premium and they too, may be assigned a numerical grade (see coins).
Gem Crisp Uncirculated (or Gem CU)
A crisp and perfectly centered note that has a tiny flaw limiting the grade. The note must be original, with bold embossing and bright colors. Any flaw readily evident, such as a counting crinkle or slightly imperfect centering, will prevent a note from receiving a Gem CU grade. Notes in this condition have no folds or bends.
Choice-Gem Crisp Uncirculated
This is an intermediate grade reserved for notes that are nicer than a typical Choice CU note. They have one or more minor flaws that barely prevent the Gem CU rating. For instance, the note might have a minor counting crinkle or slightly imperfect centering. Notes in this condition have no folds or bends.
Choice Crisp Uncirculated (or Choice CU)
A note in this grade is uncirculated, with no folds or bends present. The paper quality and eye appeal will be above average for the issue, and any flaws present will be minor in nature. Imperfect centering is acceptable at this grade level, although any note with severe centering problems cannot attain this grade. A counting crinkle or two is acceptable, as well as a microscopically frayed corner or two. Any combination of these or other problems would drop a note into a lower category.
Crisp Uncirculated (or CU)
A note in this grade is uncirculated with no folds, bends, or wrinkles, even when viewed closely under a strong light. A bent corner tip may be acceptable at this grade level if there are no other flaws, but only if the bend is within the margin and it does not affect the design. If the bend is large or there is more than one, the note cannot grade CU. Such a note may have centering problems, counting crinkles, or microscopically rounded corners, but the note must be strictly free of folds or bends. A note that is otherwise Choice or Gem CU but has been processed or pressed might fall into this category.
Choice Almost Uncirculated (or Choice AU)
A note in this grade will be a "just miss" for a Choice CU grade or higher. It has above average eye appeal and is attractive for the issue, but a bent corner or light vertical centerfold keeps it from an Uncirculated grade. Two light vertical bends are acceptable for this grade, as long as the surface of the paper is not broken. More than one light fold or a heavy fold or crease drops the note into a lower grade classification.
Almost Uncirculated (or AU)
An AU note has one or more light folds that are not heavy in nature or obtrusive to the overall appearance. Three light vertical bends would be acceptable for this grade if they do not break the surface of the paper, but no more than two light folds. A heavy fold or crease can be present at this grade; two heavy folds or creases drop the note to a lower grade level.
Extremely Fine (or XF)
A note in this grade is bright, fresh, crisp, and attractive, and a few light folds or bends may be present. Overall eye appeal is above average, and very slight soiling may be visible. A note in this grade might have a few light folds or several very minor bends, or a couple of vertical creases may be present. A note with a horizontal fold and three vertical folds cannot technically grade XF, although a very light horizontal bend that does not break the surface of the paper might be acceptable at this grade level if the three vertical folds are not heavy and there are no other apparent flaws. An XF note may have a couple of pinholes; any larger holes would prevent a note from reaching this grade level.
Very Fine (or VF)
A VF note should have nearly full remaining crispness, although several folds, wrinkles, or other signs of circulation may be present. Mild soiling might be apparent, but not be serious. No tears, stains, or other impairments should be readily apparent, and the note should have good eye appeal. Minor pinholes may be visible when the note is held to a light. The corners may be slightly frayed or slightly rounded at this grade level, but the paper should retain nearly full crispness and there should be no loss of color in the design.
Fine (or F)
A note in this grade resembles most notes that have been in circulation for considerable time. The note has lost some crispness, but the paper will be solid. A limp note without any crispness classifies at a lower level. The corners may be slightly frayed or rounded, and the edges may also be frayed. Pinholes may be apparent, but shouldn’t be large or obtrusive. A few minor edge splits are not uncommon in this grade, but they typically will be within the margin and not affect the design. No major stains or tears should be present; a pencil marking or light teller stamp doesn’t affect the grade at this level if it is not dark or conspicuous.
Very Good (or VG)
At this grade classification, a note is heavily worn with slightly rounded corners, frayed edges, or slightly rough margins. The paper will be intact, however, and no large pieces may be missing. A few edge splits may be apparent, although they must not be severe. The note will be limp or soiled from circulation, and some wallet staining may be visible. No major damage is acceptable at this grade level, however, and any note that has a large hole, stain, tear, or missing piece will fall into a lower grade category.
Good (or G)
A note in this grade is heavily worn, soiled, torn, taped, holed, or missing small pieces from the design. It will still be generally intact, and distinguishable by series and design type. Damage or wear might be rather severe. Any note that is missing large portions of the design or is barely attributable may fall into an even lower grade classification, such as Fair or Poor.
Please note that we grade our notes to the true grade even though it may have problems such as a corner missing. We do however lower the price of the note accordingly and identify the problem such as pieces missing, repairs, etc.