I was recently asked this question and I thought it might be something to share with all of you:

Hi Rob,
When you have a couple of minutes, hoping you can shed some light on the topic of grading as I begin to dive deeper and deeper into the coin collecting waters.
My main confusion has to do with letter or verbal grades of raw coins, vs. the Sheldon scale graded and NGC/PCGS slabbed coins. Specifically with regard to grades MS60-MS65, can you fill-in the missing unique mini acronyms after UNC so I have something that represents each of the MS grades accurately?


MS61  BU, UNC,

MS62  BU, UNC,

MS63  Choice Unc, Choice BU,

MS64  Choice Unc, Choice BU, 

MS65  Gem Unc, Gem BU

What this comes down to is how to deal with dealer graded raw coins in those stapled square carded holders when the only descriptions are AU, UNC, and BU? Having clear and uniquely definitive, universally accepted, mini acronyms for all (6) of these grades would seem to be an ideal scenario. Can it be done?
If it comes down to having to settle for the same acronym for two or more numbered grades, what’s a prospective coin buyer supposed to do? Wouldn’t it be expected that the average informed buyer would declare the coin as being MS61 for example if both MS61 and 62 carried the same acronym BU? 

How is a collector supposed to determine reasonable price range of coins slab graded MS61 and MS62 using the grey sheet with the gap between MS60 – MS63?


The Sheldon grading system when introduced was frowned upon by old time dealers and collectors.  It was considered too exact and no coin could be graded easily that exactly.  Over time it has become the accepted standard and for a novice or intermediate collector/dealer it is what is used.  Unless you are an advanced collector/dealer that can grade coins precisely, my suggestion is stick to certified coins as the earlier used unc, BU , choice BU, Gem Bu system is not precise in today’s market.  Really rare coins can have huge value swings based on grade.  It is for that reason, unless you are experienced enough to grade coins yourself accurately, or you can trust the person you are dealing with to grade raw coins accurately, you should only buy certified coins that have been graded from preferably either PCGS or NGC.

Value wise, generally MS 61 graded coins are priced comparably to MS 60 coins and only are a small premium if the coin is truly rare.  An MS62 is as well just a small premium over MS60 and should not be considered to be worth halfway between 60 and 63. 

Many experienced collectors/dealers have made a livelihood finding under graded coins (both raw and certified) and buying them and certifying them at a higher grade, sometimes increasing their values tremendously.  Only the experts can do this consistently and profitably. If your not good at this, you can loose a lot of money quickly.  

There have been many “wanna a be” coin dealers that have come and gone over the years that thought this was an easy way to make money.  I have seen many crash and burn.  

Unless you are going to make it a full time profession and are talented enough to be successful, the best advice is to buy from reputable dealers and lean toward certified coins until you feel comfortable grading coins yourself.  The more coins you look at the easier it will be to understand the fine subtleties of grading rare coins. 
Hope this has been of help,  Rob 


We constantly get calls from folks that feel there question is dumb. Well, we are always happy to answer your inquiries in a knowledgable and friendly manner. Yes, we do get many questions that might be considered by some as dumb, but if you don’t know, you don’t know and we are here to help. Don’t be concerned about asking a question you might think is dumb.


The only dumb question is the one that is not asked.




The best advice I can give you for investing in rare coins is do your homework. For that matter investing in anything requires doing your homework. The better you understand the value of an item, before you make a purchase, the more likely your investment will be a profitable one down the road. Understanding what an item is worth is not always what somebody says. Do some comparison shopping. Find out what you can get for it before you make that purchase. That will give you a pretty good feel for what something is actually worth. Whether it’s rare coins gold silver bullion jewelry antiques collectibles, always do your homework first. We are always here at Old Pueblo Coin to try and answer any of your questions about investing in coins currency and other collectibles. Feel free to contact us anytime.
Mr. Coinman


Let’s talk a little about grading coins.  The first thing to determine is whether it is new or used.  A coin cannot be both,  although sometimes it’s very difficult to determine whether it is circulated or uncirculated.  The general rule of thumb is if there is any wear on the highest points of a coin the coin is circulated.  As long as there is no evidence of any rubs or wear on the coin it can then be considered uncirculated.  This is where it can get confusing.   Some coins the strike is very weak and it can be construed as wear.  This is especially true in coins like Buffalo nickels, Mercury dimes and Walking Liberty half-dollars.  Many of these coins can appear to be worn from circulation and yet they might be just a weak strike that made them as flat as they appear.  I have seen Liberty Walking half-dollars in high-grade uncirculated condition that had no detail down the center of Miss Liberty and no definition of feathers on the eagles breast.   Many Buffalo nickels as well without a full horn can certainly be considered uncirculated and the lack of detail can just be the cause of a poorly struck coin.  So I’m sure I’ve totally confused you by now.  Grading these coins can be very difficult and unless you have knowledge of a particular series and specific dates in that series and how they are generally struck, it can be quite challenging and costly if you buy a coin that’s overgraded.  And yet the strike of a coin will not affect the grade.  It might affect the value and the desirability but not the grade.  Once you determine if a coin is circulated or uncirculated, at that point you can determine the finer points of grading.  And that’s a blog in  itself.  Hope this has been of help. Feel free to ask specific questions and I’ll do my best to help you with an answer.


A daily question that comes to us at Old Pueblo Coin is how do we put a value on something. It seems that everyone today is an ”expert”.  The reality is that the opposite is true.  If you look online you are bound to be confused by all the information and the mis-information about coins, currency, gold, silver and collectibles.

Yes, the internet has a lot of information. But a novice has no way of knowing how to get through the bad information and sort out the good information.  If you try to ”do it yourself” you can make a costly mistake and sell your items for below their value.  You really do need an expert.

How do you become and expert? Time is the key. A quick course or reading a book can not replace decades of personal experience and knowledge. No, we don’t expect you to spend all that time and become and expert.

After several decades of experience, we’d love to be the experts who evaluate your valuables. With more than 30 years on the same street in Tucson our gold buyers, coin buyers and currency experts are ready to help you understand the values of your items