Topic: The Curmudgeon's Guide to Currency Grading  (Read 6233 times)
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« on: August 01, 2005, 02:15:29 pm »

The following has been copied from Dr. Curmudgeon's Stupid Web Site located at All credit is due to the original author.
Copyright © 1999, 2005, D. R. Banks

The Curmudgeon's Guide to Currency Grading

Ever since the scum of the world have decided that hobbies are in fact a form of investing, paper currency collecting has, like every other decent hobby in the world, been invaded by opportunists and people with more dollars than sense. This has had an obvious effect on currency grading standards.

Now, if you're interested in the real, hobbyist grading standards, you'll have to look elsewhere. There are plenty of fine guides to be found on the internet, and I have no intention to add another here. It's been done.

What we offer here is a grading guide that's consistent with the notes being sold at web auction to people who don't know better. For the most part, the terminology is the same as for normal currency grading, although the standards differ wildly.

This grade is normally given to notes that can be purchased at face value at the local bank or ATM.

Only 15 Known to Exist
The seller has a pack of 100 of them.

"Gem, Crisp Uncirculated" This grade is applied to any note offered at auction with a reserve price of over $500. In terms of actual collectible note grade, it corresponds to a range that includes "EF" to "Gem-CU." Supporting currency scans have been laboriously retouched to eliminate evidence of bent corners, creases, folds and holes. Auction items graded "Gem-CU" will display vivid, if somewhat unique colors, which indicate the care with which the scan has been retouched, or the note has been bleached.

Choice-CU or CCU
"Choice Crisp Uncirculated," a grade applied to most notes with defects that can easily be concealed by creative scanning or minimal retouch. Scans of these notes will generally be very small, and will have a clean appearance with the edges cropped to give the appearance of sharp corners. Any folds or creases present in the note will be apparent in the scan, but only to serious currency collectors. These notes are highly prized by the seller, or at least are in their written description.

This is a meaningless grade given to notes by people who normally sell over-graded coins on auction sites. See "CU."

"Crisp Uncirculated" These notes are sold with accompanying scans that show clear evidence of severe folds and creases. The presence of these creases will be denied in the accompanying description text, which by convention, will have been written in a way to reassure potential buyers that the seller is of foreign origin, and has a thriving business reselling "collectibles" over the web (note the included hyperlink pointing to a subscription "adults-only" site). Auction notes graded "CU" will retain some crispness, although most of the crispness will be in the currency holder (included with the note for a nominal $15 handling fee).

"Almost Uncirculated +++" An intermediate grade given to notes that are in slightly better condition than those that would normally receive a collector's grade of "VG."

"Almost Uncirculated" A note that has seen limited circulation since being put up for auction. If a scanned image of the note is offered, the denomination and nationality will be clearly recognizable. The presence of the portait may be obscured by creases, and corners will be sylishly rounded. Accompanying text will convey a sense of urgency, suggesting that this will be the last time this note will be seen for sale (typically, true, given that if unsold, it will soon re-enter circulation).

EF or XF
"Extra-Fine" This note is being offered for sale by a novice who found it during house renovations. It had been folded into 16ths, and used to shim a door frame. The seller often can't afford a scanner, but recently read up on currency grading at the library.

"Very Fine" Applied to any note over 100 years in age. This will be the only indication of the note's true age, because there will be no accompanying scan, the descriptive text will use English words assembled at random, and the actual note (if purchased and received) will resemble an over-used monographed doily. Often called an "Educational Note" by experienced hobbyists.

Real Good
A grade used by someone who knows nothing about currency collecting or grading, but is offering the note for sale because his pocket change looked odd. Experienced auction sellers would normally grade this note "AU+++."

Error Note
Three types of error notes are commonly offered for sale at auction: 1) The note was damaged while being bleached; 2) The seller has painted the image of another note over segments of this note; 3) The note was bought as part of an uncut sheet of notes from the treasury, and intentionally miscut.

Life Member of CPMS, RCNA, ONA, ANA, IBNS, WCS.
President, IBNS Ontario Chapter.
Treasurer, Waterloo Coin Society.
Show Chair, Cambridge Coin Show.
Fellow of the Ontario Numismatic Association.
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« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2006, 06:42:12 pm »

I notice that in the Canadian Coin Dealer News, a publication that sets whole sale prices on various numismatic items, including notes.

The grades used for notes are VG, Fine, VF, EF, AU, Unc. 60+, Choice CU-63, Gem CU-65.

It would appear that the dreaded numbering system of notes is now working its way into the mainstream of collecting and grading.

As I cannot define the extra Uncirculated grading terms, I will not add them to trends.


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