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Grading Questions

5 posts in this topic

As a recent collector of NGC certified coins, I am a little confused about how the grades are designated.

The attachment compares CH AU, CH XF and CH XF Owls.

The AU is 4/5, 4/5, yet the adjacent CH XF is also 4/5, 4/5, while the far right CH XF is 3/5, 3/5.

If eye appeal plays a part, the center coin displays literally every aspect of the design without a mashed nose like the other two.

Can you shed any light on the grading of these three coins?

I own the coin in the center.

Thank you very much.

Grading Questions.jpg

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The grade on an NGC graded ancient is composed of 3 elements. First is the grade. In the case of the middle owl the grade was CH XF. The grade is an measurement of the amount of wear the coin has received. It does not take into account centering, surface condition, eye appeal, or anything else. It's strictly an indication of wear. With Athens tetradrachms, he key places to look for wear are on Athena's cheek, her hair and the first feather on the helmet. these are the high points of the coin. Next is the strike grade. Strike takes into account anything that happens to a coin up to and including the time the coin is struck by the dies. So strength of strike, centering, flan flaws, die rust, die wear etc... all get factored into the strike grade. With this particular coin, the hair in front of the ear and the owls beak which are opposite it, were both weakly struck. Thus the 4 grade for strike. Finally you have the surface grade. Surface is anything that happens to the coin after it was struck. This can include porosity, countermarks, test cuts, cleaning and a myriad of other elements. With this group of owls, a good percentage of them were slightly over cleaned and there are cleaning hairlines left on the coin, most often in the field in front of the owl. This coin falls into that category and thus received a 4 surface grade.


Now to the other 2 coins. The CHAU coin has only a trace of wear, thus the higher grade for wear. The coin is boldly struck but is off center slightly with the tip of the nose off the flan. So this coin received a 4 strike grade for the nose being off the flan, otherwise the strike is bold on both sides. It's the same strike grade as the middle coin, but for a different reason. It received a 4 surface grade due to some minor porosity on the reverse.


The last coin, the CH EF 3/3 coin had the same amount of wear as the middle coin. It is even more off center than the CHAU coin with Athena's eye almost touching the edge of the coin, one feather on the helmet completely gone and a second almost gone. Thus the 3 strike grade. It also received a 3 surface grade because it had been harshly cleaned and there were significant brush marks on the coin, enough so that the brushing was also mentioned on the holder.


Eye appeal plays no role in any of the above measurement. A coin with exceptional eye appeal can receive a star after the grade. 

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Thank you so much, Lisa B. You really clarified the grading process for me.

I thought the grade might have been the result of the strike first vs. the actual detail in the coin.

I will share this with a friend who had the same questions.



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