Obverse – The obverse is the “heads” side of the coin. It almost always is the dated side of the coin and usually depicts the bust (or head) of a President, significant individual or a representation of Liberty.
Reverse – The reverse is referred to as the “tails” side. It usually displays the denomination of the coin. On U.S. coinage the reverse often has an eagle, significant building pertaining to the obverse depiction or allegorical imagery such as a laurel wreath.
Legend – Both obverse and reverse usually have some wording in the peripheries. These are referred to as either obverse legend (in this case E PLURBIS UNUM) or reverse legend (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA), the word LIBERTY is also used on U.S. coinage.
Device – A device is any raised element on the surface of a coin. The main device is referred to as the central device, but legends and mottos are also devices.
Dentils – Also called denticles, these refer to the tooth-like bumps bordering the rims on many earlier U.S. coinages. These served several purposes. They aided milling by widening the edges. They were decorative adding the perception of thickness and depth of design. They facilitated stacking.
Rim – The raised periphery of the coin located along the edge protecting the design elements from wear.
Field – The field is the flat or concave smooth surface area between the central devices, date and any legends, stars or mottos along the margins.
Motto – Is a legislated maxim inscribed on either obverse or reverse of a coin. U.S. coins have IN GOD WE TRUST and/or E PLURBIS UNUM as dictated by specific coinage legislation for each denomination.
Edge – Not visible in the example image, the edge is sometimes referred to as the third side of a coin. The edge is the term used to describe the area between rims of the obverse and reverse. On U.S. coinage it can either be plain, reeded, lettered or starred.
Mint Mark – The mint mark is small lettering that denotes the facility in which the coin was produced. United States coinage uses P, D, S, W, O, CC, D, or C for Philadelphia, Denver, San Francisco, West Point, New Orleans, Carson City, Dahlonega and Charlotte respectively. U.S. coinage lacking this marking defaults to Philadelphia the city of the original Mint facilities.
Denomination – All coinage since the late nineteen century feature an inscription expressing the face value of a coin. Some early U.S. coinage lacks this device.
U.S. Coins and Jewelry are members of the two most trusted coin grading companies:
Coin grading standards were adopted in the 1970s by the ANA from the first coin grading scale called “the Sheldon scale,” which was used for Large Cents. This scale encompasses traditional terms such as Good, Fine, Extra Fine, & Uncirculated and assigns a numerical value in which to compare to other coins of the same type. The scale starts with PO 1 Poor and continues up to Mint state coins, which runs from MS 60 to a perfect coin in a MS 70.
Grading, which is also called certifying, slabbing, holdering, rating, or encapsulating, is when an independent third party views a coin (in person) and gives it a numerical grade. US Coins are graded on a scale from 1 to 70 based on condition. The higher the grade, the more the coin’s value.
Coins are valued based on their rarity and condition. The nicer the condition, the more the coin’s value. When a dealer is selling a coin, they want the buyer to understand the coin’s worth. Coin grading services came into existence in the 1980s. They offer unbiased opinions on the condition of coins. The two largest grading services, NGC and PCGS, have graded almost 70 million coins since they opened. They don’t appraise the coins or assign them a value. The graders simply give the coins a numerical grade and it is then up the market to decide the coin's value.
Coins are valued based on their rarity and condition. The nicer the condition, the more the coin’s value. When a dealer is selling a coin, they want the buyer to understand the coin’s worth. Coin grading services came into existence in the 1980s. They offer unbiased opinions on the condition of coins. The two largest grading services, NGC and PCGS, have graded almost 70 million coins since they opened about 30 years ago. They don’t appraise the coins or assign them a value. The graders simply give the coins a numerical grade, and it is then up the market to decide what the coin is worth.
Getting a coin graded doesn’t automatically make it worth more. The biggest misconception about grading is that grading a coin makes it automatically worth more than if it were ungraded. As an example, if you have a nice looking VF Walking Liberty, it doesn’t become worth more just because PCGS calls it a VF 35 and puts it in a holder. There are certain extreme levels where a coin gets an especially high grade, and it is suddenly worth much more than if it was ungraded. However, the majority of coins are graded just so the buyer and seller can comfortably agree to a value based on prior sales prices of coins in the same grade.
The most common question we get from first time buyers and sellers is, “should I get my coin graded?” The real answer is it depends on what the coin is currently worth and what it would be worth once graded. Our advice is to only get coins graded if you think the cost of grading is less than how much extra value grading will add to the coin. At U.S. Coins and Jewelry, we can help you appraise the coin, so you understand if the coin’s value will increase with grading.
In order to send a coin to NGC or PCGS, you first must pay to be a member of their submission club. In addition to a paid membership, you will also pay a fee per coin. The more valuable the coin, the more it costs for graded. When determining if the cost of grading makes sense, you also need to factor in shipping and insurance expenses to get the coin to the grading service and back. The grading service will most likely have the coin in their possession for a couple of weeks. So while sometimes grading can be a great decision, you still want to make sure the time and money involved is going to pay off. At U.S. Coins and Jewelry, we can help you appraise the coin, so you understand if the coin’s value will increase with grading.