What is an Adjectival Grade?

Before the advent of the Sheldon Grading Scale of 1 to 70, adjectival grades such as “Good,” “Fine” and “Uncirculated” were used to describe a coin’s condition. In the late 1940s, Dr. William Sheldon assigned numeric grades to commonly used adjectival grades to enhance their precision. “Good” became “Good 4” and “Good 6,” “Fine” became “Fine 12” and “Fine 15,” and so on.

Adjectival grades are still helpful for giving an approximate description of a coin’s condition. As a result, NGC abbreviates the adjectival grade before the numeric grade on its certification labels. A chart showing the adjectival grades, the abbreviation used on the NGC certification label and the corresponding numeric grade range is shown below.

Adjectival Grade NGC Label Abbreviation Numeric Grade Range
Poor PR 1
Fair FR 2
About Good AG 3
Good G 4–6
Very Good VG 8–10
Fine F 12–15
Very Fine VF 20–35
Extremely Fine XF 40–45
About Uncirculated AU 50–58
Mint State / Uncirculated* MS 60–70
Proof PF 60–70

For some bulk submissions, NGC will allow the submitter to request that only the adjectival grade be printed on the NGC certification label. This is generally done only for large submissions of relatively common coins. The coins must still meet NGC’s requirements for the numeric grade range for that adjectival grade. For example, a coin that would grade AU 58 cannot receive an adjectival grade of UNCIRCULATED.

Coins that have been improperly cleaned, are holed, have scratches or certain other issues cannot be assigned a numeric grade from 1 to 70 and will instead receive an NGC Details grade. The NGC Details grade combines the adjectival grade with the word “DETAILS” on the NGC certification label to give an overall sense of the amount of detail that remains on the coin. A description of the primary surface problem will also be printed on the NGC certification label.

Coins with NGC Details grades should not be confused with coins that have only an adjectival grade without the word “DETAILS,” which do not have surface problems that preclude numeric grading. For more information about NGC Details Grading, click here.

*UNCIRCULATED is often paired with the additional qualifiers of BRILLIANT, CHOICE, or GEM. NGC considers BRILLIANT UNCIRCULATED to be any coins that would grade from 60-70 on the Sheldon Grading Scale. CHOICE UNCIRCULATED is considered to be any coins that would grade from 63 to 70. GEM UNCIRCULATED (sometimes indicated as GEM UNC or GEM BU) is used for coins that would grade from 65 to 70.

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