Learn Grading: What is an NGC Details Grade?

Posted on 7/9/2019

Coins with certain surface problems can still be eligible for NGC authentication and grading.

US and world coins that are submitted to NGC for authentication and grading generally fall into one of three types:

  • Coins that are genuine and eligible for a numeric grade, sometimes accompanied by strike characters or other qualifiers. (Most coins submitted to NGC fall into this category. Examples of these grades include NGC PF 69 Ultra Cameo or NGC AU 55.)
  • Coins that NGC will not grade or encapsulate because they are counterfeit, are of questionable authenticity or have been altered. (In addition, NGC will not grade coins that have active surface contaminants such as PVC residue.)
  • Coins that are genuine, but whose surface problems preclude a numeric grade.

Coins in this third category are eligible for an NGC Details grade. Authentic coins with surface problems can still have significant numismatic value, particularly when the coin is highly desirable or its surviving population is low.

LEFT: 1666-FG Frederik III 3 Speciedaler, graded NGC VF Details. RIGHT: 1792 Washington President Pattern Silver Half Dollar, graded NGC XF Details.
Click images to enlarge.

An NGC Details grade begins with the abbreviation for the adjectival grade range (such as VF for Very Fine) where the coin would fall based on its level of detail. This is followed by the word DETAILS. For example, a coin with the same detail as a coin in the Very Fine range would be described as VF DETAILS.

Below the NGC Details grade is a description of the primary surface problem, such as REV GRAFFITI. So, in this case, the full Details grade can be expressed as NGC VF DETAILS - REV GRAFFITI.

There are six major categories of issues that will result in an NGC Details grade:

  • Environmental effects associated with improper storage. Descriptions include: BRONZE DISEASE, CORROSION, ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE and STAINED.
  • Cleaning, which has detrimental effects and can cause unnatural appearance. Descriptions include BRUSHED, CLEANED, POLISHED, SPOT REMOVALS, WHIZZED and WIPED. (Such unskilled and improper cleaning differs from professional coin conservation.)
  • Altered color, often achieved through chemicals or heat. Descriptions include ARTIFICIAL COLOR and ARTIFICIAL TONING.
  • Mechanical damage, in which contact between the coin and other objects leaves permanent damage. This can be intentional or accidental. Descriptions include BENT, CHOPMARKED, COUNTERMARKED, DAMAGED, GRAFFITI, IMPAIRED, MOUNTED, MUTILIATED, SCRATCHES, SOLDERED or WHEEL MARKS.
  • Mechanical repairs, which are often performed in an attempt to disguise damage or to give the coin the illusion that it is less worn than it actually is. Descriptions include CHOPMARK REPAIR, MOUNT REMOVED, PLUGGED, RE-ENGRAVED, REMOVED FROM JEWELRY, RIM FILING, RIM REPAIR, SMOOTHING and TOOLED.
  • Mint-made irregularities, which include minor flaws such as rim clips. Descriptions include PLANCHET FLAW and CLIPPED PLANCHET. (Major errors are often eligible for the MINT ERROR designation, the subject of a future column)

Sometimes, a problem may be limited to one side of a coin. In these cases, the descriptions may be further qualified with OBV (for obverse) or REV (for reverse). For definitions of the descriptions above, click here.

LEFT: 1913-S Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle, graded NGC AU Details. RIGHT: 1882D Germany 20M, graded NGC AU Details.

Prior to 2018, NGC Details-graded coins were encapsulated with a purple label, and many coins with this label remain in the marketplace. Today, NGC Details-graded coins are encapsulated with NGC’s Standard Brown label.

Populations for NGC Details-graded coins can be found in the NGC Census by a clicking on a box with the letter “D” in it below the coin description. Clicking on this box will show the roster of NGC Details-graded coins alongside the ones that qualified for a numeric grade. It is also possible to see populations for NGC Details-graded coins by toggling to NGC Details Census at the upper left.

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