Grading Peace silver dollars is a skill that has taken even the top coin collectors many years to perfect. The best way to start learning how to grade Peace dollars is by looking at these pictures and pictures and studying the explanations.
Remember that coin grading is the expression of an opinion that describes the condition of an individual coin that most dealers and coin collectors would agree. Grading Peace Silver dollars is not an exact science. Therefore, a procedure cannot be applied... where everyone comes out with the same result. Numismatists and coin grading services have agreed upon specific definitions, descriptions and Sheldon's numeric values that help coin collectors and dealers describe their coins accurately to each other. Also, look at real coins to help you understand these terms and descriptions so you can accurately grade your Peace Silver dollars.
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Understanding Grades for Peace Silver Dollars
Peace Silver dollars are large coins that are made out of silver that is soft and malleable. Although silver is easy to strike, the large size of the coin makes it challenging to get a full impression. Additionally, the large scale of the coin also makes it susceptible to nicks and bag marks.
The photo at the left illustrates the highest points on the Peace Silver dollar design (indicated by the color red). If you think you have an uncirculated Peace Silver dollar, look at these areas on the coin first to see if you can spot any wear. If there is wear, then it is not uncirculated. (Clicking on the photo will open a new window with a larger version of the image.)
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Peace Silver Dollars Grade: About Good-3 (AG3 or AG-3)
Summary: The coin is very heavily worn and barely legible. Some of the devices, lettering, legends, and date may be worn smooth, but the date is still readable. Parts of the rim blend into the lettering.
Obverse: Liberty's head is almost worn smooth with only the rough outline of significant details being evident. The rim has merged with the field of the coin in most places. Circulation in commerce may have caused some of the lettering to be worn away.
Reverse: The eagle is mostly just an outline. The rock that the eagle is standing on is also only an outlined, and "PEACE" has been completely worn away. The rim is worn away and has merged with the field. Various lettering may be missing.
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Good-4 (G4 or G-4)
Summary: Overall, the coin is heavily worn. The devices, lettering, legends, and date are readable but may have some indistinctness in a few areas. All major features are visible in at least outline form, and the rim is mostly complete but may be lacking in a few spots.
Obverse: Liberty's head is well-worn, but major details are visible. The rim is mostly intact, and all lettering is at least partly visible.
Reverse: The eagle is well worn, and the neck feathers are distinct from the wing feathers. The rim is worn but is mostly separate from the field. All lettering is visible, but "PEACE" may be weak or missing in some spots.
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Very Good-8 (VG8 or VG-8)
Summary: The coin is well-worn. The design is clear and major elements are defined but are flat and missing more delicate details.
Obverse: Liberty's hairline is now starting to show near her forehead and the cheek. The rim, although worn, is complete and does not bleed into the field. The hair that covers the lower part of the rays is worn but distinct.
Reverse: The word "PEACE" is complete. The rim is full and does not merge into the field.Continue to 5 of 13 below.
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Fine-12 (F12 or F-12)
Summary: The coin shows modest even wear over the entire surface of the coin. The primary design elements are bold, and all lettering, legends, and date are clear and readable.
Obverse: The waves of hair above the forehead lack finer detail but are distinct from the other waves of hair. The rays show a trace of wear but are full and discrete.
Reverse: Feathers on the eagle's wing and leg are worn flat, and some details on the neck feathers are starting to show. All lettering is full and complete showing very little weakness but may be heavily worn.
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Very Fine-20 (VF20 or VF-20)
Summary: Moderate to minor wear exists only on the highest parts of the design where a slight flatness is beginning to show. The overall condition of the coin is pleasing and attractive.
Obverse: The waves of hair above the forehead and over the ear are worn, but some of the more delicate details are starting to become apparent. All lettering, although worn, is complete and well defined.
Reverse: Major details in the eagle's feathers on the wing and leg are starting to become apparent. All lettering is full. "PEACE" is complete and whole but shows signs of wear.
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Extra Fine-40 (EF40, XF40 EF-40 or XF-40)
Summary: Has only the slightest wear on the very highest points of the coin. All details are sharp, and all design elements are well defined. Some traces of mint luster may still exist.
Obverse: All of the hairlines are complete with wear only apparent on the highest points. The rays are crisp and sharp. Some evidence of mint luster may be noticeable.
Reverse: All major details in the feathers show. Most wear is concentrated on the top of the eagle's wing. Other subtle details are starting to become apparent. "PEACE" is crisp and sharp with only some minor wear.
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About Uncirculated-55 (AU55 or AU-55)
Summary: Very minor traces of wear or abrasions are visible on only the highest points on the coin. Mint luster is almost complete but may be broken in the open fields. Overall, the surfaces of the coin are well preserved.
Obverse: Most of the mint luster remains in the protected areas with a trace of wear on the hair covering the ear. The cheek shows minor wear and no signs of mint luster.
Reverse: All feathers are clear and identifiable but wear is apparent on the Eagle's wing feathers and leg feathers. "PEACE" is crisp and sharp with only slight wear noticeable on the tops of the letters.Continue to 9 of 13 below.
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Mint State-63 (MS63 or MS-63)
Summary: No traces of wear from circulation exist. Mint luster is complete but shows minor impairments. Many contact marks, bag marks, and hairline scratches exist on the coin's field and on the major design elements. These imperfections are visible without magnification. Overall, the coin has an attractive eye appeal.
Obverse: All details are crisp and complete. Some slight friction may have disturbed the luster on the hair over Liberty's hair, cheek, and the lower neck. Bag marks and nicks are obvious in the field in front of Liberty's face and on her cheek.
Reverse: All of the feathers on the Eagle's wing and leg are crisp and complete, but the mint luster is disturbed. Some abrasions and nicks will be apparent on the rays and in the field behind the Eagle.
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Mint State-65 (MS65 or MS-65)
Summary: A high quality of mint luster covers the entire surface of the coin and is undisturbed. Contact marks and bag marks are few and small. The coin is well struck, and a few hairlines may be seen under a low powered magnifying glass. Overall the coin is brilliant and has an above average eye appeal.
Obverse: The mint luster is outstanding and complete with only a few minor nicks and bag marks in less conspicuous places.
Reverse: All details in the Eagle's feathers are bold with no signs of wear. A few scattered nicks or bag marks may be found upon close inspection.
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Mint State-67 (MS67 or MS-67)
Summary: The original mint luster is complete and almost perfect. There are only three or four minimal and inconspicuous contact marks. Overall, the coin has an extraordinary eye appeal that is rarely seen. A few minor hairlines can be found only with magnification.
Obverse: No traces of wear are evident anywhere on the coin. There are no distracting marks and the mint luster, and strike is above average.
Reverse: All details of the coin are present even on the highest points of the coin, and the eye appeal is superb.
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Having been a coin collector for almost all of my life, I have witnessed the evolution of coin grading standards over the last fifty years. Additionally, I have studied coin grading with professional coin graders from NGC and PCGS. Coin grading is an opinion that one person believes reflects and describes the condition of a given coin. The information presented in this article is my opinion on how to interpret the many coin grading standards that you will encounter. This is not a universal, absolute and definitive definition of how this particular coinage series should be graded.Continue to 13 of 13 below.
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More Coin Grading Resources
I recommend the following books to help you further develop your Peace dollar grading skills. Clicking on the links below will find the lowest prices on the Internet for you.
- The Official American Numismatic Association Grading Standards of United States Coins
- Photograde: A Photographic Grading Encyclopedia for United States Coins
- Making the Grade: A Grading Guide to the Top 50 Most Widely Collected U.S. Coins
- Grading Coins by Photographs
- The Official Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection