A circulated coin graded VF-20 will have moderately noticeable wear on the higher parts of the design. Minor details are beginning to flatten. Surfaces are attractive and free of serious blemishes, erosion, nicks, or scratches. Problems such as scratches, nicks and rim dings will lower the grade by one or two grade intervals (in other words: F-12 or VG-8)
The exact descriptions of circulated grades vary widely from one coin issue to another, so the preceding commentary is only of a very general nature. It is essential to refer to the specific descriptions for a particular coin type when grading coins.
While numbers from 1 through 59 are continuous, it has been found practical to designate specific intermediate numbers to define grades, resulting in steps. Hence, this text uses the following descriptions and their numerical equivalents, as approved by the ANA Board of Governors.
Improving Your Coin Grading Skills
While the preceding guidelines will undoubtedly prove useful to the reader, it is strongly advised that viewing actual coins in the marketplace will enable you to better determine grading practices affecting the series which interest you most. For example, the collector of Morgan silver dollars would do well to examine Morgans graded by a variety of services and sellers in order to determine in general what is considered to be MS-63, MS-64, MS-65, and higher grades.
Reproduced with permission from The Official American Numismatic Association Grading Standards for United States Coins, 6th edition, © 2005 Whitman Publishing, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Going beyond the Grade
The VF-20 coin grade is usually the "sweet spot" balancing value and quality. Once you move into the next higher coin grade grouping (Extremely Fine: EF-40 and EF-45), prices will usually start to rise proportionately. Although, a VF-20 coin will exhibit moderate even wear across both the obverse and the reverse, some of the finer details may be present on the coin. This can make an affordable and yet attractive addition to your collection.
On smaller coins, for example, a Mercury dime, the individual rods making up the facies on the reverse will mostly be discernible. Also, the bands holding the rods together will be evident. This will give you a true appreciation of the coin's design at a modest price.
On larger coins, for example, a Morgan dollar, most of the details in Lady Liberty's hair on the obverse will be present. This gives the coin and overall pleasing look without sacrificing a lower graded coin in your collection. Additionally, details on the eagle on the reverse will be discernible.
Also Known As
A Lincoln Wheat penny that is graded VF-20 will show obvious wear on the cheekbone and jaw.
Next higher grade: VF-25
Next lower grade: F-15