NGC uses two-letter codes before a coin’s numeric grade to describe its method of production and overall appearance. The most common are MS for Mint State coins (those struck for circulation) and PF for Proof coins (those struck for collectors). Another strike type is SP for Specimen, which describes a coin that falls short of the definition for actual Proofs but are superior to the normal currency issues.
NGC uses a numeric grade to succinctly describe a problem-free coin’s condition. The available numeric grades range from 1 to 70 based on an internationally recognized scale developed in the 1940s. As the numeric grade increases, a coin’s condition is considered to be better. Some numbers are skipped below the grade of 60, which is the threshold for a coin to be considered Uncirculated.
Plus & Star
NGC uses the Plus () and Star () designations to distinguish coins at the high end of their assigned grade and/or with exceptional eye appeal for their assigned grade. All coins are evaluated for the Plus and Star designations as part of the normal NGC coin grading process, and they are assigned automatically for no additional fee.
In addition to their superior technical merit, coins that receive a must have above-average eye appeal.
Not all coins are eligible for . Coins grading from NGC XF 45 to NGC MS 68 or NGC PF 45 to NGC PF 68 may receive a , while lower- and higher-grade coins cannot. The is assigned when merited to United States coins from 1792 to date, excluding US bullion and modern commemorative coins, and to world coins struck prior to 1970.
Coins are automatically evaluated for during grading. Coins must be submitted for grading to be reviewed for this designation.
Eye appeal is the most subjective attribute of a coin, but there are many standards shared by numismatists. Exceptional eye appeal may include attributes such as vibrant, colorful toning; intense luster; or, in the case of Proof coins, especially strong cameo contrast. To receive a , coins must be free of any obvious planchet irregularities, and display no bothersome spots or blemishes. Toned coins can be of a single color or multicolored but cannot have any areas that are dark brown, approaching black.
It's important to remember that coins with the Star () Designation can fall anywhere within the grades to which they are assigned. For example, a coin graded NGC MS 64 could be at the lower end, mid-range or higher end of NGC MS 64.
NGC applies the to qualifying coins in its normal course of grading. Coins already certified by NGC can be resubmitted and reviewed for using the Designation Review service.
Strike characters are used to describe how well an area of a coin is struck and when information is of specific interest to collectors. For example, strike characters can describe the degree of red luster on a copper coin’s surface (BN, RB and RD), the degree of contrast on a Proof coin (Cameo and Ultra Cameo) or other distinctive features, such as FB for Full Bands on a Mercury Dime.
NGC Releases Designations
NGC offers several special releases designations to recognize coins received for grading within a specified timeframe or at a particular event. These releases designations, such as Early Releases, First Releases, First Day of Issue and Show Releases, work to capture the excitement of a new release and are generally paired with special NGC certification labels.
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