When it comes to coin grading, there are few books that hold the stature of The Official American Numismatic Association Grading Standards for United States Coins. This year, the 7th edition of this grading tool was published, bringing welcome improvements to the already outstanding grading guide. Editing by Numismatics stalwart Kenneth Bressett and with narrative from Q. David Bowers, the book not only provides you a wealth of information about grading your coins, but also gives you historical information about coin grading and United States coinage.
The grading of coins is at the heart of coin collecting, not only from a monetary value perspective for a coin, but the overall quality of the coin in question. Whether you are a seasoned collector with hundreds or thousands of coin grades under your belt, or new to the hobby and just starting out, the Grading Standards for United States Coins is one that everyone should have on their shelf and handy as they examine their own collections.
I recently picked up the 7th edition of this great book and the improvements in this new edition make it well worth the upgrade.
The Grading Standards for United States Coins is 375 pages that is spiral bound with a hard cover. 322 of the pages are dedicated to grading, starting with the Half Cent and going up through commemorative coins. The other 53 pages are dedicated to grading techniques and ANA details on coin grading, as well as a glossary of terms that are used throughout the book.
For each coin type in the book, there are up to 16 grades described. These start at MS-70 and go down to AG-8 but with some modern coins, like the Susan B Anthony Dollar, there are only MS and AU (About Uncirculated) grades. For each grade, a description is provided as to where to look for wear on the coin to help you determine the grade. That description, in most cases, points out exactly where to look for wear, not just in general terms. This helps you learn how to be a better grader of say Lincoln Cents or Morgan Dollars by focusing on those key wear areas. Finally, every coin the majority of the grades have a photo of the coin in that grade to help you do a stare-and-compare with your coin.
Color Photos of Every Coin
Perhaps the single biggest change to the guide is the updating of the photographs of the coins. Every coin is now in color, making it far easier to see the minor details that determine grades of your coins. Combining this with the text provided for each grade, you can quickly come to grips with grading your coins, even as a new collector. In previous editions, the coin images were black & white and frankly you couldn’t really see the key details you needed when looking at them compared to your coins. The color photos bring out much more detail in the photos so you can really see what the authors are talking about when it comes to wear points.
If you have a previous edition of the Grading Standards for United States Coins, the addition of the color photos make it worth your while to update your copy. I frankly didn’t think it would make that big of a difference but it has, especially on those coins where it could easily go up or down in a grade easily.
A Key Educational Tool
Amongst collectors, there is a certain level of pride when it comes to grading coins. But even the most seasoned of collectors and graders use tools like this book and so should you. It is a valuable educational tool about different coins and different coin grades that, if use regularly, will improve your ability to grade your coins. Grading is much like anything else: practice, practice, practice. Books like the Grading Standards for United States Coins are a key part of that practice and I highly recommend it.
You can pick up at a variety of online retailers with prices ranging from $14.95 to $19.95. Here are a few links that I originally posted in a Mail Bag post asking about grading books.