The Art of Description
When grading items, one should remember the goal: to paint an accurate picture in the mind of the potential buyer of what to expect upon receipt of the item. Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words, and often a seller can include high-quality images to help describe the note, but too frequently an image does not clearly show all flaws. This is when a good grading description becomes invaluable. The buyer relies on the seller's honesty and accuracy in disclosure. It is therefore incumbent upon the seller to do the best job possible.
This being said, writing a good grade description is more of an art than a science. One can be too brief, or too comprehensive, with equally bad effect. If too brief, the reader has an eerie feeling of uncertainty which causes a decision not to buy. Too much detail, and the opposite can happen: the buyer imagines the accumulation of flaws in the description of every tiny flaw and pictures an item in horrible shape, when this is not the case.
70 EPQ Gem Uncirculated
Perfect. Brilliantly clean, crisp, bright, sharp corners, deep color. The highest grade possible. Notes must have no evidence of handling visible at 5x magnification. The margins and registration must appear centered to the unaided eye.
The 70 grade represents an extremely rare state of preservation and should NOT be used unless the item is absolutely perfect!
The item exhibits an amazing state of preservation with virtually no perceptible flaws of any kind, other than very minor flaws which may have occurred during the printing process.
69 EPQ Superb Gem Uncirculated
This note is nearly visually indistinguishable from a 70 but the margins and registration may appear slightly off center. There is no evidence of handling visible to the unaided eye.
68 EPQ Superb Gem Uncirculated
The margins and registration are slightly off center. There may be very minor handling.
67 EPQ Superb Gem Uncirculated
A note with above-average margins and registration. There may be minor handling.
66 EPQ Superb Gem Uncirculated
There may be slightly more handling than a 67 EPQ note. The centering must be above average.
65 EPQ Gem Uncirculated
The note may have one or two minor distractions as a result of minor handling. The centering must be above average.
64 Choice Uncirculated
The centering is off on one or two sides. Some handling may be evident but there must be no folds in the design.
63 Choice Uncirculated
The centering is imperfect and the design may be flat. There may be several flaws but there will be no folds.
The note is strictly uncirculated but may have minor-to-moderate handling and/or corner tip issues. There will be no folds, however. The margins may touch or come into the design.
The note is poorly centered and the margins come into the design. There may be counting marks, smudges or other signs of handling. There will be no folds through the design.
A note with problems that may include toned paper, a small stain or fading. There will be handling issues but there will be no folds through the design.
58 Choice About Uncirculated
Barely circulated. Appears uncirculated but upon close inspection, it apparently has been lightly circulated. Often a note with a single fold that crosses the design.
55 About Uncirculated
Barely circulated. This grade is commonly assigned to a note that has one fold or two to three corner folds through the design.
53 About Uncirculated
Barely circulated. Clean, crisp, sharp corners, good color. Two or three very light almost invisible vertical folds.. Minor signs of handling.
50 About Uncirculated
Barely circulated. Sharp, crisp, clean, strong color. The note can have two heavier folds or light horizontal and vertical folds. The handling can be noticeable.
45 Choice Extremely Fine - Circulated
Barely circulated. Minor discoloration and wear, crisp, fairly sharp, decent color. A note with two to three heavy folds, one of which may be horizontal.
40 Extremely Fine - Circulated
Lightly Circulated. Noticeable discoloration and wear, weakening paper, minor corner wear, good color. There are three or more folds, one of which may be horizontal.
35 Choice Very Fine - Circulated
Lightly Circulated. For years dealers and collectors called this grade VF-XF. This note looks Extremely Fine, but it will have four to seven light folds.
30 Very Fine - Circulated
Lightly Circulated. This note will be circulated and may have light soiling. Can have up to seven to ten folds.
25 Very Fine - Circulated
Moderately Circulated. A note that shows modest evidence of circulation as well as more folds and/or soiling than a note graded 30.
20 Very Fine - Circulated
Moderately Circulated. The note is moderately circulated with numerous folds, mild soiling. There are no serious detractions but there may be minor defects.
15 Choice Fine - Circulated
Moderately Circulated. This note may look like a Very Fine note, but upon closer examination it is found to have too many folds or too much circulation to warrant a Very Fine grade.
12 Fine - Circulated
Rough Circulated. Evidence of circulation is considerable with rounded corners, margin splits and other issues. The note must be whole with solid paper.
10 Very Good - Circulated
Rough circulated. A solid, whole note with lots of circulation. The note is too limp and has a number of minor problems.
8 Very Good - Circulated
Rough circulated. The note is heavily circulated but is intact. Some small pieces may be missing. Soiling, light stains or splits are common for this grade. The note is limp.
6 Good - Circulated
Poor, rough circulated. The note is very worn with serious splits, fraying of the margins and damage.
4 Good - Circulated
Poor, rough circulated. A very heavily circulated note with numerous problems. It is totally limp with impaired visual appeal. Notes in this grade are commonly seen with pieces missing.
Here are some typical descriptions we see in the marketplace. Note the arrangement of descriptive detail, and choice of upper/lowercase notation.
GEM UNCIRCULATED sharp corners, crisp, rich color, no folds, no tears, no pinholes, no visible wear
CHOICE UNCIRCULATED Barely circulated. Clean, crisp, sharp corners, good color, no folds, no tears, no pinholes --- see photos
ABOUT UNCIRCULATED Barely circulated. Clean, crisp, sharp corners, good color, no folds, no tears, no pinholes --- see photos
EXTRA FINE CIRCULATED
VERY FINE CIRCULATED. noticeable wear and wrinkling, good color, numerous folds, no tears, no pinholes --- see photos
FINE CIRCULATED fairly clean, well worn with noticeable folds, no tears, no pinholes --- see photos
VERY GOOD CIRCULATED well worn, numerous folds, minor edge tears, no pinholes --- see photos
ROUGH CIRCULATED discolored and well worn with numerous folds, edge erosion, and edge tears --- see photos