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Grading Lincoln Wheat Cents

Disclaimer: Grading is very subjective and there are disagreements amongst even the professionals. Taking it one step further, you can get an opinion of a grade of a coin from a professional grader and two weeks later you may get a different opinion on the same exact coin. As such, the grades and opinions offered on this page are just that, my own personal opinions. They may be my personal opinions, but they have been formulated by reading grading guidelines by the ANA, PCGS, Photgrade as well as looking at and many coins that were professionally graded. Unless specifically stated, the coins depicted on this page have NOT been professionally graded. Those that have been professionally graded will be noted, however, a similarly like coin in your possession does not mean it will grade the same. This page is to used as a very general guideline only.

My method:

I attempted to offer a grading opinion the on coins on this web page by lining up several hundred coins and then putting them in order of wear and eye appeal. I then attempted to assign a grade based on my interpretation of the grading guidelines by major grading firms. I am not a professional grader and when grading your own coins you should use your own judgment and/or grading company. Most books and grading guidelines go from BU to POOR. I thought I would go the other way around to provide a slightly different perspective. Most grading books will talk about things disappearing while I show things as they begin to appear. If you have any questions or feel anything it totally off, please feel free to contact me via my contact page. Thanks

Poor

PO01

A coin which is barely recognizable as a Lincoln Cent.  If it has a date, it is hardly visible and will be faint or mushy.  Lettering at the top, if visible will be nearly all merged into rim. There will be no detail in Lincoln's hair and coat.  Mint mark, if any, will be mushy and hard to determine what it is Slight central detail is visible.  Wheat stalks will be merged into rim and will appear as very flat and seem to be part of the rim.  Surface will be very smooth from wear.  Smaller lettering will be nearly, if not, gone.  On this example, "E. Pluribus Unum" is completely gone
Fair

FR02

A Fair coin is not much better than a POOR coin. Lincoln is merely a shadow with all detail worn away. In the FAIR grade, the date will be worn away or barely visible, just as the POOR. There will be evidence of some lettering around the rim with the lettering barely visible and merged into the rim. As with the POOR, there will be no detail in Lincoln’s coat. Slight central detail is visible. Wheat stalks are still merged into the rim but not nearly as flat as the POOR. Reverse outer lettering will be slightly visible but will be mostly worn away or have a mushy appearance.
AG03

About Good

Rim will be worn down to letters. The “L” in LIBERTY will be worn into the rim or touching it. The date and mint mark if any, will be weak, mushy, but readable. The letters at the top are also merge into the rim or touching it. Lincoln is heavily worn with no detail other than a few lines in the coat beginning to appear.  Bow tie will appear mushy.  The example shown here is a high AG3 but fails to make G04 due to lettering touching the rim The wheat stalks are merged to the rim but not necessarily in all parts. While the wheat stalks are discernable, there is no detail to them. For example, there are no wheat lines or grains in the wheat stalk that show. Reverse lettering is touching the rim. Middle lettering is weak/worn but readable. Early branch mint coins may have are typically weakly struck and may be missing the “O” in “One Cent”
G04

Good

The coin is heavily worn but design will be legible. All lettering and date will be clear. In most examples, lettering will not be touching the rim, but in some cases may be slightly touching the rim. Lincoln is still flat with the ear hole just beginning to show and only the top curls in his hair showing any detail. There will be more coat detail than AG03, such as shoulder lines beginning to appear. Bow tie begins to look like a bow tie but ends still blend into coat. A slight ridge begins to appear in the neck area to separate the bare neck to the shirt. Line to show shirt and coat not yet presence. Mint Mark if any, will be readable, but may be worn/mushy. The wheat ears are fully separated from the rim. All lettering at the top of the reverse should be away from the rim as well although a few letters will be close or touching the rim ever so slightly. Wheat lines will not likely be present but grains in the lower stalk will be present but flat. Wheat stem clearly shows ending point.
G06

Good

The coin is heavily worn but design will be legible. All lettering and date will be clear. Lettering will not be touching the rim. Lincoln is still somewhat flat with the ear hole showing but not likely the outline. Separation between nose and upper cheek below eye beginning to show. Curls in the hair at the back and top of the head begin to show. There will be more coat detail than G04, such as the horizontal lines in the coat just below the bow tie. Bow tie is a tad sharper than G04. In G04 a slight ridge begins to appear in the neck area to separate the bare neck to the shirt. In G06, it begins to look more like a line The wheat ears are fully separated from the rim. All lettering at the top of the reverse should be away from the rim as well. No Lettering should be touching rim. Wheat lines will begin to show though not in all areas and/or not on both stalks. Grains should be present on both sides. Wheat stem clearly shows ending point.
VG08

Very Good

All lettering and date will be sharp and clear. Lettering will not be touching the rim. Lincoln is still somewhat flat with the ear hole showing as well as the beginning out the ear outline included the ear lobe. Separation between nose and upper cheek below eye beginning to show and slightly more clear than G06. Cheek and jaw are flat. More curls in the hair at the back and top of the head are present. There will be more coat detail than G06. You may begin to see separation between coat and shirt, but ever so slight The wheat ears are fully separated from the rim. All lettering at the top of the reverse should be away from the rim as well. No Lettering should be touching rim. Wheat lines will be about 50% present but not separated. Some lines will be complete and others will not be visible or not complete, depending on strike and wear pattern. Grains should be present on both sides and show some detail but they will be very worn.
VG10

Very Good

Lincoln is still somewhat flat with the ear hole showing as well as the beginning out the ear outline included the ear lobe. Just to the left of the horizontal mouth outline you can begin to see an ever so small dimple that will be the outline of a cheek. Hair shows curls throughout head but still nearly flat. A few more coat line details beginning to be seen with all major folds showing. Bow tie outline visible but ride side may still be merged into coat Wheat lines will be more than 50% present but not separated. Some lines will be complete and others will not be visible or not complete, depending on strike and wear pattern. Grains should be present on both sides and show about half of the detail.
F12

Fine

Lincoln is still somewhat flat with the ear hole showing as well as the beginning out the ear outline included the ear lobe. In F12, although the cheek/jaw is still flat, you should begin seeing the outline of jaw extending from ear lobe slight showing separation between coat collar, neck and jaw. Coat collar will begin showing bottom outline but top of coat collar is not yet presence except at very back of neck. Most hair curls are present but still worn and blend into face and ear. Wheat lines will be two-thirds to nearly complete but not separated depending on strike and wear. Grains should be present on both sides and show about 75% of the detail. Some grains will still be merged together but most will show separation.
F15

Fine

Lincoln is still somewhat flat with the ear hole showing as well as the beginning out the ear outline included the ear lobe. In F12 and F15, although the cheek/jaw is still flat, you should begin seeing the outline of jaw extending from ear lobe clearly showing separation between coat collar, neck and jaw. Coat collar should have complete bottom outline but top of coat collar will blend in with shirt at high point (middle of design) but may reappear as top of coat extends down to bow tie. Most hair curls are present but still worn and blend into face and ear. Wheat lines will be 90% to nearly complete but not separated depending on strike and wear. Grains should be present on both sides and show about 75% of the detail. Some grains will still be merged together but most will show separation
VF20

Very Fine

Ear is somewhat flat but now is fully discernable. Most hair, although showing signs of flatness are present expect above ear. Definite separation from ear lobe and jaw line with jaw line distinct to chin. Temple indentation clear and also distinction between cheek and jaw, although minor. Top of coat distinct from shirt. Top coat line clearly defined down to bow tie and lapel. Shirt line mostly visible to bow tie. Edge of bow tie still may merge into coat/lapel. Wheat lines must all be present expect on weak strike coins. Wheat lines may not be totally separated. Grains should be present on both sides and but may still show some wear. NOTE: not all coins wear the same. Due to strike, die condition and circulation wear, some details in a lower grade may not be fully present in a higher grade.
VF25

Very Fine

Ear is more shapely and hair curls extend to ear. Most hair, although showing signs of flatness are present expect above ear. Definite separation from ear lobe and jaw line with jaw line distinct to chin. Temple indentation clear and also distinction between cheek and jaw, although minor. Top of coat distinct from shirt. Top coat line clearly defined down to bow tie and lapel. Shirt line mostly visible to bow tie. Edge of bow tie still may merge into coat/lapel. Not much difference from VF20 expect a tad more sharpness Wheat lines must all be present expect on weak strike coins. Wheat lines should be totally separated. Grains should be present on both sides and be complete but may still show some wear. NOTE: not all coins wear the same. Due to strike, die condition and circulation wear, some details in a lower grade may not be fully present in a higher grade.
VF30

Very Fine

Ear is more shapely and hair curls extend to ear. Most hair, although showing signs of flatness are present expect above ear. Definite separation from ear lobe and jaw line with jaw line distinct to chin. Temple indentation more clear than VF25 and also distinction between cheek and jaw, although minor. Top of coat distinct from shirt. Top coat line clearly defined down to bow tie and lapel. Shirt line now visible to bow tie. Edge of bow tie still may merge into coat/lapel. Not much difference from VF25 except a tad more sharpness. All folds/creases in coat are present Wheat lines must all be present expect on weak strike coins. Wheat lines should be totally separated. Grains should be present on both sides and be complete but may still show some wear. NOTE: The example shown has a detracting nick/cut at 11:00 on the reverse which may downgrade it. This coin, as all coins are for illustration purposes only.
VF35

Very Fine

Ear is more shapely and hair curls extend to ear. Hair is clearly defined and separated from ear and neck. More detail above chin and to left of mouth. Wheat lines must all be present expect on weak strike coins. Wheat lines should be totally separated. Grains should be present on both sides and be complete but may still show some wear.
XF40

Extra Fine

There will be slight flattening on cheek and jaw bone. Although hair is all present, there is a touch of smoothness on the curl tips. Eye lid, eye brow and eye separation very clear and distinct. You can begin to see knot in bow tie vs. other parts of bow tie. Wheat lines must all be present expect on weak strike coins and totally separated. Grains should be present on both sides and be complete but may still show some wear.
XF45

Extra Fine

  Flatness is seen on face, hair, coat and beard, but all details are present. Flatness is confined to very high places on coin. In some cases, original mint luster may be present What lines are clearly defined and separated. Light wear on tips of wheat lines.
AU50

About Almost Unc

All details sharp. Only the slightest wear on high points on coin such as shoulder, cheek, jaw, eye brow and forehead. Bow tie is clearly defined and does not merge into coat. Part of bow tie extends over coat and appears as a triangle. This is not seen on lower grades. Wear evident on tips of wheat stalks and ever so slightly on grain.
AU53      
AU55      
AU58      
MS60      
MS61      
MS62      
MS63      
MS64      
MS65 A nice example of a RED UNC Lincoln. There is a scratch under the chin and another light scratch under the word Liberty. There is also some abrasion on the lower shoulder. This coin subsequently was graded MS 65 RED by PCGS. Quite a bit of light scratching can be seen between the wheat stems and around the top above the word ONE. Additionally, there is a dent in the “C” and “N” in the word CENT
MS66 This coin has no detracting marks. You can see some light scratching on the shoulder at about 7:00 which was likely caused by friction in the roll it came from, but it is not in the prime focal area. There are small specs here and there, but again, to scratches. This coin subsequently was graded MS66 RED by PCGS. It is likely this coin did not grade higher because of the strike not being as bold as it could be. For example, there is no detail at all in Lincoln’s beard. Also, it is hard to discern the lines of the shirt collar and the coat collar. On bolder strikes, this is clearly visible The reverse of this coin is also in great shape but not as good as the front. There is an indentation in the left side of the “O” on ONE. There are also a few smudges/dark spots above the “E” and “N” in cent. Additionally, there is a slight nick/mark in the rim on the right had side just to the left of the right wheat stalk/wheat lines.
       

 

 

 

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