People will often describe a coin as being “Very Good”. But as you can see, a “Very Good” coin is not all that great. In “coin language” it means the coin is only average compared to other coins of its denomination collected from circulation.
An Uncirculated coin means just that. It has never been used for commerce, has absolutely no wear other than bag marks. It is as it came from the mint presses.
An Uncirculated coin may still not qualify as Brilliant Uncirculated, which is reserved for the most perfect of coins. The BU designation is reserved for those coins that have the best strikes from the press.
The Shedon Scale
William Sheldon is credited with creating the coin grading system primarily in use today. Known as the Sheldon Scale, it is a numerical scale from 1-70 that corresponds to the system above with 1 being the Poor end of the scale and 70 being the perfect, or nearly pefect, Brilliant Uncirculated coin.
In the Sheldon Scale:
Poor=1, Fair=2, About Good=3, Good=4-6, Very Good=8-10, Fine=12-15, Very Fine=20-35, Extra Fine=40-45, About Uncirculated=50-58, Mint State=60-70 and Mint Proof State=60-70
If you’ve poked around a few coin shops or checked out the coin auctions like at eBay you’ll have seen coins designated VG, MS64, AU55, F45. Now you’ll know what those designations mean!
Grading coins, though, is subjective. What I may think of as an AU50 you may see as only a F45. Learning to grade coins is a skill you’ll want to start learning even before buying your first coin.