At Legacy Currency Grading is to provide the most consistent, unbiased third-party opinion concerning the authenticity and grade of collectible paper money.
In doing so, we created standards that are strict, fair, and realistic in terms of market dictates and demands. Instead of focusing on terms such as “market grading” versus “technical grading”, we have decided instead to take a pragmatic approach to the grading of banknotes with all the inherent problems and challenges that are involved.
Numerical Grading Scale
The “70” grade is essentially a perfect note. The note will be entirely original, with broad, perfectly even margins on all four sides, sharp corners, bright colors, outstanding eye appeal, and literally perfect paper quality with no trace of even the smallest fault. Perhaps only the most modern notes will attain this grade, and even then it will be a rare occurrence.
A “69” will be nearly as perfect as a “70”, but some very minor fault such as a barely measurable imperfection in the centering or a tiny, almost unnoticeable crinkle in the paper will keep such a note from absolute perfection.
A “68” is basically as nice and as close to perfection as a “69”, but a minor fault may be present, including a tiny handling mark, an edge bump, or a very small counting crinkle. Otherwise, a “68” will be flawless, with excellent centering, bold colors, excellent eye appeal, and full originality. Despite the mention here of trivial flaws, one should remember that a “68” is an essentially perfect note. It is the highest grade that can reasonably be expected for many series, including most vintage U.S. large size type notes.
A “67” will be the highest possible grade for many series, as even most essentially perfect notes will sometimes reveal a minor fault upon close examination. A “67” should have broad margins for the issue, with centering that is nearly perfect to the naked eye. The colors and eye appeal should be bold and attractive, and the originality should be unquestionable. Bold embossing (where applicable) must be evident. One or more tiny handling marks may be present, an edge or corner bump may be noted, or there may be a tiny counting crinkle evident, but any fault that is distracting to the naked eye or that detracts from the overall appearance will prohibit a note from attaining the Superb grade.
This grade level signifies a note that is superior to an “average” Gem note, but that can’t quite reach the Superb level because of some minor fault such as a counting crinkle, handling mark, or corner bump. A “66” may have terrific centering but just not the broad margins of a Superb grade, or it may be a broadly margined example that is just a tiny bit off center. A “66” should retain full originality, although the embossing may not be quite as strong as on a Superb Gem. The colors and eye appeal should still be well above average.
A Gem note is one that at first glance appears perfect. After examination, however, one or more minor faults may be noticed that keep the note from attaining a higher grade. Such minor faults may include a counting crinkle, minor edge handling, faint handling marks or finger smudges, or very minor rounding of the corners. The centering should be well above average, although minor imperfections in the centering are permissible if the margins are broad. Embossing may or may not be present, but notes at this grade level will not receive the “PPQ” label if they are not fully original. An otherwise Superb note that has been pressed or is flat with no embossing may receive a “65” grade without the “PPQ” modifier. Notes in this and any New grade will, of course, have absolutely no folds or bends. It should be stressed that although notes at this grade will (by definition) be less than perfect, they will still be above average notes that may appear to the average viewer to be pristine.
“64” is an intermediate grade reserved for notes that are better than Choice New but that don’t quite reach the Gem grade. Such notes may have minor faults such as a couple of unobtrusive counting marks, ink or handling smudges, a single pinhole, or a rounded corner tip. The centering or margins will be better than average but may fall just short of that required for the Gem grade. It will still be an above average note, should have good eye appeal, and should not have any major blemishes or faults that are readily evident. A note at this grade level that receives the “PPQ” designation will likely have margins or centering that are slightly narrow or off center, but will possess complete originality.
A Choice note will be strictly New, with no folds or bends that indicate circulation. The paper quality and eye appeal will be slightly above average for the issue, and any flaws present will be minor in nature. Imperfect centering is acceptable at this grade level, although any note with severe centering problems (with the design of the note touching the edge at one or more margins) cannot attain this grade. Counting crinkles or handling marks are acceptable, as is a frayed corner or two. One or two pinholes may be present. No folds or bends may reach into the design of the paper, although a light corner bend that does not extend into the design may be present. A note that otherwise appears Gem New but has flat paper surfaces may merit this grade. Complete originality is again required for the “PPQ” designation, although at this grade level some other problem such as poor centering or minor handling will be present.
A note at this grade level will remain fully New with no folds or bends, but a couple of corner folds that do not reach into the design may be present. Counting crinkles and handling marks are acceptable, as long as they are not overly distracting. A partial bend or pinch that does not extend through the entire width of the note may cause it to be designated a “62” or lower. A note with severe centering problems may fall into this grade, as may notes with flat paper surfaces or minor paper toning.
Most notes that fall into this grade will do so because of a combination of faults, some of which may be severe. Corner folds (not into the design) may be present, as may signs of paper toning, handling, counting marks, smudges, pinholes, or other problems. A “61” will typically either be poorly centered with other minor faults, or will be a technically New note with no folds but that has a combination of minor faults that prevent a higher grade.
A “60” note will remain strictly uncirculated with absolutely no folds or bends that extend into the design. Notes at this grade level typically will have one or more significant faults that detracts from the note’s appearance, such as slight loss of color, paper toning, minor foxing, two or more corner folds, flat and lifeless paper, pinholes, or a small staining spot or two. A note in this grade will be generally unattractive, although it will technically be New or “uncirculated”.
A Choice About New 58 note will typically be an apparent Choice New or better note, with one or two light corner bends or folds that reach into the design of the note. A light vertical bend down the middle of an otherwise Choice New or better note would also qualify a note for this grade.
A note in this grade will “just miss” the New grade. A “55” will have above average eye appeal and will be attractive for the issue, but a bent corner or light vertical center fold will keep it from an uncirculated grade. Two light vertical bends are acceptable for this grade, as long as the surface of the paper is not broken. More than one light fold or a heavy fold or crease will drop the note into a lower grade.
“53″ is an intermediate grade used for notes that are above average for the “50” grade but that don’t quite reach the “55” grade. Such a note might have one slightly heavier fold or crease but with all the other qualities of an uncirculated note, or it might have a combination of light bends or corner folds that keeps it from a higher About New grade.
An About New 50 note will display one or more light folds that are not heavy in nature or that do not detract from the overall appearance, two or three very light vertical bends if they do not break the surface of the paper, or one heavy fold or crease. Two heavy folds or creases will drop the note to a lower grade level.
A note in this grade will typically be bright, fresh, crisp, and attractive, but a few light folds or several light bends may be present. The overall eye appeal will be above average, and only the slightest soiling may be visible. A note in this grade might have a few light folds or several very minor bends, or a couple of vertical creases may be present.
The old standard of “three folds makes an XF” is applicable here, as typically a thrice-folded note does indeed usually grade “40”. Common sense exceptions must be made, however, as three folds that are exceptionally heavy may drop the note into a lower grade category. Notes with three folds and a couple of other minor light bends or folds may occasionally make it to the “40” grade if the extra folds are light enough and are not obtrusive to the overall appearance. A typical XF note may have a couple of pinholes, but any larger holes would prevent a note from reaching this grade.
This is a “just miss” grade, comparable to the grade “About Extremely Fine” used by some companies. It represents a note that is very close to an Extremely Fine 40 but that has one or two minor faults, such as an additional light fold or two that preclude a higher grade. A “35” should have eye appeal that is well above average for a VF note.
One or two extra folds on an otherwise Extremely Fine note would lower an example to this grade level. The paper should remain nearly fully bright, and it should retain strong crispness. A “30” will retain good color and eye appeal and should have no more than a few scattered pinholes.
A “25” is basically a “20” that for some reason appears slightly nicer than average or has some (but not enough) claim to a Very Fine 30 grade. A “25” will typically have bright, solid paper with some signs of light handling or circulation, and it may have more folds than are allowed for a higher grade.
A Very Fine 20 note should have plenty of body remaining in the paper, although numerous folds, wrinkles, or other signs of circulation may be present. Mild soiling might be apparent, but it should not be serious. The paper should remain relatively bright. No tears, stains, or other impairments should be readily apparent, and the note should still have nice eye appeal. Several minor pinholes may be visible when the note is held to a light. The corners may be slightly frayed or slightly rounded at this grade, but the paper should retain nearly full crispness and there should be little or no loss of color in the design.
This intermediate grade represents a note that has some qualities of a VF note, such as good body or soundness of paper, bright colors or inks, or above average eye appeal, but that possesses too many folds or too much evidence of circulation to grade Very Fine 20. This is a rather common intermediate grade, and will often be awarded to a Fine example that is above average in some respects or to a note that just misses the VF grade because of an isolated loss of body at a fold.
A note in this grade will resemble most notes that have spent considerable time in circulation. The piece will have lost some of its body, but the paper will still be solid. (A limp note will classify at a lower level.) The corners may be slightly frayed or rounded, and the edges may also be frayed. Pinholes may be readily apparent, but none should be large or obtrusive. A few minor edge splits are not uncommon in this grade, but they typically will be within the margin and not affect the design. No major stains or tears may be present, although a stray pencil marking or light teller stamp will not affect the grade at this level if it is not dark or obtrusive.
Another intermediate grade that designates an above average VG or a “just miss” note that nearly reaches the Fine grade. A Very Good 10 might often be an otherwise Fine example that has a heavy fold or two with isolated soiling or worn areas around it.
At this grade, a note will be heavily worn with slightly rounded corners, frayed edges, or slightly rough margins. The paper will be intact, however, and no pieces may be missing other than an occasional corner tip. A few edge splits may be apparent, although they must not be severe. The note will be limp or soiled from circulation, and some wallet staining may be visible. No major damage is acceptable at this grade level, however, and any note that has a large hole, stain, tear, or missing piece must fall into a lower grade category.
This grade will be assigned when a note has some feature that prevents the full VG grade, such as heavy wear, a small missing piece from the edge or a small internal hole, or if there is some combination of minor damage or staining that prevents the Very Good 8 grade from being assigned.
A “Good” note is actually not all that good, as it will be basically intact but fully limp and lacking in any color, snap, or eye appeal. The colors will have typically faded, and there may be small edge chips, nicks, margin tears, or other problems.
An About Good 3 note will typically be extremely worn and may be missing small pieces. If any major damage is evident or there are significant portions of the note missing, a lower grade will be in order.
A note in this grade should be mostly intact, but large pieces may be missing including some in meaningful portions of the design. Holes, stains, tears, splits, and other problems will likely be present.
About all that can be expected at this grade level is that the note is still (mostly) in one piece, although it may not be fully complete. Most notes are not collectible by the time they are this low on the grading spectrum, but some rare notes are still quite valuable even heavily worn and damaged. Many notes at this grade level are likely good candidates for skilled restoration.
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