Grading Bank Notes
The value of bank notes depends greatly on their condition and rarity. Whilst the latter is relatively easy to determine, evaluating the former is subjective and much harder to assess. A standardised grading system is necessary to make it easier for buyers and sellers to reduce this element of subjectivity. The Grading Committee of the International Bank Note Society (IBNS) have produced such a Grading Guide, which has now become the universally accepted grading system. THe IBNS Grading Guide is used throughout the numismundi website and you can also select notes based on it under the section Shop By Condition fom the menu above.
The Grading Guide definitions as set out by the IBNS are given below.
UNCIRCULATED - UNC
A perfectly preserved note, never mishandled by the issuing authority, a bank teller, the public or a collector. Paper is clean and firm, without discoloration. Corners are sharp and square, without any evidence of rounding. (Rounded corners are often telltale sign of a cleaned or “doctored” note.) An uncirculated note will have its original natural sheen.
NOTE: Some note issues are most often available with slight evidence of counting folds (creases). Also, French-printed notes usually have a sight ripple in the paper. Many collectors and dealers often refer to such a note as AU-UNC.
ABOUT UNCIRCULATED - AUNC
A virtually perfect note, with some minor handling. May show evidence of bank counting folds at a corner or one light fold through the center, but not both. An AU note cannot be creased, a crease being a hard fold which has usually “broken” the surface of a note. Paper is clean and bright with original sheen. Corners are not rounded.
NOTE: Europeans will refer to an About Uncirculated or AU note as “EF-UNC” or as just “EF”. The extremely fine note described below will often be referred to as “GVF” or “Good Very Fine”.
EXTREMELY FINE - EF or XF
A very attractive note, with light handling. May have a maximum of three light folds or one strong crease. Paper is clean and bright with original sheen. Corners may show only the slightest evidence of rounding. There may also be the slightest sign of wear where a fold meets the edge.
VERY FINE - VF
An attractive note, but with more evidence of handling and wear. May have a number of folds both vertically and horizontally. Paper may have minimal dirt, or possible color smudging. Paper itself is still relatively crisp and not floppy. There are no tears into the border area, although the edges do show slight wear. Corners also show wear but not full rounding.
FINE - F
A note which shows considerable circulation with many folds, creases and wrinkling. Paper is not excessively dirty, but may have some softness. Edges may show much handling with minor tears in the border area. Tears may not extend into the design. There will be no center hole because of folding. Colors are clear but not bright. A staple hole or two would not be considered unusual wear in a Fine note. Overall appearance is still on the desirable side.
VERY GOOD - VG
A well used note, abused but still intact. Corners may have much wear and rounding, tiny nicks, tears may extend into the design, some discoloration may be present, staining may have occurred, and a small hole may be seen at center from excessive folding. Staple and pinholes are usually present, and the note itself is quite limp but NO pieces of the note can be missing. A note in VG condition may still have an overall not unattractive appearance.
GOOD - G
A well worn and heavily used note. Normal damage from prolonged circulation will include strong multiple folds and creases, stains, pinholes, and/or staple holes, dirt, discoloration, edge tears, center hole, rounded corners and an overall unattractive appearance. No large pieces of the note may be missing. Graffiti is commonly seen on notes in Good condition.
A totally limp, dirty and very well used note. Larger pieces may be half torn off or missing, beside the defects mentioned under the Good category. Tears will be larger, obscured portions of the note will be bigger.
POOR - PR
A “rag” with severe damage because of wear, staining, pieces missing, graffiti, larger holes. May have tape holding pieces of the note together. Trimming may have taken place to remove rough edges. A Poor note is desirable only as a ”filler” or when such note is the only one known of that particular issue.
Of course, many bank notes don't fit neatly into each grade. For example, a note which may be very clean but have 2 strong creases or a strong fold is more and extremely fine note than a very fine note but doesn't fit either grade. This is why you will often see terms such as 'Almost' or 'Good' prefixing a grade. In this example, the note could be described as Almost Extremely Fine. With 'Good' it would mean that the note is at the top of a grade level, for example a note with several folds and creases across the note, but no dirt or smudging may be considered Good Very Fine. These grades have been used throughout numismundi.
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