How your coins are graded

One of the things about Swiss folks, apart from the fact they have excellent chocolate, cheese, watches and spectacles, is the fact nearly all of them speak a few languages, at least. OK, they might not be the most exciting folks going around, but at least they can converse country to country pretty seamlessly. Coin collectors in Australia pretty much speak the one language though - the adjectival grading system - Unc, Choice Unc, about EF, nice Very Fine, about Good, etc etc.

As if the English language isn't difficult enough to learn, we make it even more difficult in numismatics by using euphemistic and often nonsensical terms to describe the items we collect - about Good!?!?!?! (I think that's something like being nearly pregnant).

There is another numismatic language though, it's used primarily in North America and is called the Sheldon or numerical grading system. Put together by a Dr Sheldon in the 1950's, it is based on the premise that the condition of coins can be described with a number - the higher the number, the higher the grade. It's based on common sense of course, and is potentially a lot easier to understand than the adjectival grades. There can be a few drawbacks to it however - it's only as good as the graders that deploy it, and just like the adjectival standard, the criteria used to determine each grade needs to be clearly explained so those that use it and are affected by it know how to trade the market accordingly.

If, the Australian numismatic market is to move / inch towards the MS system of grading, I believe one of the first steps is to have some kind of "translator" that enables those of us who have grown used to the adjectival system to understand how the adjectival grades translate into numbers. This'll help answer questions like - is this MS60 coin actually UNC? What number does a Choice Unc coin relate to? Which number does an A UNC grade have - AU50? AU55? AU58?

This is going to take time, discussion and collaboration - as canny as those Swiss are at speaking French, German, Italian and English, I don't know that they'd be able to help us here. Here's a very early first draft to get the ball rolling. I'll update this as I come to learn more about the way the Sheldon system views various numismatic criteria, and am interested to hear what you think.