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How to Grade Lincoln Wheat Cents – What is The Grade of My Lincoln Wheat Penny?

How to Accurately Grade Lincoln Wheat Pennies

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Grading Lincoln wheat pennies is a skill that has taken even the best coin collectors many years of experience to perfect and this guide will get you started. Remember that coin grading is the expression of an opinion that describes the condition of an individual coin that most dealers and collectors would agree with. Grading is not an exact science where a formula can be applied and everyone comes out with the same result. But over the years, numismatists and coin grading services have agreed upon certain definitions, descriptions and Sheldon's numeric values that help all coin collectors describe their coins accurately (to a certain extent). This guide will help you understand those terms and descriptions so you can accurately grade your Lincoln Wheat pennies.

Understanding Grades for Lincoln Wheat Cents

Design High Points on the Lincoln Wheat Cent (a.k.a. Lincoln Wheat Penny)
Photo courtesy of Teletrade Coin Auctions, www.teletrade.com
Lincoln wheat pennies are relatively small and are made out of copper that is soft and malleable. Therefore, most examples are well struck, the details on the coin are quite pronounced and bag marks are usually faint and few. Unfortunately, from about 1915 to approximately the mid-1930s there are many examples that were weakly struck and are lacking details. Circulated examples are always brown in color, if not, this is an indication that the coin has been cleaned. Grades of mint state or uncirculated examples also take into account the color of the copper coin. This is designated as red (RD), red/brown (RB) or brown (BN). For example "MS63RB". The photo illustrates the highest points (indicated by the color red) on the Lincoln wheat cent design. Clicking on the photo will open a new window with a larger version of the image
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About Good-3 (AG3 or AG-3)

Lincoln Wheat Cent Graded About Good (AG03)
Photo courtesy of Teletrade Coin Auctions, www.teletrade.com
Summary: The coin is very heavily worn and barely legible. Some of the devices, lettering, legends and date may be worn smooth, but the date is readable. Portions of the rim blend into the lettering.
Obverse: For the most part, Lincoln's portrait is flat and only an outline remains. The legend and date are readable but are almost worn flat and are merging into the rim.
Reverse: The entire design is flat. The wheat ears are mostly flat with maybe some remnants of the grains of wheat still faintly recognizable.

Tip: Click on the photos at the left to view a larger and more detailed image.

Good-4 (G4 or G-4)

Lincoln Wheat Cent Graded Good (G04)
Photo courtesy of Teletrade Coin Auctions, www.teletrade.com
Summary: The coin is heavily worn overall. The devices, lettering, legends and date are readable but may have some faintness in a few areas. All major features are visible in at least outline form and the rim is mostly complete but may be incomplete in a few spots.
Obverse: The portrait of Lincoln is well-worn and some details are starting to show through on his coat and the upper part of his hair. The legend and date are visible and are separated from the rim of the coin.
Reverse: The overall design is flat and some details in the grains of wheat are barely visible.

Very Good-8 (VG8 or VG-8)

Lincoln Wheat Cent Graded Very Good (VG08)
Photo courtesy of Teletrade Coin Auctions, www.teletrade.com
Summary: The coin is well-worn. The design is clear and major elements are defined but are flat and lacking in detail.
Obverse: The outline of Lincoln's hair is visible and some details are starting to show through. The cheek and jaw are separate but flat. Some details of the ear are visible. The legend and date are clear and bold.
Reverse: The wheat stalks are showing some detail and about half of the lines at the top of the wheat stalks are visible. The letters are bold and distinct.

Fine-12 (F12 or F-12)

Lincoln Wheat Cent Graded Fine (F12)
Photo courtesy of Teletrade Coin Auctions, www.teletrade.com
Summary: The coin shows moderate even wear over the entire surface of the coin. The major design elements are bold and all lettering, legends and date are clear and readable.
Obverse: The overall design is clear and bold. Some details in the hair are starting to show through. The cheek and jaw are smooth and the ear and the bowtie are visible.
Reverse: Most detail in the stalks of wheat are visible. The lines at the top of the wheat stalks are worn but most are clearly separated.

Very Fine-20 (VF20 or VF-20)

Lincoln Wheat Cent Graded Very Fine (VF20)
Photo courtesy of Teletrade Coin Auctions, www.teletrade.com
Summary: Moderate to minor wear exists only on the highest parts of the design where a slight flatness is beginning to show. The overall condition of the coin is pleasing and attractive.
Obverse: Lincoln's head shows considerable wear but almost all details are present on his hair and face. The ear and the bowtie are worn but they are defined and distinct.
Reverse: The wheat stalks are worn but the lines are clearly defined with no weak spots. The grains of wheat are distinct but flat.

Extra Fine-40 (EF40, XF40 EF-40 or XF-40)

Lincoln Wheat Cent Graded Extra Fine (XF40/EF40)
Photo courtesy of Teletrade Coin Auctions, www.teletrade.com
Summary: Has only the slightest wear on the very highest points of the coin. All details are sharp and all design elements are well defined. Some traces of mint luster may still exist.
Obverse: There is abrasion on the hair above the ear, the cheek and the jaw evidenced by some very slight flatness. Some traces of mint luster may still be seen.
Reverse: The high points on the wheat stalks (the grains of wheat) show some very slight wear but all details are distinct and well defined.

About Uncirculated-55 (AU55 or AU-55)

Lincoln Wheat Penny Graded About Uncirculated (AU55)
Photo courtesy of Teletrade Coin Auctions, www.teletrade.com
Summary: Very minor traces of wear or abrasions are visible on only the highest points on the coin. Mint luster is almost complete and the surfaces of the coin are well preserved.
Obverse: Only a slight trace of wear exists on the highest points of Lincoln's portrait (the cheek and jaw) but they are not flat.
Reverse: A slight trace of wear exists on the top of the wheat stalks but the detail is full and not flat.

Mint State-63 (MS63 or MS-63)

Lincoln Wheat Cent Graded Mint State 63 Red-Brown (MS-63RB)
Photo courtesy of Teletrade Coin Auctions, www.teletrade.com
Summary: Mint luster is complete but shows minor impairments. Many , and hairline scratches exist on the coin's field and major design elements and are visible without magnification. Overall, the coin has an attractive eye appeal.
Obverse: No signs of wear are evident on Lincoln's cheek and jaw. There are noticeable detracting contact marks in the fields of the coin and on Lincoln's face.
Reverse: The tops of the wheat stalks and the area of "ONE CENT" have noticeable distracting marks.

Mint State-65 (MS65 or MS-65)

Lincoln Wheat Cent Graded Mint State 65 Red (MS-65RD)
Photo courtesy of Teletrade Coin Auctions, www.teletrade.com

Summary: A high quality of mint luster completely covers the surfaces of the coin and is undisturbed. Contact marks and bag marks are few and small. The coin is well struck and a few hairlines may be seen under a magnifying glass. Overall the coin is brilliant and has an above average eye appeal.
Obverse: A small blemish or a few non-distracting marks may be present on Lincoln's face or on the fields of the coin.
Reverse: A small blemish or a few non-distracting marks may be present in the fields or on the "ONE CENT" words.


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