Saturday, September 24, 2011

Grading Banknotes

So I've decided to discuss the topic of banknote grading today rather than profile a new note today because grading is one of the most important skills that a collector of banknotes must possess.  As you may have known, the condition--or state of preservation of a banknote--is key to determining its value on the market.  Even if you do not place much value on the condition on the condition of notes for your personal collection, having a knowledge of generally accepted grading practice is vital when buying as prices for a given note can vary greatly between conditions.

To better facilitate the buying and selling of banknotes, a standard system for describing their condition has been created by the International Bank Note Society (IBNS).  This IBNS grading system is the most commonly used among dealers (at least in the U.S.).  Below are the most often encountered grades along with brief descriptions:

Uncirculated--A perfectly preserved bank note, no discoloration or fold lines.

About Uncirculated--A bank note with minor signs of handling, no hard creases.

Extremely Fine--A bank note displaying light handling, maximum of three light folds or one ctrong crease

Very fine--A bank note showing evidence of handling and wear, minimal discoloration, relatively crisp paper.

Fine--A bank note that has considerable wear, minor tears at borders, no center hole (caused by excessive folding)

Very Good--A bank note well worn note, minor tears, center hole may be present

Good--A very worn banknote, folds, stains, creases, tears--no large pieces of the note are missing.

As you can probably tell from the above descriptions, the grading system contains a great deal of subjectivity.  This is why I don't purchase notes online.  One man's 'very fine' might be another's  'extremely fine'.  For this reason I examine every note that I purchase for my personal collection in person in order to determine if it meets the standards that I desire.  When there are large price differences between grades (and there often are) it becomes especially important that one be capable of discerning the grade of a note and do so.  For a deeper discussion of the grading system, visit

1 comment:

  1. This could make the difference between having a holy grail or a note worth significantly less. Great article!