Introduction to Canadian Coin Grading

Certified 1965 Canadian 25-cent Canadian coin grading
Certified 1965 Canadian 25-cent

Introduction to Canadian Coin Grading

Canadian coin grading is an area of expertise that should not be taken lightly.  There is no standardized and widely accepted method to grade a coin but there is much information available to provide a basis for discussion.

I recommend a reputable coin grading service such as ICCS.  However, I don’t always have the luxury of certifying a coin as there are associated costs and oftentimes the coin is certified to a lesser value than I would have thought.

Coins are valued based on their age, rarity, demand, condition, and denomination.

When I consider the value or grade of a coin, I consider many things, such as market value, current trends, other references such as the Charlton Guides,

To appraise a coin, first there are some basic notions that need to be understood.  For example, coins are mostly appraised according to the obverse side.  For Canadian coins, the obverse side is the side with the Queen’s portrait.  On older Canadian coins, prior to the Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, the obverse side would be that of King Edward (1902-1910), King George V (1911-1936), King George VI (1937-1952).

Obverse Side Descriptions

Years:              1858-1901       Obverse:         Queen Victoria (various portraits)

Years:              1902-1910       Obverse:         King Edward

Years:              1911-1936       Obverse:         King George V

Years:              1937-1952       Obverse:         King George VI

Years:              1953-Present  Obverse:         Queen Elizabeth II (various portraits)

Reverse Side Descriptions

Reverse sides of Canadian coins have varied greatly over the years, offering many commemorative versions.  Reverse sides have included the maple leaf, animals, NHL hockey teams, the Canadian provinces, various Olympics and Olympic sports, remembrance to war veterans, etc.

Generally Accepted Grading

Depending on several factors as to whether the coin has been previously graded or certified, most collectors will base grading on the Sheldon grading system which offers a 70-point scale of “mint state” coins.  Below is an excerpt of the Sheldon system for coin grading.

Uncirculated Coins

MS-70 – The perfect, pristine coin

MS-64 to MS-69 – few scuffs, seen under magnification; small hairlines visible without magnification; most lustre intact

MS-63 – Some mirror-like qualities lost on the lustre; Copper pieces may be slightly darkened

MS-60 to MS-62 – Contact marks caused by “bag nicks” or other coins; good eye appeal; scuffs and small marks seen under magnification


Circulated Coins

MS-50 – About/Almost Uncirculated

MS-40 – Extra Fine

MS-20 to MS-25 – Very Fine

MS-12 – Very Good

MS-4 – Good – Rim of coin worn; outline of portrait apparent, but no detail such as eyes or beads in crown are perceptible, even under magnification.

Proof (PR)

A PR finish is now the highest quality finish offered by the RCM.  The finish offers a frosted relief against a mirror-like background

Proof coins are not intended for general circulation.  They are struck for collectors and dealers.  PR graded coins usually are interchangeable with MS-67, MS-68, MS-69, or even MS-70.

Brilliant Uncirculated (BU), Specimen (SP), Proof-Like (PL), Uncirculated (UNC), and MS-63

BU coins are often interchangeable with PL, UNC, and MS-63 graded coins.  There will be no traces of wear, no scratches on the background, no contact marks with other coins.  The background will be near mirror-like.  While some of these coins may have been intended for general circulation, they will not have been circulated as they would have come in rolls directly from the bank.

PL coins are also widely available in PL sets, which offer decimal coins in a sealed plastic envelope.

Canadian Proof Like Sets


About/Almost Uncirculated (AU)

Almost no wear on the eyebrow or other high relief points; background would have lost some of its mirror-like shine.

Extra Fine (EF)

There may be slight wear on the hair and wreath.  The eyebrow would be worn.  Mint shine will not be mirror-like.

Very Fine (VF)

 The hairline will show wear from the eye down to the nape of the neck.  The four central leaves of the laurel wreath will show wear.

Fine (F)

The laurel leaves are almost worn.  No more hair detail around the ear is apparent.  The dress folds are worn.

Very Good (VG)

All details of the Queen’s laurel leaves are worn.  The folds of her dress’s shoulder straps are also worn.

Good (G)

Coin’s lettering is showing wear; coin dates almost not visible; only basic outline of the portrait remains; coin details largely flattened, worn.


Introduction to Canadian Coin Grading