What is a “Gem” Grade Coin?

November 26th, 2012 by

At Gainesville Coins, the professionally-graded (slabbed) coins we sell are only from Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NCG) or the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). The services use the precise “Sheldon Scale” for coin grading, which ranges from 1 (can barely tell what type of coin it is,) to 70 (no post-production flaws, even under 5x magnification.)

Because the only graded coins that Gainesville Coins sells are those that adhere to this strict scale, the buyer is better informed in his purchases. To help those who may be used to the old descriptive designations, we will sometimes include old-style descriptors such as “choice” or “gem” next to the Sheldon Scale number. However, we will never use those adjectives in the absence of a Sheldon number.  Since the old descriptive terms have no set meaning, sometimes people will use them to oversell the actual quality of an ungraded coin.

To help new and returning collectors know what some of the major players in the coin industry consider these terms, I’ve put together this chart:

GRADEHeritagePCGSNGC
MS 60UncirculatedUncirculatedUncirculated
MS 61UncirculatedUncirculatedUncirculated
MS 62UncirculatedUncirculatedUncirculated
MS 63Select UncirculatedChoice UncirculatedChoice Uncirculated
MS 64Choice UncirculatedChoice Uncirculated*Choice Uncirculated
MS 65Gem UncirculatedGem UncirculatedGem Uncirculated
MS 66Gem UncirculatedGem UncirculatedGem Uncirculated
MS 67Superb Gem UncirculatedSuperb Gem Uncirculated**Superb Gem Uncirculated
MS 68Superb Gem UncirculatedSuperb Gem Uncirculated**Superb Gem Uncirculated
MS 69Superb Gem UncirculatedSuperb Gem Uncirculated**Superb Gem Uncirculated
MS 70Perfect UncirculatedPerfect UncirculatedPerfect Uncirculated

*PCGS recognizes “Very Choice” at MS64, but does not use the term.

**PCGS does not explicitly assign the “Superb Gem” category, but infers it from their definition of “Gem” as MS65-66