What is an Adjectival Grade?

Before the advent of the Sheldon Grading Scale of 1 to 70, adjectival grades such as “Good,” “Fine” and “Uncirculated” were used to describe a banknote’s condition. In the late 1940s, Dr. William Sheldon assigned numeric grades to commonly used adjectival grades to enhance their precision. “Good” became “Good 4” and “Good 6,” “Fine” became “Fine 12” and “Fine 15” and so on.

Although Dr. Sheldon’s scale was initially used for US Large Cents, it soon became the standard for virtually all coins and banknotes. PMG adopted the internationally recognized Sheldon Grading Scale when it began operations in 2005.

Adjectival grades are still helpful for giving an approximate description of a note’s condition. As a result, PMG includes the adjectival grade below the numeric grade on its certification labels.

For some bulk submissions, PMG will allow the submitter to request that only the adjectival grade be printed on the PMG certification label. The notes must still meet PMG’s requirements for the numeric grade range for that adjectival grade. For example, a note that would grade About Uncirculated 58 cannot receive an adjectival grade of Uncirculated.

Contact Customer Service to confirm eligibility.

A chart showing the adjectival grades, their abbreviation on the PMG label and the corresponding numeric grade range is shown below.

Adjectival Grade Numeric Grade Range
Good* (GD) 4–6
Very Good (VG) 8–10
Fine (FN) 12–15
Very Fine (VF) 20–35
Extremely Fine (XF) 40–45
About Uncirculated (AU) 50–58
Uncirculated (UNC) 60–64
Gem Uncirculated (GEM) 65–70

* Grades under 4 Good are generally not collectible unless the note is rare. Most notes at these grade levels are “Net” graded due to major problems.

** When a note is numerically graded, Fine, Very Fine, Extremely Fine, About Uncirculated and Uncirculated may be paired with the additional qualifier “Choice” to indicate a note at the highest end of the grade range. Gem Uncirculated may be paired with the additional qualifier “Superb” to indicate a note that grades 67 or above on the Sheldon Grading Scale.

See the PMG Numeric Grading Scale >