Coin Grading Guide

In its more than 200 years of producing coins, the United States Mint has created dozens of coin types across numerous denominations. Some of these denominations are now obsolete, the coins which represented them having long ago passed from circulation. Each, however, remains an object of great interest to collectors, yet useful information about the technical aspects of these coins and tips on selecting the optimum specimens may not easily be found in print.

From 1996 to 2002, NGC Research Director, David W. Lange, wrote a series of columns for The Numismatist, the monthly publication of the American Numismatic Association. Each entry featured a different type of United States coin, and Dave shared with readers his insights into the technical and aesthetic qualities that defined it, while also providing helpful tips to guide collectors in selecting examples which best represented that particular design. These columns have now been thoroughly updated and are presented here for the benefit of NGCís customers.

It may seem that little needs to be said about common coins such as Roosevelt Dimes or Lincoln Cents, yet a reading of these articles will reveal aspects of these series that the casual collector tends to overlook. In the case of more rare and less often seen coin types, such as early gold pieces or odd denominations, the insights presented will enable collectors to gain a hands-on perspective that we at NGC are privileged to know from examining some of Americaís rarest and most desirable coins. We hope you will enjoy this unique review of our nationís coinage.

     Coin Grading Articles

Colonials, Half Cents & Cents

Liberty Cap Half Cents (1793-1797)
Draped Bust Half Cents (1800-1808)
Classic Head Half Cents (1809-1836)
Braided Hair Half Cents (1840-1857)
Chain Cents (1793)
Liberty Cap Cents (1793-1796)
Draped Bust Cents (1796-1807)
Classic Head Cents (1808-1814)
Coronet Head Cents (1816-1839)
Braided Hair Cents (1839-1857)
Flying Eagle Cents (1856-1858)
Indian Cents (1859-1909)
Lincoln Cents (1909-Date)

Two & Three Cents

Shield Two Cents (1864-1873)
Three Cent Silvers (1851-1873)
Three Cent Nickels (1865-1889)


Shield Five Cents (1866-1883)
Liberty Head Five Cents (1883-1913)
Buffalo Five Cents (1913-1938)
Jefferson Five Cents (1938-Date)

Half Dimes & Dimes

Flowing Hair Half Dimes (1794-1795)
Draped Bust Half Dimes (1796-1805)
Capped Bust Half Dimes (1829-1837)
Liberty Seated Half Dimes (1837-1873)
Draped Bust Dimes (1796-1807)
Large Size Capped Bust Dimes (1809-1828)
Small Size Capped Bust Dimes (1829-1837)
Liberty Seated Dimes (1837-1891)
Barber Dimes (1892-1916)
Mercury Dimes (1916-1945)
Roosevelt Dimes (1946-Date)

Twenty Cents & Quarters

Twenty Cents (1875-1878)
Draped Bust Quarters (1796-1807)
Large Size Capped Bust Quarters (1809-1828)
Small Size Capped Bust Quarters (1829-1837)
Liberty Seated Quarters (1838-1891)
Barber Quarters (1892-1916)
Standing Liberty Quarters (1916-1930)
Washington Quarters (1932-1998)

Half Dollars

Flowing Hair Half Dollars (1794-1795)
Draped Bust Half Dollars (1796-1807)
Capped Bust Half Dollars (1807-1836)
Reeded Edge Half Dollars (1836-1839)
Liberty Seated Half Dollars (1839-1891)
Barber Half Dollars (1892-1915)
Walking Liberty Half Dollars (1916-1947)
Franklin Half Dollars (1948-1963)
Kennedy Half Dollars (1964-Date)


Flowing Hair Dollars (1794-1795)
Draped Bust Dollars (1795-1803)
Liberty Seated Dollars (1840-1873)
Trade Dollars (1873-1885)
Morgan Dollars (1878-1921)
Peace Dollars (1921-1935)
Ike Dollars (1971-1978)
Susan B. Anthony Dollars (1979-1999)


Gold Dollars (1849-1889)
Draped Bust $2.50 (1796-1807)
Capped Bust $2.50 (1808-1834)
Classic Head $2.50 (1834-1839)
Liberty Head $2.50 (1840-1907)
Indian Head $2.50 (1908-1929)
Three Dollar Gold (1854-1889)
Draped Bust $5 (1795-1807)
Capped Bust $5 (1807-1812)
Capped Head $5 (1813-1834)
Classic Head $5 (1834-1838)
Liberty Head $5 (1839-1908)
Indian Head $5 (1908-1929)
Draped Bust $10 (1795-1804)
Liberty Head $10 (1838-1907)
Indian Head $10 (1907-1933)
Liberty Head $20 (1850-1907)
St. Gaudens $20 (1907-1933)