While obvious to the seasoned folks, I felt it might be a good topic to touch on. It’s easy to see the difference between an MS67 and MS61 Morgan, but once we depart from the high end, the severity of marks and surface quality continue to separate the choice coins from the average. It’s easy to think of a Fine-12 and imagine a somewhat dinged up coin with decent surfaces that still retains enough design detail for a Fine grade. There are lots of coins that fall into that category that warrant their straight grade as they haven’t been harshly cleaned and aren’t environmentally or otherwise damaged beyond what is (by most) accepted as the threshold for these imperfections. With a discerning eye though, we can aim to select lower grade coins that have the wear to warrant that grade but survived their lifetime of circulation and subsequent downtime more gracefully than a lot of their peers. This 1821 Bust quarter is a recent purchase that illustrates this concept perfectly in my opinion: At F12, it saw its fair share of circulation. However, on the journey there, it was not dinged on the rims, scratched or hit deeply or substantially anywhere on the coin. There is no evidence of an old cleaning, and the surfaces retain the nice multicolored trace luster that is characteristic of original silver. The coin is CAC certified, but plenty of great coins out there with a sticker have more blemishes than the coin above...and of course there are loads of choice raw and certified coins out there like this to be had as well. While the bean is a signal that good things are happening here, nothing replaces our own eyes detecting premium quality within the grade by watching out for issues. Here is an 1812 Bust Half, also in F12: Original surfaces, pretty trace luster, smooth edges, nice contrast... BUT, toned over obverse scratches: Not past the threshold to bodybag it (leaving folks’ personal opinions on that score aside- NGC and ICG both straight graded this coin at F12) but enough to take it out of the “Choice” category we’re talking about. Did that stop me from buying it? Heck no, I love that coin. A few scratches don’t bother me when the other criteria is good to go and the price is right. (PCGS F15) Again, this is not to suggest that one should expect perfection in circulated pieces or pass entirely. I personally think that would be a quick way to miss out on a lot of great coins- but it doesn’t hurt to aim for the highest quality possible.