The 70 Point Sheldon Grading System

Discussion in 'Frequently Asked Questions' started by jody526, Jun 3, 2007.


    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    I've explained it several times on the forum, but it's been a while. Long story short - born a Protestant and raised a Catholic.
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  3. Cringely

    Cringely Active Member

    As a quiz to ascertain why third party grading has value, look at the dollar coin (listed as VF by the dealer I purchased it from). The quiz part is for you to grade it and then tell me why or why not I should have sent it in for grading.

    Tomorrow (or Friday), I'll summarize the results and then give my reasons why grading (rather than accepting the "major buyers" may not be looking out for your best interests.

    Attached Files:

  4. davidwillson

    davidwillson New Member

    I could be wrong but I thought Sheldon created his scale only to determine the value of Large Cents and later - in the late '60s or early '70s - others adopted his scale to be used in grading.

    Read more:
  5. 1066merlin

    1066merlin ANA#R3157534

    There is some really great info in this thread for us rookies, thanks everybody!
  6. kaparthy

    kaparthy Well-Known Member

    70 Reasons Why the Market is Always Right

    Before you reply, read the original post.

    Unless DavidWillson is Hobo, there is an echo in here.
    True, and also addressed by GDJMSP who cited the year in which the Red Book appended numbers to the adjectives, 1977. However, I believe that the editors were only acknowledging the change, not making the trend.

    The problems are many and in a different online forum, I posted on "The Evil That Men Do" including Sheldon and Breen, and Frossard and the Chapmans, Thomas Elder and Farran Zerbe, and in that someone else dropped the name "Hall." Idols have feet of clay. That said, Walter Breen's flaws may or may not have much to do with his numismatic acumen. However, Sheldon's stealing coins from the ANS and others is not the problem. The problem is that the 70-point scale is to coins what Sheldon's somatotypes were to people: junk science; pseudo-science; quackery.

    A general adjectival description may be no better or worse. Buyer and seller need to trust each other. Absent that, numbers and words are irrelevant. ANA Grading and Brown & Dunn were joined by a PCGS book that is free online. "Three letters in LIBERTY" sounds like a standard, but that could be one for L half each for R and T and a lot of fractions for the others, all to make three. (Read the standards.) Nonetheless, for over 100 years from the mid-1800s to the 1970s, people bought and sold coins at a distance (via mail order) with overwhelmng success, many more commercial consumations than annulments. Thus, I have to disagree with Owle.
    I believe that everyone has the ability to make a judgment on a collectable coin, stock certificate, Hot Wheels, or barbed wire (yes, it is collectible), just as they do about picking which gas station to pull into.

    Myself, I think the 70-point scale is silly. Some people argue about 64 and 65 and 67 and 68 only because of the large dollar values that the better grades bring. No one cares if your Franklin Half is a VF-21. But we could. Same day, we may. In fact, it is easy to predict that we will, perhaps in the next generation. My thoughts and feeling about the silliness of the Sheldon scale will not change anyone's opinion. So, I accept it for what it is.
  7. Cringely

    Cringely Active Member

    Any grading scale (100 point, 70 point 5 star hotels, 3 star Michelin restaurants, etc.) is arbitrary. Hopefully, the scale represents some sort of relationship between the grade and the item being described. What Sheldon observed more than 60 years ago was a relationship between descriptive (adjectival) quality (grade) and price in large cents. Since the best condition (most expensive) large cents were selling for 70 times that of the worst condition, the grading scale became a 70 point scale.

    When Sheldon invented the 70 point scale, the relative price of a given large cent was linearly proportional to its numeric grade. Unfortunately, the linear relationship didn't last. As it turns out, there still is a mathematical relationship that relates pricing to grade. Rather than linear with numeric grade, it is exponential (constant percentage increase) per adjectival grade increase with the ten full adjectival grades being G (1st), VG (2nd), F (3rd), VF (4th), EF (5th), AU (6th), MS60 (7th), MS63 (8th), MS64 (9th) & MS65 (10th). For a given coin costing X dollars, the next higher grade should cost 1.75X dollars (assuming a 75% exponential relationship).

    Aha, you say that that is not true,and you trot out the Red Book showing a counter example where the relationship between grades is more that 2X or only 1.1X. My thesis is based on typical behavior of most coins (some will have larger increases, some will have smaller increases). On average, you will find that the relationship is (and has been) typically a 75% increase in price for every increase in adjectival grade. Details will be published in a forthcoming article “Price Trends of U.S. Coins” that I wrote for The American Journal of Numismatics and which will be published later this year.
    JimsOkay likes this.
  8. flathead62

    flathead62 Member

    good info,thanks
  9. Davobenz

    Davobenz Member

    Sheldon is still good for differentiating and grading coins with absolutely no wear, but with varying amounts of minor problems such as hairlines small nicks and scratches and problems with patination.
    There can be huge market value differences between a coin with absolutely no wear, and a coin which is absolutely perfect in every respect.

    Sheldon falls down badly when a coin that just barely makes MS60 and is valued at $60, and an absolutely perfect equivalent coin graded at MS70 is only valued at $70. Such a situation like that is impossible in current market conditions.

    These days, almost every collector of U.S. coins will accept Sheldon grades for MS60 through MS70, but will then value a coin in the MS60 to 70 range according to current market trends.
  10. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Sheldon developed this scale as a quick way to update values over time. Instead of having columns and rows of numbers, you simply got updated Basal Values and calculated market prices from there. It would have been a great system if it had worked, but it didn’t.

    So far the scale goes, it has had so much usage that it has become the standard. Those who are obsessed with the use of the base 10, have asked for a 100 point scale. I am sure that the grading companies would like that because it would give them s lot more business, but the blowback from those suggests has been fierce.

    The system is quite workable once you learn it. We don’t need any extra grading points because the ones we have create enough controversies. Arguing over 11 Mint State or Proof grading number is quite enough.
    tommyc03 likes this.
  11. serdogthehound

    serdogthehound Well-Known Member

    If the grading companies did go to a 100 point scale I bet they would keep MS/PR at 60 so that they could have 40 find little points of MS/PR to argue over
  12. Marshall

    Marshall Junior Member

    Trying to show wisdom about prices is a FOOLS Errand.
  13. John Burgess

    John Burgess Well-Known Member

    Prices are always connected to supply and demand, and there will always be times where supply outpaces demand, and there will be times when demand outpaces supply.

    there's no real way to figure out if a price is "right" even with grading involved. Maybe a really common coin is graded MS69, and it's a one of a kind, while a more rare date is MS65 with a few hundred examples for collectors to chose from.

    even so, it's only worth what someone will pay for it, but if it's desirable and in short supply people will fight for it, while it might be desirable and plenty for sale, and there's just not much action... all you can eat...

    Why not a 10 point grading scale? why not a decimal system with 1.00 being the best and 0.00 being the worst? why not base 14 system? One is as good as another as long as most people can understand how it works. And the Sheldon Scale, most people can understand how it works. in the end the 70 is an arbitrary number for 100. does the system need 100 grades? not really,...

    How About
    1 Poor PO
    2 Fair FR
    3 About Good AG
    4 Good G
    5 Very Good VG,
    6 Fine F
    7 Very Fine VF
    8 Extremely Fine/Extra Fine Ex. Fine
    9 About Uncirculated/Almost Uncirculated AU
    10 Mint State/Proof.
    then use 10 decimals in each grade? so I coin could grade 5.01 for low,VG, 5.05 for middle VG, 5.10 for VG+ if you want to get exact over it? Maybe just do that in the 10 category and use a 10.01 for lowest mint state, and 10.99 for highest mint state.

    Again one system is as good as another as long as it catches on and the majority can understand it, and even possibly agree on the grades once in a while. grades 1-4 should all be one grade of "sucky, but it will do if there's nothing else available".

    Even the comic book grading scale has more grades at the top and more at the bottom, with half steps in the middle. Baseball cards it's a 10 point system with half points at the bottom of 1 for poor and 1.5 for fair, 2 for good, but can give a half point for any grade like 9.5 for an exceptional characteristic beyond similar cards of that grade... which in my opinion, makes no sense if you are going to use 1.5 for "fair". But again, if people understand it, and it works for most folks, then it works.
  14. Marshall

    Marshall Junior Member

    One of the least remembered things about his scale for value is multiplying the top half dozen specimens available by factors set out by ten rules. These go up to 4 times Basil Value times scale for a best known example in MS. The tenth rule is for averaging tie values.

    And it is specific to significantly undamaged coins which represent only about 10 percent or less of early copper.

    He was already noting that his scale, devised in the second quarter of the 20th century was already showing signs of inflating on the higher end faster than the lower end and this has continued on since then. So redoing his system would probably lead to a 1000 point scale.
  15. Cheech9712

    Cheech9712 Every thing is a guess

    I was just going to say that what you said. I got most of it!!!! Thanks
  16. Cheech9712

    Cheech9712 Every thing is a guess

    Someone always has a better idea. Isn’t that wonderful.
  17. Cheech9712

    Cheech9712 Every thing is a guess

    Atta boy
  18. San Diego Coins

    San Diego Coins New Member

  19. Cheech9712

    Cheech9712 Every thing is a guess

    Hog wash
  20. Marshall

    Marshall Junior Member

    There are numerous factors involved in differentiating a 60 from a 70 coin and all grades in between. It is obvious that simple age decreases the number of high grade specimens since the grade almost always goes down over time with the rare exceptions being a well conserved coin.

    But die wear is usually less important than the planchet and strike, even before post strike issues.
    Cheech9712 likes this.
  21. slackaction1

    slackaction1 Supporter! Supporter

    Hog Wash foolish words or ideas I am at the other end of the spectrum been trying to get a 70 on coins (ASE) sent in always comes back 69 or so. I am now at trying to get a PO 1 on some morgan low balls. They got some high dollars on the low balls.
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