Ron's Grading Standards

[GemCU] [ChCU] [CU] [AU] [XF] [VF] [F] [VG] [G] [P]

Gem Crisp Uncirculated (GemCU)
  • A perfect note.
  • Perfect margins, front and back.
  • Full embossing.
  • No aging or fading.
  • Bright bold colors.
A GemCU note looks as if it just came off the press. The centering is perfect. It has perfectly square corners, no marks, folds or bends at all, and the colors are as bright as the day it was printed.
A true paper money fanatic will stand with his mouth open, blankly staring for hours at a GemCU note, not able to utter a sound.
Choice Crisp Uncirculated (ChCU)
  • A nice new note, but not quite GemCU.
  • Most embossing still present.
  • Centering may be slightly off.
  • May show some very, very slight aging.
  • Square corners.
  • No bends or folds.
A ChCU note still looks like a brand new note, but the colors may show some very, very minor dulling. The centering may be average or slightly off and it must still have square corners. Absolutely no folds or bends are allowed
A true paper money fanatic will stand with his mouth closed, blankly staring for at least a half hour at a ChCU note, able to utter a sound which resembles "Wow".

Crisp Uncirculated (CU)
  • No trace of circulation.
  • Can have centering problems.
  • May have counting smudges, wrinkles, close margins.
  • May have a corner tip bend (not into design.)
A CU note still looks uncirculated, but it may have something that kicks it out of being a ChCU such as a slightly rounded corner, counting smudges or wrinkles, or a minor corner bend which doesn't touch the design. The embossing may be weak and the colors may be mildly faded.
A true paper money fanatic would not stare at a CU note, but would definately give it a good look. He would probably be heard to utter sounds such as , "Oh" or "Hmm", not because he doesn't like the note, but because this is what he could probably afford if he could convince the dealer it looks more like an AU.

Almost Uncirculated (AU)
  • Much the same as a CU note, but may have a single fold or bends.
  • May have several corner folds.
  • May have rounded corners.
An otherwise CU note may fall into this category because of a single fold, a couple of bends, slightly rounded corners, or mishandling. A GemCU note with a center fold would technically become an AU note.
An AU note makes a true paper money fanatic whine because he really wants a CU or better note, and ALMOST isn't quite good enough. After all, how much more could a CU note cost anyway. An AU note may also cause marital problems if your wife sees you pay $500 for a CU note instead of the $200 AU note which looks the same to her.

Extra Fine (XF)
  • Circulated, but still has most of its crispness.
  • May have a few folds (3, possibly 4).
  • Very Little fading.
  • No stains.
This is my favorite grade since it is still a very nice looking note and should be relatively affordable compared to the better grades. I've recently allowed 4 folds in my definition of XF if all other criteria are met and the note has extremely nice eye appeal.
An XF note never caused a divorce since even your spouse can tell the difference between an XF and VF note. Since they probably won't be able to tell the difference between an AU note and an XF note, you can show them how much money you're saving by buying this note.

Very Fine (VF)
  • Moderate circulation.
  • May have lost some crispness and color.
  • May show multiple folds.
  • May be very slightly soiled.


Fine (F)
  • Well circulated with little crispness.
  • Rough edges.
  • Soiled or faded.
  • Many folds.

If you've ever told your spouse they look "fine", don't show them the above definition.

Very Good (VG)
  • Well soiled.
  • Significantly worn.
  • Rough edges.
  • Minor problems.
May have a center wear hole where folds meet, well rounded corners, minor edge splits, but should have no pieces missing.

Good (G)
  • Very soiled and dark.
  • Extremely worn.
  • Extremely rough edges.
  • Tears, splits, center holes.
  • Small pieces missing.
A generally unattractive note with wear holes, edge splits and tears with small pieces missing. May have dark stains and graffeti from prolonged circulation.

Poor (P)
  • Yuck!
  • Worn thin in spots.
  • Extremely rough and split edges.
  • Major tears, splits, holes.
  • Larger pieces missing or hanging.
  • Taped together.
A rag which has been severly abused, ripped and torn and then taped together. These notes have large pieces missing or hanging loose. It looks like it will fall apart if you touch it.
Copyright 2001 Ron Pfiester. All rights reserved.
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