Mint State (aka: “Unc,” Uncirculated, and “BU”) – No traces of wear or use. Mint state coins are graded from MS60 to MS70 on the Sheldon scale.
Mint state perfect uncirculated: MS70 is as perfect as a coin gets, considered “perfect uncirculated”. These are rare, although BU coins from the mint can rate this grade if you get them in mint sets for example. It is conceivable to get them out of rolls as well, but very unlikely.
Choice uncirculated is considered to be MS65 grade. Coins gathered from the bank or change are likely to be in the MS60 to MS65 range.
Uncirculated: MS60 is uncirculated but typically has bag marks, scratches and dings from being produced and shipped in large mints bags. Note that the bright white coin below has cleaner fields, and less bag marks and is considered more desirable.
About Uncirculated (“AU”) – Small trace of wear visible on the highest points of the design elements (for example the shoulder of the eagle on a Peace Dollar). Find the highest points of the coin and look for “rub” or wear there. It is very difficult on some coins, many people mistake tarnish for rub, you need to actually see wear for it to be AU. Keep in mind this is slight wear, in fact the coin may actually look completely mint state, otherwise. Note that in AU you may see some minor dings or marks from other coins due to circulation and use. The full range of “About Uncirculated” encompasses AU50 to AU58 on the Sheldon scale. See the very slight wear on the hair of Miss Liberty.
Choice About Uncirculated is AU55 to AU58 on the Sheldon scale. About uncirculated is AU50 on the Sheldon scale (mint state scale).
Extremely Fine (“EF” “XF”) – Light wear is clearly visible on the high points of the coin. The design devices are still clear. Mint luster or “shine” is still visible, but worn. XF40 to XF45. Note the wear on the tips of the wings. Click on photo to enlarge the image to the full coin. Mint luster may start to show degradation at this stage.
Very Fine (“VF”) – Wear is clearly visible to the naked eye. Devices are still defined and distinguishable but significantly worn. VF20 to VF35. Note the significant wear on the high parts of the wings. Also, there is very noticeable wear on the rim devices as well. Note the lack of luster on the full scan when you click the image below.
Very fine is VF20
Choice very fine is VF30 to VF35.
Fine (“F”) – Moderate or heavy wear across the coins. You can still see the design elements. Most coins have been in circulation quite awhile before reaching this state. F12. In fine, the wear is very evident, the rims are still intact, but heavily worn. The eagles wings have lost much detail and only a little remains.
Very Good (“VG”) – Heavily worn. Most details have been worn off, there is still some detail in the lower areas. Morgans still have full rims left at this state, but they show wear. VG8 on the Sheldon scale. The rim is almost gone in the image below, and the wings show almost no details. There is basically no mint luster left either.
Good (“G”) – Very heavily worn. Most detail has been worn, you can still make out the major design elements. Full rims not required for all coins, however, you can still make out the date. May have dings, etc. G4 on the Sheldon scale. In the example below, the rims are worn off, an there is virtually no detail in the devices. The major design elements are still visible.
About Good (“AG”) – Very heavily worn, parts of the design are gone, dates may be gone or only partially readable. AG3 on the Sheldon scale.
Basal State – Identified as a coin, but not able to identify much more than that.