Al Waxman by Ruth Abernethy Calgary Coin Gallery
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Canadian coins are a specialty here at Calgary Coin Gallery. On this page you will find a discussion of the grading terms used throughout this site, plus links the pages where I offer my available Canadian coins and tokens including Newfoundland and Maritime coins and good selection of the Breton Token series. If you ever order a coin from me that you are not happy with, it can be returned for a full refund.

Links to our Coins of Canada.

1 cent coins
5 cent coins
10 cent coins
25 cent coins
50 cent coins
Dollar coins
Maritime and Nfld coins
Tokens (Breton and others)


Using This Site as a Price Guide to Canadian Coins.

While this site is not intended as a price guide for Canadian coins, my selection of coins for sale is fairly broad with most of the more common coins offered in a variety of grades, and many scarce to rare coins also available and you may find it useful for getting a general feel for the values of many Canadian coins. Trying to value your own coins by comparing to the prices my or any other website can be confusing to the novice or non-collector as it is not as simple as "this date - that much". Value depends on quality, defined mostly by the amount of wear on the coin, but there are other factors. Many common coins in average circulated condition will have no value beyond what you can spend them for, or the value of any gold and silver they contain. The same can be true for even scarce coins in very poor condition.

If you have a coin I do not list, do not assume it is rare. It might be to common to have enough value to list, or just worth the value of the metal it contains in which case we do not list such items here. If you see a coin listed here at a very high price, and you have the same coin you also cannot automatically assume yours is also an expensive coin unless it is in the same condition (grade). An example would be a 1943 half dollar which if we had one in MS-64 would be listed at $200, in MS-60 at $75.00, in XF-40 at $10.00 and below XF-40 it would be in our scrap silver bin and not listed here. When trying to value you coins you need to be realistic about there quality (grade) to come to an accurate figure. With that in mind, I have provided the information below to give an introduction to what the grades mean.


Grading terms, and our Grading Standards.

You will find that every coin I offer for sale has a grade (description of quality) in front of the price. Experienced collectors understand what these coded descriptions mean, but this can be very confusing to novices. Please remember that grading standards are not absolutely fixed, and not all dealers grade exactly the same way. These are the standards I use, which I believe you will find to conservative but accurate.

Each grade has two parts, a letter or letters and a number. The letter are two descriptions of same thing but within a grade there is a range and the numeric part qualifies it as being average or nicer than average within the grade, with the higher the number the higher the grade. For example a VG is a well worn coin, with a VG-8 being a very average VG while a VG-10 will be slightly nicer VG.

For every type of coin there are definitions of what must be visible to make a particular grade. It is not possible here to provide the definitions for every type of coin, so what I describe below is designed to give you the basic concepts of how much wear to expect for each grade. Canadian George V (1912 to 1936) coins are the easiest to use for this purpose, although the 5 cent and dollar coins must be treated slightly differently. The basic principle of the grade as a description of the amount of wear to the coin is all I am trying to show here. Learning to grade accurately for many different types of coins requires years of experience.

1936 dollar au
1936 dollar au

Note the band of the crown just above his ear, delineated by distinct upper and lower lines between which are three complete jewels including a center diamond shape and two squares, plus two more partial jewels at the ends. Between the jewels are a total of 8 pearls in pairs separating the jewels. There are also six small pearls up the centerline of the top of the crown. On George V coins the grade is determined mostly by how many of these jewels, pearls and band lines are visible on the coin.

MS-60 (Mint State-60) are coins with no wear even under 10 power magnification, with all of the jewels and pearls are not only clear, but very sharp. This does not mean a perfect coin because during the minting process coins are subject to several handling procedures which can result in light marks due to contact with other coins, so there are 11 different grades of Mint state from MS-60 to MS-70. Grading at that level is very technical and I cannot address it here. Coins in the MS range can also be referred to as Uncirculated abbreviated as UNC or as BU (brilliant uncirculated).

1936 dollar au
1936 dollar au

AU-50 (About Uncirculated-50) is a coin with wear similar to that shown above with only traces of wear on the highest points. No major or minor details are worn and the six pearls up the center line of the top of the crown are all not only separate and distinct but relatively sharp (as is the rest of the coin in general). While it is not obvious on the image, there are traces of wear on the two pearls in front of the center diamond, and on the bottom two pearls up the center line at the top of the crown, which are the highest points on the coin. A coin with any wear on it cannot be called a Mint State coin. AU is normally divided into AU-50, 55 and 58. AU-58 is a coin with only microscopic wear and which probably would have been MS-63 or better without it. By the time a coin has circulated enough to wear to AU-55 you begin to see a light haze of disturbance in the lustre between the portrait and the lettering, caused by random multiple contact points leaving microscope marks in those areas. AU-50 and AU-55 are differentiated by the amount of that haze, and the amount of wear on those high points. As the wear is often only visible under 10 power magnification, it cannot be illustrated well on an image and requires some experience to judge accurately with the coin in front of you. On newer coins you would expect to see a significant lustre on an AU-50 (at least on silver coins), but this is not necessarily required for earlier coins that have toned.

canada 1935 quarter XF-40
canada 1935 quarter XF-40

XF-40 or EF-40 (Extra Fine-40) is a coin similar to the above with no significant details worn away but there is now more visible wear on the tops of the finer details. All jewels and all 8 beads on the crown band are visible although the 2 beads in front of the center diamond can be weak as on this example. The 6 beads up the center line of the crown are less sharp and the bottom ones usually begin to merge (other than on silver dollars) as you see on this example. Other parts of the design, such as the King's shoulder decorations, begin to show minor wear which is often how you distinguished a nice XF from an AU. No lustre is necessary on an XF-40 to XF-45 coin it some will usually be present, especially on newer coins. It should be noted grading George V nickels is different because they tend to be weakly struck, often with only 4 or 6 pearls visible in mint state. Grading XF and better George V nickels requires specialized knowledge. XF (or EF) is divided into XF-40 and XF-45. The coin imaged for this grade has what are known as hairline scratches from being cleaned which is considered a significant flaw that reduces the value and should be mentioned as part of the grade description.

canada 1917 half dollar VF-20 details
canada 1917 half dollar VF-20

VF-20 (Very Fine-20) is where some finer details have begun to wear through but only at the higher points. More than 50% of the center diamond should be visible with at least five of the eight pearls present but the two in front of the center diamond can be totally gone on a VF-20. On this coin there are six visible pearls although one is weak. VF is divided into VF-20 and VF-30 with the distinction a combination of how much of the center diamond is visible and exactly how many pearls are visible. A VF-20 has at least half of diamond with 5 to 6 pearls and a VF-30 has a nearly full diamond with 6 or 7 pearls visible.

canada 1919 half dollar F-12

F-12 (Fine-12) is coin where major details are clear but minor details show significant wear. The most important feature is that the bottom edge of the crown band is visible all the way across, although it can be very weak with the center visible only at some light angles. None of the center diamond or any of the other jewels and pearls need be visible for a F-12 so a coin like that above with some of them is a fairly nice F-12. Fine is divided into F-12 and F-15 where F-15 will have part of the center diamond and more importantly at least four pearls visible. By the time a coin has been in circulation to wear down to F-12 you should expect some very light knocks and/or abrasions, but large ones as one sees on the King's collar on this coin should be mentioned along with the grade as they do affect the coin's value.

canada 1916 half dollar vg-8

VG-8 (Very Good-8) is a coin similar to that above where the major details are starting to wear through and most of the minor details are well worn. There are still some internal detail of the portrait visible, and the band of the crown is completely worn through in the middle but visible at both ends with 20% of the band visible between the two ends combined. The center diamond, jewels and pearls on the band are now completely gone. VG is divided into VG-8 where at least 20% of the band is visible, and VG-10 which requires at least 60% of the band to be visible. The coin illustrated would grade VG-8 although it has a little more band that needed to quality for that grade.

canada 1915 quarter g-4

G-4 (Good-4) is a coin at least as good as the one above although in most cases it will be slightly nicer (this is the most wear a G-4 can have). Little of the crown band is visible, but the most important factor is all letters around the head are still there with no letters merged into the rim. Some lettering in the center of the reverse can be worn through, but all 4 digits of the date must be visible. G is subdivided into G-4 which is worn to where the portrait is little more than an outline and no part of the band line or internal details of the portrait need be visible. G-6 has some minor internal portrait details, often with significant parts of the ear visible, and usually 10 to 20% of the crown band present. Every date of George V coins, and even for different dies within one date, have slightly different wear patterns. The coin illustrated is a 1915 quarter, a date that seems to wear more rapidly than others, which is why this example is a good G-4 with a full inscription, but the portrait shows very little detail. On some other dates you would expect the portrait to look like this on an aG-3 where parts of the inscription are worn through. Most other dates in G-4 would have more portrait detail. Once a coin is worn to G-4 or below, you should expect it to have lots of small nicks and/or abrasions, often light scratches, which do not significantly affect it's value unless they are large or deep.

canada 1919 25 cent aG-3

aG-3 (about good-3) is a coin so worn parts of the lettering around the portrait are no longer visible and the rims may be worn flat in places. You might not even see the entire portrait outline although on this example it is still there. The date must be readable with certainty, although it might only be faintly by the last two digits. The most important aspect of this grade is the obverse inscription is no longer completely visible. Only very rare dates have any value to collectors in this grade, and even then at a fraction of what a G-4 would bring.

1935 dollar fair-1

Fair-1 is a coin like this 1935 dollar so worn you can barely identify the type, the date normally cannot be read, rendering the coin worthless to even beginning collectors. Only fragments of inscriptions are visible, the portrait truncation has merged into the edge, and on the reverse only traces are visible. A Fair-2 is only very slightly better than a Fair-1 but the difference is not important for valuation.

These grading standards are based on those set down in the original 1965 Charlton grading guide book. If you have the newer edition published about the year 2000, you will notice that for the lower grades (VF-20 and below) the grades in that book are not as strict as I use here. I believe these are the correct standards and grade my coins to them. I do not agree with those shown in the new edition, but many dealers and newer collectors use them. I cannot say they are wrong to do so, just that I don't agree with them but if you are happy with those standards you will be very happy with the coins you buy from me.

The concepts of grading by the amount of wear on these George V coins apply to any coins, but the definitions of what will still be visible on each grade will vary from type to type. This page will not teach you to be a coin grader as that takes years of experience. This should give you a reasonable idea of what to expect of non-illustrated coins you order from my site, each of which has its grade listed just before the price.


STRIKING STYLE.

The grade refers to the amount of wear, but there are also different striking styles or finishes, which are a different thing.

MINT STATE sometimes abbreviated as MS, refers to coins intended to be issued through the banks for normal circulation, which went through all of the normal mint handling process that leave "bag marks" on the coins and so even right out of original rolls they were usually far from perfect coins with the average grade in an original roll from the 1960's and earlier MS-60 to MS-63. Finding MS-64 or better coins can be difficult.

PROOF-LIKE sometimes abbreviated as PL, is an odd category. These are coins minted specifically to be issued in official mint sets. The mint never claimed they were anything other than choice MS coins, but are very early strikes from fresh dies and were put side to go into the sets before going through the entire mint handling process, meaning they tend have have higher lustre and far fewer bag marks than MS coins. However they are not perfect mark-free coins and average PL-64 to PL-65 in the sets. Experienced collector or dealer will know one when they see one. The term Proof-like was invented by dealers to differentiate these from normal MS coins, for reasons I will discuss below. Proof-like sets were first sold to the public in 1954, although single PL coins earlier than 1954 do exist.

Specimen which is sometime abbreviated as SPEC or just SP. Specimen coins were also minted for special mint sets. The differ from PL coins because the dies are specially finished to give the coins either a higher lustre or sometimes a specific matte finish, and the coins are double struck to give sharper images, normally higher sharper rims, and design meet the fields at a sharper angle. Specimens have been made since the beginning of Canadian coinage, with early sets were used for official government presentations, although in 1908, 1937 and 1967 sets were made for sale to collectors. Beginning in 1971 specimen sets made to sell to collectors became a standard part of the mints product line, and most such sets are very common today. Like proof coins, specimen coins were never intended to circulate so did not go through any of the standard mint handling systems that put bag marks on MS coins. Most specimen coins are relatively mark free and start off in the SP-66 to SP-68 range.

PROOF which is sometimes abbreviated as PR. Proof coins are also struck only for special mint sets. Canadian Proof coins are struck on selected blanks from dies with carefully polished fields, and frosted designs, then double struck to give them amazing sharpness. Each coin is carefully handled and packaged right off the die to keep them virtually mark free. The frosted images and lettering against the mirror like background (an ultra-cameo effect) are very attractive and because of the special handing are usually in Proof-66 to Proof 68, although coins right up to Proof-70 occur. The earliest Canadian proof coins were struck in 1973 for the Montreal Olympics, but production of normal denominations in proof begins in 1981. Earlier Canadian coins are sometimes seen with the cameo affect, and some can look almost like proof coins, but are not. Not all world proof coins, including US coin, have frosting but do share the mirror like fields.

It is important to understand these distinctions, because for many dates there is more than one striking style and they are not priced the same. Where Pl's, Specimens or Proofs from sets exist in large numbers (generally true for PL after 1953, Specimen after 1970 and most Canadian Proof coins), while these are usually the nicest looking coins, they generally do not command the prices of the upper end MS coins (generally MS-64 or higher). An example the 1967 Canadian dollar, which can easily be found in PL-65 from a proof-like set, or Specimen-65 or better from one of the black boxed specimen sets, for not much more than the value of the silver in them. A 1967 dollar in MS-65 from a bank roll is very difficult to find and might sell in the $500 range. Understand how this works is important. We occasionally see people sell PL and Specimen coins claiming they are high end MS coins, and asking prices far beyond the coins value. Such people are either totally inexperienced, or are committing fraud.

Much to our dismay, the standard references are now referring to many of the newer coins from mint sets not as Proof-likes, but as "non-circulating Mint State" (abbreviated NCMS) or as "numismatic Brilliantly uncirculated" (abbreviated numismatic BU). We feel this will cause confusion among collectors, so we neither like nor approve of these terms. The old term Proof-like to designate coins made specifically for mint sets cannot cause this confusion, which is precisely why it was invented in the first place. On this web site we will refer to all coins make specifically for mint sets as either Proof-likes, Specimen or Proof, which ever is appropriate to the coin.

Recently there has been a new development in that starting in 2011 the mint stopped making Proof-like sets with selected coins. The coins in the standard mint sets are simply normal MS coins packaged like the old proof-like sets, and once removed from the set cannot be differentiated by any means I know of from a coin take from a bank roll. I am finding the coins in these sets vary in quality but generally are in the MS-63 to MS-65 range. As these coins are fairly common, and easy to obtain in that range, and cannot be distinguished from the same grades taken from bank rolls, the concept of high grade standard MS coins from 2011 and newer being rare no longer exists high prices for such coins can no longer be justified.



WARNING ABOUT FAKES

There were recently some relatively high-quality die-struck fakes of Canadian coins made in China and often sold on Ebay, mostly by sellers in China. While Ebay has done a fairly good job of cleaning up this problem, some still appear from time to time, and many are already out there having been sold before Ebay stepped in to stop them.

The dies are probably made by a spark erosion process, and are most likely produced in China. The 1875 quarter below is an example I was shown recently :

fake 1875 quarter
ENLARGEMENT

When viewed under a microscope, these coins have very odd surface textures and heavy die polish marks in odd places, but when viewed in hand or via a digital image, they are fairly deceptive. For many types they did not have access to genuine coins of the rare dates, so started by making a die from a more common date of the type, then modifying the date on the die to make it a rare date. This usually results in the modified digit being slightly off shape from what an original would be. We have seen some 1921 5 cents where the last 1 had been modified and was too thick compared to the other digits.



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