Look Where your note belong’s

Grading Standards

Grading is a controversial component of paper money collecting. A little difference in grade can mean significant differences in value and price. The process of grading is so subjective and dependent on external influences such as lighting, that even a very experienced individual may well grade the same note differently on separate occasions.

To facilitate communication between sellers and buyers, it is essential that grading terms and their meanings be standardized and as widely used as possible. This standardization should reflect common usage as much as practicable. One difficulty with grading is that even the actual grades themselves are not used every place and by everyone. For example, in Europe, the grade “About Uncirculated” (AU) is not in general use, yet in North America it is widespread. The European term “GoodVF” may roughly correspond to what individuals in North America would call “EF”

The grades and definitions as set forth below cannot reconcile all the various systems and grading terminology variants. Rather, the attempt is made here to try and diminish the controversy with some common sense grades and definitions that aim to give a more precise meaning to the grading language of paper money.

How to look at a Banknote

In order to ascertain the grade of a note, it is essential to examine it out of a holder and under a good light. Move the note around so that the light bounces off at different angles. Try holding it up obliquely so that the note is almost even with your eye as you look up at the light. Hard-to-see folds or slight creases will show up under such examination. Some individuals also lightly feel along the surface of the note to detect creasing.

Cleaning, Washing, Pressing of Banknotes

  • Cleaning, washing or pressing paper money is generally harmful and reduces both the grade and the value of a note. At the very least, a washed or pressed note may lose its original sheen and its surface may become lifeless and dull.  The defects a note had, such as folds and creases, may not necessarily be completely eliminated and their telltale marks can be detected under a good light. Carelessly washed notes may have white streaks where the folds or creases were (or still are).
  • Processing of a note which started out as Extremely Fine will automatically reduce it at least one full grade.

Glue, tape, or pencil marks may sometimes be successfully removed. While such removal will have a cleaned surface, it will improve the overall appearance of the note without concealing any of its defects. Under such circumstances, the grade of the note may also be improved.

The words “pinholes”, “staple holes”, “trimmed”, “writing on face”, “tape marks”, etc. should always be added to the description of a note. It is realized that certain countries routinely staple their notes together in groups before issue. In such cases, the description can include a comment such as “usual staple holes” or something similar. After all, not everyone knows that such-and-such a note cannot be found otherwise.

The major point of this section is that one cannot lower the overall grade of a note with defects simply because of the defects. The price will reflect the lowered worth of a defective note, but the description must always include the specific defects.


A perfect note, not mistreated by the issuer, a bank teller or a collector. The paper is clean and firm, without any decolonization. The corners are sharp without any sign of rounding. An uncirculated note will have its original luster.


A virtually perfect note, with some few signs of minor handling. May show sign of counting marks or a light fold through the center, but not both. An AU banknote cannot be creased or hard folded as this will normally have ‘broken’ the surface of a banknote. The corners are not rounded. The paper is clean and with original luster.


A very nice banknote, with light marks of handling. May have a maximum of three light folds or one heavy crease. The corners might have a slight sign of rounding. The paper is clean and with original luster.


En attractive banknote, but showing sign of handling and wear. Might have a number of folds both vertically and horizontally. The paper might show minimal dirt or spots. The paper is still firm and crisp. No tears although the edges do show slight wear. The corners do show wear, but not fully rounded.


A banknote which shows considerable circulation, with many folds, creases, and wrinkling. The paper is not firm any longer, without being directly dirty. Minor tears in the border, but not into the design. No hole in the center due to folding is accepted. A pinhole or two can be accepted. The colors are still clear, but not bright. The general impression is still a nice banknote.


The description ‘Very Good’ might be a bit confusing as this is a well-used note, but still intact. The corners might be well rounded, small nicks and tears can extend into the design. Some discoloration might be present and stains might be present. A small hole in the center due to heavy folding can be accepted. Pinholes or staple holes are normal. The note itself is quite soft, but no part shall be missing. A note in VG is still, a note with an overall, not ‘unattractive’ appearance.


Here the description ‘Good’ will for many collectors be confusing, as this is a well worn and heavily used note. Normal wear due to a long time in circulation has caused a lot of folds, stains, pinholes/staple holes, dirt, discoloration, tears, center hole, graffiti and rounded corners which make the note overall unattractive. No larger pieces can be missing.


A totally limp, dirty and well-used note. Larger pieces can be missing or half torn off in addition to all the defects mentioned under the Good description. Tears can be larger and dirty spots bigger. A note like this is only collected as a ‘filler’ or if this is the absolute best condition you will find.


A ‘rag’ with several important damages due to extensive use and wear. As described earlier but with bigger spots, bigger tears and more graffiti. A note like this can also be taped to keep the pieces together. As for a Fair note, a note like this is only collected as a ‘filler’ or if this is the absolute best condition you will find.

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