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Grading Standards

When grading paper money it is essential to first determine if the note may be safely removed from its holder without causing any damage due to brittleness, unseen tears, glue remnants etc. Then, carefully remove the note and holding it lightly, consider the general appearance, amount of wear, the hue and intensity of the colour of both the face and back. Determine a preliminary grade. If the note is Fine or better it should be held obliquely in line with a good light source. Move it around at various angles, such that the light will reflect off the note highlighting any ripples, counting creases, heavy creases, pressed out creases, tears, pinholes, cancellations, repairs or fading. Mastery of this technique is mandatory in successfully grading paper money. When these aspects have been carefully considered, decide if these are "normal" for the preliminary grade which was determined. If not, then the grade may have to be reduced depending on the number and severity of the defects, or the defects will have to be listed in addition to the overall grade, followed by any unusual defect, than to downgrade the note. Careful inspection to determine the correct grade will lead to greater trust and confidence between buyers and sellers of notes.

  • UNCIRCULATED - UNC: Crisp and clean as issued and without any folds, creases, blemishes or discolouration. Colours have original hue and brightness. Some issues may have ripples (as made). Mention must be made if the design is not perfectly centered with usual width of margins. Premiums may be applied to the more desireable exceptionally centred and strongly embossed notes. Uncirculated notes of the Canadian Journey issue with the added security features may be expected to show a small indentation where the holograph strip meets the edge of the note. The indentations are believed to result from resistance during cutting into single notes.
  • ABOUT UNCIRCULATED - AU: Similar to Uncirculated but with the allowance of a light fold (usually a vertical center fold) or two or three very light counting folds, but not both. Counting creases resulting in broken paper fibres, or any other creases, reduce the grade depending on their number and severity. The practice of using "almost" and "about" to designate a slightly lower or a plus in the case of lower grades to designate in-between grades is common, e.g. "almost AU" or "EF plus". Notes not perfectly centered with width of margins must be so described.
  • EXTREMELY FINE - EF: Similar to Almost Uncirculated but the centre fold, vertical or horizontal, may be a crease, i.e. paper fibres are broken, or there may be up to three heavy counting folds (not creases) or two light creases, but no combination of the above. There should be almost no evidence of wear, soiling or blemishes. The centering and margins if not perfect must be noted.
  • VERY FINE - VF: A fairly crisp and clean note. It may have several major and minor creases and folds, and some evidence of wear especially along the edges or at the corners. There may be some slight decrease in hue and intensity of the colours. The design in the creases should not be worn off.
  • FINE - F: A note with considerable evidence of circulation. Numerous creases and folds, but a small degree of firmness remaining. Usually fairy soiled and the hue and intensity of the colour are slightly reduced. There may be a slight amount of the design worn off along the major creases.
  • VERY GOOD - VG: A heavily circulated note but with all the major design still visible. Usually limp with no crispness or firmness, quite soiled, hue and intensity of the colour will be faded or altered. A moderate amount of the design may be worn off along the major creases or in the "counting crease" areas. Numerous other defects may apply [see list below].
  • GOOD - G: Soft and very limp, often with tears and small pieces missing. Usually some of the major design is worn off. Note may be quite dark in appearance. Manuscript signatures, dates and sheet numbers may be faint or unreadable. Usually has numerous tears and other defects.
  • FAIR - F: Similar to Good, but larger pieces missing. Manuscript signatures, dates and sheet numbers may be worn off or entirely faded out. Often has numerous tears and other defects.
  • POOR - P: As a Fair note, but with a major portion of the note torn off or the design obliterated. Often numerous tape repairs. Generally collectable only because of rarity.

In addition, to accurately grade a note it is necessary to consider any additional impairments. These should include:

  1. Minor counting creases or edge defects, especially for EF and AU grades.
  2. Tears, pinholes or signature perforations.
  3. Stains, smudges, crayon marks or writing.
  4. Missing corners, cut and punch cancellations or edge defects.
  5. Rubber stamp impressions.
  6. Any repairs, such as with sticky tape, scotch tape, stamp hinge, etc.
  7. Chemical damage, paste or glue from attachment to a page.
  8. Poorly centered or badly trimmed edges.

A note with portions missing should be graded as if it were a whole note, then the amount missing should be fully described.

Proof, specimen and essay notes are commonly accepted as being in uncirculated condition, otherwise, they should be described as impaired with the type and degree of impairment stated.

Note: Buyers should be particularly cautious when assessing any note which exudes a strong chemical odour. Many notes are being "doctored" by cleaning with solvents, and pressing, to make them appear to be in better condition than they really are. Many knowledgeable collectors insist upon "original" notes, which have never been cleaned or pressed.

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