Grading Peace silver dollars follows a process of judging defined areas of the coin's surface. Signs of wear, the amount of wear and overall condition are then compared to grading standards. Key elements to grading are detailed in the video, and the images and descriptions that follow.
Each grade of a Peace silver dollar has its own unique features. Uncirculated coins retain the texture of mint luster. Lightly worn Extremely Fine grade examples are noticeably sharp with detail. Fine and Good condition coins show moderate to heavy wear. Subtle details to grading are needed to separate these different conditions.
A premium grade Peace silver dollar is the Mint State - Uncirculated condition. Essential to the grade is the presence of mint luster covering the entire surface. Luster is the result of a fine texture to the metal from the minting process. A single light source and tilting the coin to reflect the light from both a high and low angle aids in confirming complete mint luster. Delicate, this "frost" must remain on the key high point areas listed to reach the uncirculated grade.
Light, even wear is visible on an Extremely Fine grade Peace dollar. Wear is confined to the highest areas, allowing for some of the lower relief fine details to remain. Mint luster is replaced with an overall silver grey sheen. Luster remaining in small protected areas of the lettering and rays adds to the appeal and strengthens the grade. Of Note: Contact marks are taken into consideration in the Extremely Fine grade. Heavy or deep marks are a cause to down grade the coin. The distractive nature of any mark is considered in the overall eye appeal of the surfaces.
A few of the minor fine line details remain on a Fine grade Peace silver dollar. Although wide areas of wear are noticeable, key elements to the hair, lettering and eagle are visible and in some cases bold. A subtle point to observe is the design on both the obverse and reverse still retains a certain raised, contoured appearance and roundness to Liberty and the eagle. This roundness in the relief is the judging confirmation placing this coin above a lower grade.
In the Good grade a Peace dollar is worn noticeably flat over wide areas of the surface. Merging of details has removed many of the finer elements once enhancing Liberty and the Eagle. Remaining however, is a clear date and much of the lettering. A rim fading into the lettering is a key point in holding a coin from a higher grade. Overall, the Peace dollar fairs well as it circulates and become worn. Eye appeal does however have an impact on the Good grade. Loss of detail can cause the appearance to have a washed out hazy appearance. Areas of boldness impact the sharpness to the coin's appearance adding to appeal.
One hurdle to overcome when grading Peace silver dollars is the problem of taking into consideration a softly struck coin. Peace dollars, because of size, pushed the limits of the presses and coining dies in the striking process. Fine tolerances must be maintained with die alignment and pressure to both avoid destroying the dies and getting an acceptable life span of the dies. Millions of coins were produced at three different mints and no one die was expected to last a year of production. Multiple dies were used resulting in mutable production run setups adding to the inherent problem of fulling striking a coin.
As a grader, awareness and consideration of strike quality helps in determining condition, assigning a grade and placing a value. Although a soft strike can be found on most dates and mints of the Peace dollar series, the San Francisco "S" mint coins account for the majority. In particular the following dates are usually found weakly struck.
1922-S thought 1925-S | the 1927-S and 1928-S
Strike weakness is less of an issue with coins in Fine and lower condition. Overall wear tends to diminish the impact of a soft strike on grade and change value. In higher condition coins, judging weakness in strike from wear is necessary.
A softly struck coin, has in places, a distinct flatness to the normally rounded profile design elements. Metal simply did not flow into and fill these high points. As an example, and looking outside the potential "weak zone", wear in this hypothetical case indicates an Extremely Fine grade condition. However the highest parts of the design within the weak zone are in worse condition. This condition indicates the coin was never fully struck completing the design and the missing detail is not the result of wear. Technical grade is Extremely Fine with the modifier of Weak Strike.
Overall visual appeal now adjusts value. If the presence of a soft strike is minimal to the ascetics of the coin only small value adjustments are made.
An additional consideration is also given to the "color" or toning to the coin. Silver is reactive to the elements and turns color, reducing the original bright blue-white of an untoned surface. Judge the toning to your coin. Peace silver dollars naturally fade from a bright white to a soft silver grey with darker deep greys within the devices. Unnaturally dark surfaces overall indicates the coin was stored in an adverse environment.
Cleaning is never advised and should not be attempted to restore the color to the coin. Cleaning results in just another different unappealing surface. Best practice is leaving the coin as is. Collectors often accept deeper degrees of toning.
Accurately judge the condition of your coins yourself. Video index to the different coin series, with detailed images and descriptions.
Grading the condition of Peace dollars locates on the charts an accurate value. All dates and mints listed with information about the importance of mint marks.
Us coin values. Image links to the difference series and value charts quickly finds how much your old coin is worth. Subtle details to mint mark location and judging the condition of coins is found with each series from cents to gold.