PCGS Banknote uses a 70-point numerical scale universally accepted by collectors.
Below is a brief description to show how a note is evaluated and assigned a grade by PCGS Banknote. Please note that all banknotes graded 65 and higher must also meet the criteria for Premium Paper Quality (PPQ).
PCGS Banknote Grading: Written Grading Standards
Superb Gem Uncirculated
To qualify for the 70 PPQ grade, banknotes must have no evidence of handling visible under 5x magnification. The margins and registration must appear perfectly centered to the unaided eye. Corners will be fully sharp and eye appeal will be phenomenal.
Superb Gem Uncirculated
At first glance a banknote graded 69 will appear the same as a 70. There will be no evidence of handling to the unaided eye. Upon closer inspection the margins may appear the smallest bit off center, the slightest imperfection or evidence of very minor handling may be noted under 5x magnification and outstanding eye appeal.
Superb Gem Uncirculated
A nearly flawless note that after brief inspection with the unaided eye, may have some evidence of a very minor imperfection such as slightly off-center margins, a small packaging mark, a small crinkle in the paper, or a very light ink smudge.
Superb Gem Uncirculated
Centering can now be slightly off center to the unaided eye but still well above average. Minor handling marks and small flaws may now be visible.
Centering will be above average, but if the rest of the banknote is essentially flawless allowance of tighter margins is acceptable. There may be slightly more handling than 67PPQ.
A gem-quality banknote with above-average eye appeal that may exhibit more noticeable and numerous imperfections, although none too distracting. Depending on the paper quality and number of visible flaws, centering in this grade can range from slightly below average to excellent.
Centering may now be significantly off center. Some or all of the corners may have lost their full sharpness. Handling may be more significant with counting crinkles, packaging issues, and minor corner folds in the note’s margin that will not enter the design.
Centering can range from poor to average, depending on the amount and severity of other flaws on the note. There may be more pronounced pinching and minor folds in the margins, but no fold can span the length or width of the note.
Centering can be well off center. There may be numerous flaws and distractions that render this note out of the choice category. Corners can be rough with some creasing, however any fold that spans from edge to edge will not be classified as uncirculated.
The same basic problems associated with a 62 but the flaws being even more numerous and severe in nature. Often a note in this level of uncirculated grade will have folds, but none of them can go through the design.
Choice About Uncirculated
A note that appears to grade uncirculated, but upon closer observation a vertical fold, often a light centerfold, is noted. Other ways to arrive at this grade are clear corner folds that enter the design, or simply a note that while it does not have a centerfold, has clearly worn corners and edges that suggest a circulated note.
Often a note that has two light vertical folds. A note could also grade 55 due to a more pronounced centerfold, a horizontal fold, or a combination of a light vertical fold and one or two corners with folds that enter the design.
Similar characteristics as a 55 but with slightly heavier folds and possibly more corner wear.
A note can obtain this grade due to a heavy and impairing centerfold, two moderate vertical folds, or a note with both a light horizontal and vertical fold. Corners may now exhibit more folds and wear can be obvious.
Choice Extremely Fine
The classic case for this grade is a note with three clear vertical folds, although not heavy in nature. There also may be a clear horizontal and vertical fold, but heavier than seen on an AU50 note.
Similar to an XF45 note but with heavier folds and less body. Note will start to appear more clearly circulated, including heavier wear and corner folds.
Choice Very Fine
Possibly a few more folds than an XF40 note. Generally, there will be around 5 to 7 folds.
Usually 7 to 10 folds varying in severity and location. Note is beginning to be clearly worn, but this is still a specimen with solid paper.
An intermediate VF grade given to notes with a few more impairments than a VF30 or VF35 notes, such as heavier staining or toning, very heavy folds, and the paper is now losing much of the body.
A note that is starting to show clear signs of circulation with obvious and numerous folds, worn and folded corners, and just enough body to keep it out of a F15 grade.
A just-miss VF note that will have lost much of its body and is showing more signs of circulation such as numerous folds, slight splitting, heavier toning, and a general loss of integrity of the paper quality.
A note that has seen considerable time in circulation. The corners may be well rounded, and the edges can be frayed and show minor splitting.
Nearly a Fine note that exhibits some negative aspect keeping it from achieving a higher grade, such as heavier staining, many heavy folds, and an overall limp feel to the note.
A note that shares more Good characteristics than it does Fine attributes. The note will be limp with more tears and possibly heavier staining.
A fully limp note that will have heavier splitting and may even be missing some corner pieces. A center hole may be evident in this grade due to its heavy folding and circulation.
Very heavy circulation and damage are noted in a note graded Good 4. Multiple minor pieces will be missing, and splitting will be extensive and extend into the design. The note is completely limp and have negative eye appeal but will still be identifiable.
PCGS Banknote Designations
Beyond using the 70-point grading scale, PCGS Banknote also uses PPQ and DETAILS designations to qualify certain notes.
PPQ stands for Premium Paper Quality. Only circulated notes graded VF25 or higher are eligible for PPQ. All banknotes graded MS65 or higher must meet the standard for PPQ. Moreover, the PPQ designation is only granted to notes that PCGS Banknote graders have determined bear no visible evidence or signs of restoration or alteration and thus retain originality. There are several hallmarks of originality that PCGS Banknote graders consider when awarding the PPQ designation, including embossing, paper wave, vibrancy of ink color, and the note’s overall eye appeal. While the PPQ designation is a mark of prestige, it exists to award certain uncirculated and circulated pieces of superior quality. It is not, however, meant to demerit notes that do not receive the PPQ designation. In fact, there are many notes that may not be fully original but are still highly collectible. Furthermore, not all fully original notes that are free of alterations or restorations will receive a PPQ designation, as other disqualifying factors may be evident.
In some instances, a banknote is impaired enough that a standard numerical grade does not accurately describe the condition of the note. A “DETAILS” grade is assigned if the note exhibits damage or problems exceeding what is expected for any particular grade. Generally speaking, the lower the grade of the note the more impairments will be allowed without using a “DETAILS” designation. If the graders determine a “DETAILS” grade is necessary, the note will be assigned a numerical grade based on its attributes independent of the designated problem, and the reasons for the “DETAILS” grade will be clearly noted on the label. The PCGS Banknote Guarantee does not cover the notes given “DETAILS” grades. Notes with “DETAILS” grades are guaranteed genuine only.