Strike is the sharpness of detail that the coin had when it was mint state. A full strike is a coin that exhibits the full detail that would appear on the sharpest known examples of that type. There are several parts of the minting process that could account for the sharpness, or lack of sharpness, of a coin's strike. The most important aspect is striking pressure. Striking pressure can vary tremendously from coin to coin during the minting process.
Surface preservation includes the presence of bagmarks - a ding, scratch, indentation, or scrape - hairlines from cleaning or mishandling, and any other imperfections of planchet, whether mint caused or man made. An analysis of surface preservation attempts to evaluate the visual impact of these imperfections based on their degree of severity and their location on the coin.
Luster encompasses the brilliance, cartwheel, sheen and contrast of the coin, again taking the normal characteristics of the particular issue into account. Minor (non-hairline producing) cleaning, retoning, friction, etc., are evaluated under this category.
Coloration is the most subjective factor in determining grade. A coin is either well-struck or not. But a gold coin that shows deep green-gold color may be attractive to one viewer and unattractive to another. Attractive original coloration greatly enhances the appearance of a coin.
Eye appeal is a combination of the four aforementioned components when viewed collectively. A coin that has good eye appeal may be very strong in one area (excellent luster, for example) and good in another (nice but not great color). If a coin is negative in one area (very heavy marks, for example) but acceptable in all others, it is still likely to be noted as having below-average eye appeal.
Coin Grade Scales:
- Mint State (Unc): Absolutely no trace of wear.
- Almost Uncirculated (AU): Small trace of wear visible on the highest points
- Extremely Fine (XF or EF): Very light wear on only the highest points.
- Very Fine (VF): Light to medium wear. All major features are sharp.
- Good (G): Heavily worn. Design and legend visible but faint in spots.
- Almost Good (AG): Outlined design. Parts of date and legend worn smooth.
- Fair (Fair): You can identify the coin as to its type.
- Basal State (Basal): You can identify the lump of metal as being a coin.