Evaluating a Coin's Condition
Some novice coin collectors labor under the false impression that a coin's overall condition is less important in their hobby than, say, a stamp's condition is in the world of philately. These misinformed individuals believe that a coin is a coin, so what are a few scratches and abrasions between friends? Nothing could be farther from the truth. A coin's condition is key to both its attractiveness and its value. The following sections cover some of the things to look for in evaluating a coin's condition.
Fingerprints alone can impact a coin's condition and grade. Excessive handling of coins leads to wear and spotting. Pick up your coins by their edges. Keep them away from your mouth and don't ever blow on them. Even a little moisture can damage a coin, particularly an older one.
Hairlines are the light scratches on a coin's field (the flat open area of the coin). They are caused by continual handling, inattentive cleaning, or contact with other objects.
Originally minted coins shine with a brilliance that diminishes with time and handling. The strength of the light reflected from the coin's surface tells a whole lot.
Tarnish is the natural aging process of a coin that often results in changes in its colors. A coin is not immune to the ravages of time.