PCGS Banknote

Grading Standards

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).

Please Note:

Given the nature of the various printing processes and papers used over the centuries, some issues are given more leniency in some grading aspects than more modern types that are relatively uniform in quality.

PCGS Banknote Grading:
Written Grading Standards

70 PPQ Supreme Gem Uncirculated For a banknote to grade 70, it must be perfectly centered to the unaided eye with full margins for the issue; the registration must also be aligned perfectly. There cannot be any handling marks or imperfections in the print quality of the entirety of the banknote. It should be noted that the crimp present at the end on banknotes where a security strip is inserted in the creation process is considered as-made up to a point and typically does not preclude a 70 grade.
69 PPQ Superb Gem Uncirculated The grade of 69 will be applied to banknotes that are visibly the slightest bit misaligned that they just miss perfection for a 70. The margins must be full for the issue; the registration may be the slightest bit off as well. A 69 could also be assigned to an otherwise perfectly centered banknote with the slightest handling or other minor printing imperfection.
68 PPQ Superb Gem Uncirculated A 68 will be assigned to a banknote that has full margins for the issue and is slightly off center; slight shift of the registration is also allowed. However a major shift in registration could preclude a 68. Slight handling will be allowed at this grade level, although any handling considered more than slight could result in a lower grade.
67 PPQ Superb Gem Uncirculated For a banknote to grade 67 it must have pleasing centering that is not too far out of alignment and boast full margins. A 67 may have some light handling, but anything too distracting for this level will garner a lower grade.
66 PPQ Gem Uncirculated A Gem 66 will have pleasing centering that is slightly more out of alignment than a 67, but the margins must still be full for the issue. More light handling is allowed here, but nothing immediately distracting unless the note would otherwise grade a 68 or higher based on margins and centering.
65 PPQ Gem Uncirculated A grade of 65 requires a banknote to have full margins for the issue and reasonable centering. It will be visibly off but not to such a distracting level that the edge of one margin comes too close to the frame of the design. More light handling is allowed here, but anything too excessive will result in 64 or lower; sometimes a Superb Gem will have a level of handling that drops it to a 65 grade. Where applicable, a Gem will require reasonable amounts of embossing to be present on an intaglio printed banknote; seemingly light embossing (for the issue) could result in a lower grade.
64 Choice Uncirculated A 64 will have out-of-alignment margins and they may not be full for the issue. More handling is allowed here – for example, a corner could be lightly bent, or there could be a heavier crinkle that is distracting to the eye. For non-PPQ notes this is the highest grade they can attain.
63 Choice Uncirculated A banknote will be graded 63 when the margins are considerably out of alignment and they need not be full for the issue. Yet more handling is allowed here, a corner tip fold well outside the design, or a slightly heavier bend are also allowed. An otherwise-Gem note that has two small pinholes or a tiny margin tear or any other minor issues that do not warrant a comment on the label could end up as a 63 (or lower).
62 Uncirculated The typical 62 will be a strictly uncirculated banknote that has poor centering where there is no margin on one side and the design is interrupted. A corner tip fold or two not extending into the design, or slightly more serious minor issues such as foxing, a couple tiny margin tears, etc. could also garner this grade. Heavy handling could also arrive at a 62.
61 Uncirculated A 61 grade is not often encountered. However, when this grade is earned it will usually be found on a strictly uncirculated banknote with more serious issues that don’t quite warrant a comment on the label. The centering may be interrupting the design considerably or there will be minor issues present, such as more serious foxing/light staining, small margin tears, multiple corner tip folds not into the design, etc. Typically, banknotes at this level will have negative eye appeal because of the minor issues present.
60 Uncirculated The grade of 60 is not often encountered; while strictly uncirculated from a fold(s) standpoint, a banknote will have a considerable amount of minor issues shy of needing to be mentioned on the label, and the eye appeal will be quite negative.
58 Choice About Uncirculated Grades in the circulated range take into account the severity of folds/bends, ink loss, overall eye appeal, etc. The typical 58 will have a vertical fold or a single corner fold into the design of the banknote.

Another way for an otherwise-uncirculated note to achieve 58 is by having handling all over that is just too excessive and gives the appearance of About UNC overall; this can also be the result of corners that are normally sharp being round, or edges being roughed up while the banknote itself does not have a single fold into the design.
55 About Uncirculated A typical 55 will either be a banknote with a horizontal fold (which is longer than a vertical fold because it spans across the length of the note) or a harder vertical fold. Two lighter folds or one normal fold with additional excessive handling can arrive at a 55 as well. A banknote otherwise graded 58 that has poor centering to the point of the design being off of the paper (except in cases of hand-cut banknotes) could be graded 55.
53 About Uncirculated The grade of 53 is often the result of two hard vertical folds; there are several ways a banknote could reach 53 based on the severity of the present folds, handling, wear, and eye appeal.
50 About Uncirculated The most common way to arrive at a 50 is a Choice XF banknote where the folds present are light, and the wear is minimal, making the eye appeal that of an About Uncirculated banknote. A less-common way is an otherwise higher About Uncirculated banknote with negative eye appeal overall.
45 Choice Extremely Fine A typical 45 will have three moderate vertical folds, often referred to as “storage folds,” as banknotes at this level circulated very briefly. A moderate horizontal fold plus a moderate vertical fold could also arrive at this level. The presence of two very hard vertical folds is another way to achieve a 45. Keep in mind that wear beyond that typical for Choice XF could affect eye appeal and lower the grade.
40 Extremely Fine Most 40s will be notes with “VF folds,” but these folds will be rather light in nature. Wear will be minimal and eye appeal will be excellent; an otherwise-45 could also get to 40 by way of harder folds or something else affecting eye appeal negatively.
35 Choice Very Fine The typical Very Fine will have a horizontal fold and three or more vertical folds, however multiple vertical folds will arrive at VF as well. It is the severity of the folds that matters here, as the eye appeal will usually be excellent. For a 35, the folds will be moderate and not too distracting to the eye.
30 Very Fine The folds and wear on a 30 will be more noticeable than as seen on a 35 though not hard and “breaking the paper” as typically seen on a 25. A 30 could also be the final grade on a banknote otherwise graded 35 with something overly distracting to the eye appeal warranting a drop in the grade.
25 Very Fine A 25 will have typical VF-level folds, but they will be harder and distract the eye. Yet, there will still be plenty of “snap” left to the body of the paper; a 25 with minor issues could end up as a 20.
20 Very Fine An in-between grade, 20 indicates a note that is nicer than a Choice Fine 15 but not quite offering enough to make a mid-grade Very Fine 25. The typical 20 will retain decent body and have VF folds but may also be moderately crumpled throughout the entire note. A 20 cannot have too much wear in the focal points (or around the edges), otherwise it might be a 15.
15 Choice Fine The typical banknote graded 15 will have moderate snap left to the paper, but the wear will be too much for Very Fine; often this is the result of a banknote with typical VF level of folds but the centerfold may be extreme, where most rigidity is lost within the fold itself. A fold of such harshness will also usually be distracting to the eye in the key focal points (such as a central vignette or portrait). An overly worn Very Fine note could also arrive at 15.
12 Fine A 12 will often be an otherwise Choice Fine banknote that has too much edge fraying or is overall just too worn. There must be moderate body remaining to achieve a Fine 12.
10 Very Good Banknotes graded 10 Very Good will have quite a bit of wear overall and minimal body remaining. At this level, minor issues that might warrant a comment on a higher-graded circulated banknote will be commonplace without mention. While the banknote will have weak body, it must still be relatively bright in design. Heavier soiling will also be commonplace on banknotes at this level. Typically notes that arrive at a bank in this condition or lower are destroyed.
8 Very Good An 8 will be a banknote that is just a little more pleasing than the typical Good. Body will be virtually absent; but the design must not be as worn as a banknote graded Good.
6 Good The typical banknote graded 6 will be soft, with all body lost to circulation. The design elements will have considerable wear throughout; small splits, tears, and holes will be commonplace. A 6 may also be an otherwise-Very Good banknote that is missing small pieces, causing the eye appeal to be that of a Good.
4 Good Banknotes at this level will show a lot of wear to the design throughout and small missing pieces will be the norm. Larger pieces missing will likely result in a grade of 3.
3 About Good An About Good will typically have pieces missing and the wear to the design elements will be heavy; banknotes at this level and lower will often be delicate to the touch.
2 Fair A Fair banknote will have the majority of the paper present, but larger pieces missing will be commonplace. Wear to the design will be extreme and eye appeal will be very negative.
1 Poor Poor banknotes must be identifiable by catalog number. It is unusual for a banknote to circulate to the point of becoming Poor from a wear standpoint. These banknotes will be extremely worn with the paper virtually falling apart. Most banknotes acquire repairs before this point. An unrepaired Poor is an extreme rarity.

PCGS Banknote Designations

Beyond using the 70-point grading scale, PCGS Banknote also uses PPQ and DETAILS designations to qualify certain notes.

PPQ Banknotes must have premium paper quality (PPQ) to be graded Gem (65 through 70). Therefore, banknotes in Gem grade ranges will always receive PPQ designation. If a banknote would otherwise grade Gem based on full margins and pleasing centering but has a minor issue that does not warrant a comment on the label such as “pinhole,” “slight margin tear,” “ink mark,” “foxing,” “intaglio print that is flat,” etc., it cannot grade as Gem and the maximum grade possible is 64.

A banknote without minor issues is not PPQ by default. It must retain enough originality expected at that grade. Intaglio-printed banknotes must have a fair amount of design and/or overprint embossing remaining; lithographed and other banknotes must retain enough strength in the inks expected for that grade level. PPQ designation is a separate designation to the grade and can be attained for notes graded Very Good through Gem.

Banknotes graded Good or lower do not qualify for PPQ due to wear, tears, holes, etc., that are typically found in the state of preservation for notes in this grade range.
“DETAILS” Grading 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.

PCGS Pack Grading:
Written Grading Standards

Using the same 70-point banknote grading standards, PCGS will certify full and half packs of banknotes and encapsulate them in our hard plastic pack holder. Each pack graded is confirmed to be complete and containing notes of consecutive serial numbers (when applicable) by our grading staff.  

Often the first few and last few notes in a pack may receive more contact wear and tear while the internal notes generally retain higher quality and condition. While grading the packs, our graders account for the overall condition of all the notes to arrive at a single grade for the entire unit, factoring in the higher-condition notes found throughout the pack.  

Additionally, any straps or bands that surround a pack of banknotes are not considered part of the grade and do not affect the final grade of the pack. 

PCGS Banknote Guarantee>