Paper Money Grading Guide
Here's where you'll find visual tips and information about identifying the grades of the coins and paper money in your collection. Use the handy images provided to compare to your own. Also see our complete listing of paper money books and references.
The physical characteristics of a note play an important part in determining its collectible appeal and value. Aside from those scarce or rare notes whose limited availability makes them desirable in almost any grade, there are many notes that have no additional monetary worth beyond their face value in ordinary Circulated condition. However, those same notes may command a premium in the highest Circulated grades and in Uncirculated condition.
Only advanced collectors and paper money professionals have the necessary training and experience to accurately and consistently grade the condition of paper currency. The following grading definitions and photos are presented as a guide only.
The note shown above is graded Very Fine, #2.
These notes do not meet Littleton's standards for select quality. These are clearly labeled as "#2" quality within their designated grade. We price them according to condition, at a discount appropriate to the grade. Each is a very collectible note, and otherwise right for the grade, but has one or several slight imperfections (such as edge splits, stains, pinholes, or ink marks) or has been lightly cleaned.
A heavily circulated note with characteristics similar to Very Good except with more pronounced soiling and considerable wear and tear. Corners of the note may also be missing.
An obviously well-circulated bank note with much creasing, folding and wrinkling noticeable. Note may be dirty, and corners may show much wear and rounding, and some tears may be present, though no pieces of the note should be missing.
Considerable circulation is apparent, with creases, folds and wrinkles visible, and most, if not all, of the crispness is gone. Edges show evidence of circulation, and there may be slight tears. Some fading of color noticeable, with some staining possible.
Still an attractive note, but with more pronounced wear from handling, though some crispness remains. May have several vertical and horizontal folds as well as slight dirt or smudging visible. No tears on the edges, though the corners aren’t as sharp as Uncirculated.
Paper is clean and bright with original sheen. Light handling is apparent, with several light folds or one strong crease visible. Tears and stains are not present.
A note that at first glance might appear as Uncirculated, but closer examination discloses the slightest signs of handling, some minor corner folds, a light (not hard) crease, a slight finger smudge or some pinholes. Paper is still crisp and bright and has original sheen.
A note that has not been released into circulation and is in the same condition as it was first produced. The paper must be firm and crisp, without any creases, folds or tears, and the corners must be sharp and square.