A private collection from Numismatist / Photographer Simon Smith.

Grading Banknotes

UNCIRCULATED: A perfectly preserved note, never mishandled

by the issuing authority, a bank teller, the public or a collector.

Paper is clean and firm, without discoloration. Corners are sharp

and square without any evidence of rounding. (Rounded corners

are often a tell-tale sign of a cleaned or “doctored” note.)

NOTE: Some note issues are most often available with slight

evidence of very light counting folds which do not “break” the

paper. Also, French-printed notes usually have a slight ripple in

the paper. Many collectors and dealers refer to such notes as AUUNC.

ABOUT UNCIRCULATED: A virtually perfect note, with

some minor handling. May show very slight evidence of bank

counting folds at a corner or one light fold through the center,

but not both. An AU note canot be creased, a crease being a hard

fold which has usually “broken” the surface of the note. Paper is

clean and bright with original sheen. Corners are not rounded.

NOTE: Europeans will refer to an About Uncirculated or AU

note as “EF-Unc” or as just “EF”. The Extremely Fine note

described below will often be referred to as “GVF” or “Good

Very Fine”.

EXTREMELY FINE: A very attractive note, with light handling.

May have a maximum of three light folds or one strong

crease. Paper is clean and firm, without discoloration. Corners

are sharp and square without any evidence of rounding.

(Rounded corners are often a tell-tale sign of a cleaned or “doctored”


VERY FINE: An attractive note, but with more evidence of

handling and wear. May have several folds both vertically and

horizontally. Paper may have minimal dirt, or possible color

smudging. Paper itself is still relatively crisp and not floppy.

There are no tears into the border area, although the edges do

show slight wear. Corners also show wear but not full rounding.

FINE: A note that shows consideralble circulation, with many

folds, creases and wrinkling. Paper is not excessively dirty but

may have some softness. Edges may show much handling, with

minor tears in the border area. Tears may not extend into the

design. There will be no center hole because of excessive folding.

Colors are clear but not very bright. A staple hole or two

would would not be considered unusual wear in a Fine note.

Overall appearance is still on the desirable side.

VERY GOOD: A well used note, abused but still intact. Corners

may have much wear and rounding, tiny nicks, tears may

extend into the design, some discoloration may be prsent, staining

may have occurred, and a small hole may sometimes be seen

at center from excessive folding. Staple and pinholes are usually

present, and the note itself is quite limp but NO pieces of the

note can be missing. A note in VG condition may still have an

overall not unattractive appearance.

GOOD: A well worn and heavily used note. Normal damage

from prolonged circulation will include strong multiple folds

and creases, stains, pinholes and/or staple holes, dirt, discoloration,

edge tears, center hole, rounded corners and an overall

unattractive appearance. No large pieces of the note may be

missing. Graffiti is commonly seen on notes in G condition.

FAIR: A totally limp, dirty and very well used note. Larger

pieces may be half torn off or missing besides the defects mentioned

under the Good category. Tears will be larger, obscured

portions of the note will be bigger.

POOR: A “rag” with severe damage because of wear, staining,

pieces missing, graffiti, larger holes. May have tape holding

pieces of the note together. Trimming may have taken place to

remove rough edges. A Poor note is desiralble only as a “filler”

or when such a note is the only one known of that particular