Grading conditions mean different things to different people. Here are our explanations about grades related to paper money, scrip, chits, tickets etc.
Uncirculated (UNC) = Original clean paper, with no discoloration, corners are sharp, without any evidence of rounding or trimming. Smell it to make sure it has not been chemically enhanced and if you’re a stickler about condition, don’t hesitate to back or UV light it or look at it under 20x magnification etc).
About Uncirculated (AU) = As above, but with (for example) only one of the following: very minor handling, a light bend, a single nibbed corner on the margin area only.
Extremely or Extra Fine (XF) = Still a sharp note with 3 or 4 of any minor faults, for example; 4 Corner nibs where a note has been inserted into an old style album or a couple of light folds, or 4 bends, or minor rounding at the corners, or a tiny margin nick (not a tear or hole), a couple of pinholes (a common way notes were put into albums in the old days).
Very Fine (VF) = A note with a few folds, some evidence of handling, perhaps some light staining and 3 or more pinholes, but not more than 1-2 small margin tears that do not extend into the design, or center holes – a note that has obviously been in circulation, but not abused.
Fine (F) = A circulated note, with many folds & wrinkles, staining & dirt, a few tears, no missing pieces, but rounded corners.
Very Good (VG) = A well-used note, abused but still intact. Corners may have much wear and rounding, nicks & tears may extend into the design, some discoloration & staining may be present, staple holes and a small hole may sometimes be seen at center from excessive folding and the note itself could be limp from use or washing, but in general there should be no large missing pieces.
Good (G) = An extremely well circulated note with many folds, tears, dirt, holes, tape, large pieces missing etc
Poor (P) = As bad as it gets, but still recognizable as a note, with all of the above faults multiplied by X.
A word about Graffiti, Staple holes, Security threads etc;
Graffiti – In some cases writing on a note enhances its ‘collectability’, we always make mention of it and let you decide how it should be graded (outside of the listings above).
Staple holes – Several countries used staples to bind notes per hundred at the printing plant (most notably places in the Indian continental region). If the notes or staples have been carefully removed, we may still consider the notes AU-UNC, as they come no other way. This differs from say, US Military Payment Certificates (MPC) which were grouped per 100, then stapled by the locals for storage & trading.
Security threads – These sometimes crimp a note at the edges, but as they are original, we call them AU-UNC.
Crinkly paper – Some entities, mostly notably the French colonies & departments, used thin paper & excessive shrinking ink, which gives the impression that the notes are wrinkled in these cases they are still considered UNC.
Tape – Notes may be repaired by regular tape, or paper strip glued or show signs of tape removal (like notes attached to a Short-Snorter belt) or may have archival tape – We detail all usage.
Half notes & scraps – Half notes were a common way to assure safety in sending money thru the mails (many examples of which are seen on the material of Montenegro & Serbia during WWI). Where 1/2 a note (with serial #) was mailed, and the other half (with the same Serial) was sent at a different time for the recipient to put together making it usable (if the serial #’s matched).
Scrap or part notes were common in American Colonial/Continental times to represent a portion of payment. So, a One Dollar note was commonly torn in half to represent a 50¢ payment.
We do not consider these as junk or in Poor condition, although they certainly are.
Notes made of materials, other than paper – are still classified as paper money – Examples include; Polymer, Tyvek, wood, skins (sheep or fish, as in the case of some US Depression scrip), aluminum or other metal foil, fabric, leather, rubber (as in German & Austrian Notgeld) etc.
Stamp monies – As was common for small change as in the first issue of American Fractional Currency (called Postage Stamp Currency), pre Revolutionary Russia or during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s we consider these as paper money, although technically these are ‘payment forms’ (could be a coin, or a token or a note etc).
Checks, Warrants, Bills of Exchange, Fiscal transfers etc may be inter-related with banknotes, but are for the most part listed separately.