Currency grading is imperative as it helps collectors determine the value of their banknotes. Below we’ve created a basic paper money grading guide to get you started. Paper money is mostly graded on a numerical scale of 1 to 70 and the higher the grade, the more the value of the money.

However, even while using this scale, many paper money collectors agree that there are no standard means to grade. According to them, the grade assigned to a note is mostly a matter of expert opinion rather than based on solid knowledge. Paper money grading is not only necessary for determining whether a banknote is original or counterfeit, but it also determines the note’s value in the market.

There are various types of grades that are applied to currency. These grades include:

  • Poor
  • Good
  • Very good
  • Fine
  • Extremely fine
  • About uncirculated (meaning it was not circulated)
  • Choice uncirculated
  • Gem uncirculated

Grading guide from highest to lowest

According to PMG paper money grading, the rating on a numerical scale of 1 to 70 determines the value of the money in the market. The higher the grade, the more you will pay for the grading service and so on.

Hong Kong 10 Cents| 1961 | P-327 | PMG 70
Source: Banknote World

If the note rates at a 70 on the numerical grading scale, then it is of a very high value, that is, gem uncirculated. This means that the banknote has no evidence of handling even at a high magnification and therefore hasn’t been used in a long time. If all the criteria are met, the note will be considered a 70 Star Exceptional Paper Quality (EPQ) and thus labeled gem uncirculated that qualifies for the PMG Star Designation. On the other hand, if a banknote rates at 1, it’s likely been used and it shows, thus the not is poor and significantly low in value. The following grading guide terms will help you better understand how banknotes are graded.

Super Gems

After 70, comes a very similar banknote with a 69 EPQ, with the main difference being the lines and registration may be a bit off-center. A person without the currency grading experience cannot tell the difference between the two types of notes.

For the 68 EPQ grading, a note may have very minor signs of handling while the 67 EPQ-graded notes have slightly more apparent signs of handling and their margins and registration are either above average or off center. These three, 67, 68 and 69 EPQ rated notes are referred to as super gems uncirculated.

Lebanon 50,000 Livres | 2015 | P-98s | Specimen | PMG 69
Source: Banknote World

Gems Uncirculated

66 and 65 EPQ rated notes are referred to as gems uncirculated. Centering is above average and they have some obvious signs of handling.

Choice Uncirculated

64 and 63 EPQ are designated as choice uncirculated notes. For 64, the centering is not perfect and there are signs of handling. For 63, there are no signs of folding and the margins are off-center.

Cook Islands 3 Dollars | 1992 | P-7a | PMG 64
Source: Banknote World


62, 61 and 60 EPQ are classified as uncirculated. They have counting smudges, may be faded or have small stains, may have minor problems with the tips. However, they have no folds.

Generally, the lower the grade, the more obviously used the note is. This grading applies to all grades until 4; notes graded at or above a 4 are considered good. If a note’s grade falls under the number 4, banknote is in poor shape and is not considered a collectible.

Other PMG Grading Guide Designations

In addition to using the scale of 1 to 70 for grading paper money, PMG also goes an extra mile to give designations to the notes.

EPQ (exceptional paper quality) – this means that the note has not been refined materially or chemically to improve its looks.

EPQ eligibility – If a note is graded as very fine, it is eligible for EPQ designation. Additionally, before any note can qualify to be graded as gem uncirculated (65 to 70), it must be given an EPQ designation.

PMG Star – this designation is given to notes that exhibit great quality of the paper, ink, and overprint. If a note is graded as 70 gem uncirculated, then it must also be awarded the Star. All notes submitted to PMG are examined for the Star designation.

Net – Depending on the grade that a note is assigned, some of the circulated banknotes are expected to show signs of wear. However, when there are too many issues, the note will graded as net and the reasons will be given.

There is so much more that goes into the complex aspects of paper money grading, but the above-mentioned grading guide components should give you a good start on what makes up the currency grading scale. Remember, grading is not only what determines the circulated and uncirculated value of money, but also helps verify the value of collectible banknotes.

2 thoughts on “The Paper Money Grading Guide

  1. David Hall

    I am new to paper money currency collecting and found this article a great source of information-easy to understand.

    1. Banknote World Post author

      Thank you for dropping a reply David, you can reach out to us if you have further questions, were here to help.


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