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  Home - The 'Circulated' Grades


The "Circulated" Grades

When evidence of wear is present on a note, the inherent imperfections taken into account when grading an uncirculated note become trivial. More important are the number of creases and folds (predominantly in the VF and above ranges) and the severity of the creases (a strong consideration in the grades of F and lower). Also, consideration must be made towards the amount of soiling on the note. Soiling of a note is often correlated with the condition of the paper, putting the prospective grader in the right frame of mind. Furthermore, since eye appeal of the note is a great contributor to the enjoyment of the hobby, the amount of soiling of a note should be taken into account. The main difference between a VF-20 and a VF-25, for example, is the amount of soiling. In the Uncirculated grades, soiling of the note is a non-issue because the act of soiling the note indicates circulation.

Soiling, however, should not be confused with damage to the note. “Soiling” of the note is dirt which is grinded into the major creases and fields of the note. “Damage” to the note happens as a result of extraordinary harm and will be mentioned separately from the grade of the note. An EF-40 note, for example, should be free of soiling. However, it can have a pen mark and still receive the grade of EF-40 with a mention of the pen. Unusual wear to the note will not effect the grade designation of the note, but will be mentioned in the description. No net grade will be given.

Soiling on a note can be (and is often) removed by a cleaning process. The act of “restoring” a note is fraught with controversy. Although it improves the overall eye appeal of the note, it does so at the expense of the longevity and originality of the note. Many restoring processes use harmful chemicals that degrade the quality of the paper and continue to do so over time. Because of the prevalence of this practice in the industry, the amount of soiling on a note should only be used as a guideline for the determination of the grade, not a standard.

To make clear and fair to the industry, any note that has not been altered in any way, be it a light pressing or an invasive cleaning, and receives a grade of EF or higher will also receive the auxiliary designation of ORIGINAL on the holder directly below the number grade.

"AU-50 / AU-55/AU-58"

This is the first appearance of a sign of wear. The note can have two to three minor folds (not extending the length of the note) or one light centre fold (without paper fibres broken) but no combination of the two. The note is still crisp and clean with still bright colours

"EF-45 / EF-40"

This grade range is the first appearance of a major fold, hence-forth known as a crease. The crease usually exists along the vertical or horizontal axis, extending the entire length of the note (although in other areas, it may still classify as a crease based on its severity.) An abundance of minor folds may also cause the note to fall to this range. The note is still clean and crisp.

"VF-35/VF-30 / VF-25 / VF-20"

Several creases and several minor folds. By this point, the note is starting to look wrinkly, but still with a fair bit of crispness to the paper. Although the creases, by definition, have their paper fibred broken, the severity of the crease is an important determinant within this grade range. When a crease worsens over time, the broken paper fibres start to curl and expand outward, making the crease fatter and more distracting. Soiling starts to become noticable within this grade range, usually occuring in and around the major ceases.

"F-18/F-15 / F-12"

By this point, the number of creases becomes irrevalent. In fact, counting the folds and creases may prove to be quite a frustrating act. The severity of the folds become the prominent feature. Parts of the design of the note start to wear off in this grade range, usually starting where the centre vertical and horizontal creases meet. The note appears rather dirty and used by this point with a fair amount of dirt ground into the major creases. Very little firmness remains by this point.

"VG-10 / VG-8"

Countless major and minor folds, most of which are quit dirty with design worn off. Major wear exists all over the note. Most of the firmness is completely gone. The note should still be intact and recognisable.

"G-6 / G-4"

A note with absolutely no firmness left, reminiscent of a fragile blanket. Sections of the note become indistinguishable because of the wearing off of the design and heavily ingrained dirt. Tears and holes start to appear as a result of regular wear. Small sections of the note, such as a piece of the corner, for example, may be missing.


A heavily soiled and tattered note. Parts of the note seem to be disintegrating, showing more and more light through a seemingly intact portion of the note. This is the paper fibres breaking and unravelling simply from pressure and atmosphere. Furthermore, the ink on the still recognisable parts of the note is dull and clouded by dirt and paper fuzz. The note is still mostly in tact, but with many tears and holes along the major folds. Larger sections of the note may be missing


A barely intact, barely recognizable note. Large parts of the note may be missing. All parts that are left of the note are heavily disintegrated. Usually this grade is only used if the note is very special, very rare note.

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