Currency Grading

Currency grading is imperative as it helps collectors determine the value of their banknotes. United States banknotes are graded by a system much like the 70 points Sheldon coin grading scale which is used for coins. Top-quality grades include “Gem” or “Choice” condition which is usually dubbed as “New” by sellers down to “poor” for notes barely identifiable.

Paper money collectors agree that there are no standard means to grade. 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.

Notes graded 20 to 64 are eligible for PMG’s EPQ designation if they meet the standards described below.

A very heavily circulated note with numerous problems. It is totally limp with impaired visual appeal. Notes in this grade are commonly seen with pieces missing.
The note is very worn with serious splits, fraying of the margins and damage.
The note is heavily circulated but is intact. Some small pieces may be missing. Soiling, light stains or splits are common for this grade. The note is limp.
A solid, whole note with lots of circulation. The note is too limp and has a number of minor problems.
The evidence of circulation is considerable with rounded corners, margin splits and other issues. The note must be whole with solid paper.
This note may look like a Very Fine note, but upon closer examination it is found to have too many folds or too much circulation to warrant a Very Fine grade.
The note is moderately circulated with numerous folds, mild soiling. There are no serious detractions but there may be minor defects.
A note that shows modest evidence of circulation as well as more folds and/or soiling than a note graded 30.
This note will be lightly circulated and may have light soiling. There will typically be seven to ten folds.
For years dealers and collectors called this grade “VF-XF.” This note looks Extremely Fine, but it will have four to seven light folds.
There are three or more folds, one of which may be horizontal.
A note with two to three heavy folds, one of which may be horizontal.
The note has two heavier folds or light horizontal and vertical folds. The handling can be significant.
A note with two vertical folds or a single horizontal fold. May also have signs of handling.
This grade is commonly assigned to a note that has one fold or two to three corner folds through the design.
Often a note with a single fold that crosses the design.
A note with problems that may include toned paper, a small stain or fading. There will be handling issues but there will be no folds through the design.
The note is poorly centered and the margins come into the design. There may be counting marks, smudges or other signs of handling. There will be no folds through the design.
The note is strictly uncirculated but may have minor-to-moderate handling and/or corner tip issues. There will be no folds, however. The margins may touch or come into the design.
The centering is imperfect and the design may be flat. There may be several flaws but there will be no folds.
The centering is off on one or two sides. Some handling may be evident but there must be no folds in the design.


Notes must qualify for PMG’s Exceptional Paper Quality (EPQ) designation to be graded 65 and higher.

The note may have one or two minor distractions as a result of minor handling. The centering must be above average.
There may be slightly more handling than a 67 EPQ note. The centering must be above average.
A note with above-average margins and registration. There may be minor handling.
The margins and registration are slightly off center. There may be very minor handling.
This note is nearly visually indistinguishable from a 70 but the margins and registration may appear slightly off center. There is no evidence of handling visible to the unaided eye.
The highest grade assigned. Notes must have no evidence of handling visible at 5x magnification. The margins and registration must appear centered to the unaided eye. Notes must qualify for the PMG Star () Designation to be graded 70.


In addition to the 70-point numerical grading scale, PMG uses several designations to give an additional description to select notes. These designations are Exceptional Paper Quality (EPQ), the PMG Star (★) Designation and NET.

An Exceptional Paper Quality (EPQ) note is, in the opinion of PMG graders, completely original. EPQ notes will not have been physically, chemically, or materially processed to give the appearance of a higher grade. Notes exhibiting normal wear-and-tear for their grade are eligible. All notes graded Very Fine 20 and higher will be evaluated for the EPQ designation. Notes must qualify for the EPQ designation to grade Gem Uncirculated 65 and higher. For additional details, click here.

PMG Star (★) Designation®
PMG assigns the PMG Star (★) Designation to notes with exceptional eye appeal for their assigned grade.

While eye appeal is one of the most subjective characteristics of notes, there are general standards which numismatists typically use to define exceptional eye appeal. To receive a from PMG, notes must exhibit exceptionally strong plate and / or overprint embossing, vibrant ink color, and pristine paper quality exceeding the well-established standards used to determine the Exceptional Paper Quality (EPQ) Designation.

All US and world notes are automatically evaluated for the distinction of the PMG Star (★) Designation. Notes that do not qualify for the EPQ Designation will be disqualified from receiving the Star Designation.

Notes graded PMG Gem Uncirculated 70 must also qualify for the PMG Star (★) and EPQ Designations.

The NET designation indicates a note that has problems that are more severe than can be reflected by the note’s assigned numeric grade. If a note receives the NET designation, the severe problem or problems will be listed. The grade portion of the PMG Guarantee does not apply to Notes given a NET designation by PMG. Notes with the NET designation are guaranteed to be genuine only.


Minor disturbances in the paper other than folds such as teller counting marks, crinkles and minor bends.

Paper quality is as issued except for normal circulation.

A pedigree describes the current and/or past ownership of a note and PMG will list this pedigree by submitter request on the PMG certification label. PMG will pedigree notes to significant collectors or collections if sufficient documentation is provided. In addition, submitters may request to have their own name or their collection’s name listed on the PMG certification label, subject to PMG’s discretion. It is important to note that although some pedigrees to famous collectors or collections can be desirable and add value to certain notes, many pedigrees will not add any desirability or value to a note.

Alignment of the face and back printing.