HomeNumismatic TermsMS70 : The Controversial "Perfect" Grade*

MS70 : The Controversial “Perfect” Grade*

Certified coins graded MS70. Image: Heritage Auctions / Bullion Shark / CoinWeek.
Certified coins graded MS70. Image: Heritage Auctions / Bullion Shark / CoinWeek.

MS70 is also known as Perfect Mint State, or uncirculated perfect.

Defining MS70 as a grade proved controversial for the American Numismatic Association (ANA). After an August 1980 Board of Governors vote, the ANA adopted the grade MS70 for use by ANACS and gave the grade the adjectival name “uncirculated perfect”.

While a theoretical grade insofar as no coin is perfect on a molecular level, MS70 is traditionally used to depict a visibly flawless coin at 5x magnification. It is likely to never occur on regularly circulating, business strike coins due to the speed of production and the way coins are handled after the strike. MS70 coins do occur with commemorative releases as the United States Mint treats these special coins more carefully during production.

MS70 is a controversial collecting grade as modern commemorative and bullion coins with the grade are considered condition rarities (typically, modern commemorative and bullion coins tend to grade at MS69) that sell for multiples of the MS69 price. The difference between the two Mint State grades is almost indistinguishable to many collectors.

The first coin to receive the grade from a professional third-party grading service was an uncirculated Statue of Liberty $5 gold piece. This coin and “four or five” Proof Statue of Liberty $5 gold pieces earned the perfect grade from ANACS in July 1986. ANACS director Richard Montgomery announced the groundbreaking news to Coin World, which was published in their July 30, 1986 issue.

Current Definitions of MS70 from Major Third-Party Grading Services

Current definitions of the term vary across the different grading companies.

CAC Grading:

MS or PR70: There is no such thing as a “perfect” coin. Our MS70 or PR70 coin is a coin that is nearly flawless when viewed at x5 magnification. It is exceptionally well-struck with minimal mint-made flaws.

NGC Grading:

NGC defines a Mint State or Proof 70 coin as having no post-production imperfections at 5x magnification.

PCGS Grading:

In the PCGS Official Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection, 2nd Edition, published in 2004, PCGS outlined its MS70 grading standard as follows:

An MS70 coin has no defects of any kind visible with a 5X (5-power) glass. Note: Minor die polish, light die breaks, and so on are not considered defects on business-strike coins (p. 25).

This standard has been modified to the current standard, published on PCGS.com:

Fully struck and lustrous, free of visual marks. The PCGS 70 grading standard does allow for “as minted” defects, as long as those flaws are minor and do not impact the eye appeal of the coin.

Future Perfect

In an article originally published in their Market Whimsy column for The Numismatist, CoinWeek’s Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker satirically proposed the creation of an even higher new grade–MS70+–as a way to handle the ever-increasing perfection of coins in the numismatic marketplace.

Notes on Other Grades in the Sheldon Coin Grading Scale

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CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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