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What is Eye Appeal? 

Eye appeal is a subjective term used to describe the attractiveness of a coin. While it is technically undefinable and complex, it is a measure of the look of a coin. Eye appeal is a factor that is vital to every coin, regardless of its grade.  

When it comes to grading coins, many factors must be considered. These include the coin’s luster and reflectivity, the number and severity of abrasions and marks or surface preservation, and the quality of the strike.  

How do coin grading organizations view eye appeal? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it helps to understand what the coin graders consider. Professional Coin Grading Services (PCGS) and Numismatic Guarantee Company (NGC) grade eye appeal in diverse ways, and we will break that down below. 

PCGS Eye Appeal Standards 

For a primarily subjective factor, PCGS has well-developed limits to guide eye appeal grading.  

The organization has a limited number of grading points that can be attributed to eye appeal, and several grades have minimum standards related to the coin’s eye appeal. These standards are further broken down depending on whether or not a coin is a Mint State or Proof coin versus a Circulated coin.  

Let us step back and review some of the criteria PCGS uses to evaluate coins. While PCGS has four grading criteria, they differ for Proof and circulated coins. PCGS uses eye appeal as a fourth grading criterion for coins in MS/PR-60 condition and above.  

The criteria below comprise a technical grade, which does not consider eye appeal. Eye appeal will add, reduce, or have no effect on the Sheldon grade that a coin receives. 

To asses toning, PCGS standards specify: Splotchy toning and/or deeply embedded toning is never positive. Splotchy, non-rainbow toning is not average. It is below average, negative, or ugly, depending on its severity.

PCGS grades toned coins with seven levels of eye appeal, from Amazing to Ugly. Coins can not display negative or below average eye appeal for the grade and be eligible for a Plus grade designation.

There are six levels of eye appeal for luster in mint state coins and reflectivity depth on proof coins, from Amazing to Negative.

MS-68 / PR-68The coin must have a positive eye appeal.
MS-67 / PR-67The coin must have above average eye appeal.
MS-66 / PR-66The coin cannot have below average eye appeal.
MS-65 / PR-65The coin cannot have negative eye appeal but can have below average luster or color (toning) if the coin is outstanding in each other grading sector.

PCGS Grading Standards for Proof and Mint State Coins

The three criteria that determine the grade a Proof or Mint State coin receives from PCGS are:

  1. The number of marks and abrasions, as well as their severity.
  2. The coin’s luster, or reflectivity for grading Proof coins.
  3. The strike, which is expected to be sharp. A weak strike results in a deduction for Proof coins.

PCGS Grading Standards for Circulating Coins

For circulated coins, the grade is determined by three distinct factors:

  1. he amount of wear the coin displays. The most important grading factor for circulated coins.
  2. Abrasions and marks. A certain number of marks are expected on circulated coins, depending on the grade. Severe marks can be a negative factor. The higher the grade a coin receives, the less severe the marks are before they affect the grade.
  3. The coin’s luster. Almost Uncirculated (AU) coins should retain some of their mint luster. Color and originality have the same grading effect for lower grades that luster does for higher grades.

PCGS Eye Appeal and Luster Grades


The coveted Amazing classification is awarded to coins that showcase astonishing levels of brilliance and/or vibrant colors. For proofs and prooflike coins, Amazing is rewarded to those that exhibit a ‘mind-boggling’ contrast or boast extraordinary mirror-like surfaces. The presence of an ‘Amazing’ eye appeal has the potential to augment a coin’s technical grade by a complete point.


Coins earning a Positive grade are distinguished by their exceptional visual allure. They may exhibit outstanding luster and/or captivating coloration, and in the case of proofs or proof-like specimens, showcase remarkable contrast. For proof coins, a Positive grade can also signify a notably superior depth of reflectivity. Such positive eye appeal has the potential to enhance a coin’s technical grade by up to half a point.

Above Average

These coins exhibit eye-catching appeal that surpasses the norm. They boast a visual superiority beyond what is typically associated with their designated technical grade. This superiority may manifest as above-average luster and/or color, and, in the case of proofs or proof-like coins, a heightened level of contrast. For proof coins, it might also be reflected in a greater-than-average mirror depth. This designation can augment a technical grade by one-quarter point. Above Average has the potential to elevate the grade of a coin teetering between two different grade levels—commonly referred to as ‘liner coins.’


Coins awarded a Neutral eye appeal score possess a visual presentation that neither enhances nor diminishes their technical rating. Their luster, contrast, color, and reflectivity align with the expectations associated with their grade.

Below Average

Coins classified as Below Average in terms of eye appeal exhibit a visual quality that falls short of what is typically expected for their grade. This could manifest as lackluster luster or subdued toning that affects the coin’s overall shine. Coin color might display minor splotchiness or embedded toning. The contrast may appear slightly off, and in the case of proof or proof-like coins, the depth of mirroring could be deficient. A Below Average eye appeal can deduct one-quarter point from a technical grade and prevents a liner coin from achieving a higher grade.


Coins falling into the Negative category exhibit a low-quality eye appeal relative to their assigned grade. This encompasses lackluster luster, toning that is significantly splotchy or noticeably embedded, and a notably subpar contrast, particularly evident in proof and proof-like coins where the mirror depth is exceptionally low. A Negative eye appeal can deduct up to a full point from a coin’s technical grade. Moreover, a coin with a Negative eye appeal should unequivocally prevent it from achieving a higher grade, even if it hovers on the edge between two different grade levels.


Coins awarded an Ugly eye appeal grade are characterized by a notably unattractive visual appearance, even considering their assigned grade. They typically exhibit highly uneven and unattractive coloration, often with very splotchy patterns. Toning may be excessively dark and deeply embedded within the coin’s surface. In cases of Ugly toning, it can result in a deduction of up to two points from the coin’s technical grade. In severe instances, the condition may be so dire that the coin is rendered ungradeable due to extensive environmental damage.

NGC Eye Appeal and Coin Grading

NGC is not as specific when it comes to grading eye appeal. Their Plus (+) and Star (★) designations serve to distinguish coins at the high end of their grade, as well as coins with outstanding eye appeal for their grade.

NGC Plus (+) Designations

Coins at the high end of an assigned grade that are close to the requirements for the next grade may receive a + designation. To qualify for a + designation, coins must also demonstrate above average eye appeal for their grade.

Not all coins will be eligible for this designation. Coins graded between XF-45 to MS-68, and coins graded PF-45 to PF-68 may be eligible to receive a +. Coins with lower and higher grades are not eligible for the + designation.

NGC Star (★) Designations

NGC reserves the ★ designation for coins with exceptional eye appeal for a given grade. Like the standards used by PCGS, this includes attributes like colorful toning, intense luster, or especially strong cameo contrast in the case of Proof coins.

To receive a ★ designation, coins must not demonstrate planchet irregularities or blemishes/spots. Toned coins with a ★ may be either multi-colored or a single color but may not have dark brown areas that are approaching the color black.

Coins that receive the ★ designation may fall anywhere within a given grade. For instance, an MS-66★ coin could be in the middle of the MS-66 grade, at the high end of the grade, or at the low end of the grade.

Grading organizations and collectors pay attention to numerous factors in evaluating a coin’s grade eye appeal. A coin’s eye appeal can either add to or subtract points from its grade, which can impact its value.

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