I believe there is no other subject as difficult to the collector than grading. This is not surprising, nor should it be intimidating. Grading a coin requires practice.
The best way to learn to grade is hands-on experience. First, purchase one or two grading guides. I recommend the American Numismatic Association’s Grading Guide and secondly, Photograde. Both books will give you good definitions and pictures of each grade for each coin. Secondly, visit your local coin store or a coin convention in your area, and talk with someone with grading experience. Don’t be afraid to ask how to grade one or two coins but, not your entire collection. Be sure to tell the dealer you are trying to learn. Most dealers will be glad to assist you. Also, look at as many coins graded by independent grading services as possible. This can be a very effective learning tool. There are some specific things to keep in mind when grading a coin. Choose your light source carefully. A sixty- watt incandescent light, positioned directly overhead and close to you provides the best lighting. Florescent back lighting is also an advantage. Never grade in sunlight.
A good 5x magnifying glass is a must. Bausch & Lomb makes an excellent glass for around ten dollars. When looking at the coin, examine the rim first to detect any harsh nicks or repairs. Next, divide the coin into four or five parts and look carefully at each section before examining the coin as a whole. This will allow you to take a more critical view of the coin. Roll the coin to reflect the light on the surface. This will help to expose hairlines, small scratches or help to determine the amount of mint luster present on the coin.
Remember, the highest points of the coin will receive wear first. Look closely at these areas comparing them to one of your grading guides and you’re on your way.
We hope this will provide some helpful tools for you as you begin learning to grade.