The condition of an item is the most important factor in determining value – followed by rarity and desirability.
Two condition grading methods have evolved over the years, the 1 to 10 scale and the Mint to Poor scale. Shown below are examples of the 1938 Coca-Cola serving tray in each of the conditions. Under each tray the corresponding condition and description is presented. Please keep in mind that interpreting these guidelines is objective, and everyone's viewpoint is different. For instance a "minor scratch" might mean one thing to one person, and something slightly different to another person. Also keep in mind, that when in doubt, it is always better to "undergrade" and item than it is to "overgrade" and item.
Mint / Grade 10
Absolutely perfect original unused condition. No visible flaws at all.
Please note that many items contained flaws when they were manufactured and so they cannot be considered mint.
Few items possess this condition, and in most instances, the demand for mint items far exceeds the number of items available in the marketplace. The rarity of this condition increases it's value considerably. Mint items have the highest investment potential for future increase.
Near Mint Plus / Grade 9.5
Almost, but not quite, perfect condition with only minor usage or age flaws. This is about as good as it gets.
This item looks perfect from arms length, but shows a flaw or two under closer review. Minor flaws can include: a slight scratch or tiny chip or a pinhead size dot or two in the paint. Nothing that detracts from the beauty of the item.
This is the original condition that most items possessed when they were originally manufactured. This condition is highly desirable and difficult to obtain on older items. Investment value is high, and the potential for a future increase in value is very strong.
Near Mint / Grade 9
Again this is almost – but not quite – perfect condition with only minor flaws from usage or age.
This item looks perfect from arms length, but shows just a few more minor flaws under closer review. Minor flaws can include: a slight scratch or tiny chip or a pinhead size dot or two in or under the paint.
A very desirable condition for all collectors. Investment value is high, and the potential for future increase in value is strong.
Excellent Plus / Grade 8.5
Excellent Plus and Excellent condition are the categories that most collectible items fall into. Shows only minor flaws such as scratches, small dings or small rim chips that do not detract from the overall appearance.
A very presentable and desirable condition for collectors. Investment value is still present, but the potential for future increase is somewhat less than the first three grades. Older and rare items are an exception.
Excellent / Grade 8
Excellent Plus and Excellent are the categories that most collectible items fall into. A few more scratches and small dings than on the Excellent Plus. Larger and more noticeable rim chips or rubs are evident.
Still a very presentable and desirable condition for most collectors. But, this is the point where investment value begins to level off. Future return on investment is less predictable.
Very Good Plus / Grade 7.5
Flaws begin to become more numerous and more apparent.
Rim rubs are more prevalent. Scratches are deeper and more obvious. There might be minor flaking or minor spots of rust or staining.
This condition is considered less desirable for most collectors, and presentability starts to lessen. Items begin to loose value more quickly, and investment potential is minimal. Future return on investment (especially for common items) is questionable. Older and rare items are an exception.
Very Good / Grade 7
Flaws are more numerous and more apparent. Rim chips and rubs are obvious to the observer, as are small but deep scratches and staining or light spots. Minor flaking or pinhead size spots of rust are common.
Like Grade 7.5, this condition is considered less presentable and less desirable. Items begin to loose value more quickly, and investment potential is minimal. Future return on investment for common items is questionable. Older and rare items continue to be an exception.
Good / Grade 5
Major flaws are numerous. Rim chips and rubs are obvious to the observer, and deep scratches and staining is common. Flaking and rust spots are more obvious and minor fading and denting will often be seen.
Collector desirability is minimal as is presentability. Future return on investment for common items is unlikely.
Fair / Grades 3-4
Major flaws are numerous and very obvious. Rim chips, rubs, deep scratches, dents and staining are common. Flaking and rust spots are often numerous and fading and soiling is common.
Collector desirability is minimal if any, as is presentability. Future return on investment is very unlikely.
Poor / Grades 1-2
Major flaws are numerous and very obvious. Rim chips, rubs, deep scratches, dents and staining is common. Flaking and rust spots are often numerous and fading and soiling is common.
Collector desirability and presentability is non-existent. Future return on investment is non-existent.
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