So, what is a graded Zimbabwe banknote? 

In the numismatic community, the condition of a note has a lot to do with its value. It is common sense really. If something is in great condition it will be more valuable than the same product in poor condition. That being said, “good condition” and “poor condition” are very broad. Serious buyers know that when it comes to determining the condition of banknotes or other similar collectibles, we want to be a lot more specific than that. This is where banknote grading comes into play.

Grading banknotes requires a trained expert to confirm the authenticity of the banknote and then to give it and give it’s condition a Grade from 8 to 70. Just like teachers review tests or homework, a currency examiner grades banknotes.   But not everyone can grade notes.  There are 2 well-known companies which grade most notes in the community- PMG and PCGS.

According to PMG’s website the “70 point numerical scale is derived from the internationally recognized Sheldon Grading Scale.” This scale has been used for coins for many years.  It replaced terms like Good, Fine, Very Fine, Exceptionally Fine and other ambiguous terms.  Using the Sheldon Scale, a perfect banknote is rated as a 70. Finding banknotes with this grade is very rare If a banknote has creases or folds or other wear, or even was just dispensed through an ATM, the grade drops.  Most examiners will not grade a banknote that is in really bad shape.  The lowest grade is an 8. A banknote graded at an 8 is typically very dirty, is missing ink or paper and the images are hard to recognize.  But when you have a banknote that is 100 or 200 years old, sometimes an 8 is the best you can find.  Once the note has been graded, it will be enclosed in a plastic case to protect and preserve it in a sort of time capsule, since whatever condition it was in at the time of grading will be kept intact by this plastic enclosure.

 So, you might ask, what is the difference between a "PCGS 70" 100 Trillion Dollar Zimbabwe note that costs over $1,000 and an ungraded, Uncirculated 100 Trillion Dollar banknote that costs around $100?  When you buy them from, they are both authentic and to the naked eye they look the same, but the graded note has gone through additional scrutiny. Other than that, there is nothing really.

This might not make much sense to some people. The reality is that both notes are completely authentic. They are both new, so they are both in great condition and they are nearly the exact same note.

So why the price difference? Although both the graded note and the regular note are authentic and in great condition, the graded note has been through a much more thorough examination process. A ‘raw’ ungraded and uncirculated note that is brand new may look identical to its graded counterpart, but there may be several microscopic, almost invisible differences. When a grader examines a note that closely, we can see wrinkles, fiber damage or even tiny stains that may be invisible to the human eye, but that are there, nonetheless.

 Thus, a raw note is likely to have some tiny defects that will not make any difference to a note’s monetary value. It will make a difference to collectors, as collectors are interested in these note's condition.

To summarize, banknotes are graded using a 70-point system based on that individual note’s condition. Once graded, they are placed in a plastic case and are sealed to preserve their grade and to make sure that no further damage is done to it. If the note is EVER removed from its plastic casing, it will no longer be considered a graded note and will lose all additional value that was gained upon grading; it will once again be just a regular “Raw” note. This measure is put in place to protect the integrity, credibility of the grading system, and to make sure that the grade you see printed on the casing of your note is ALWAYS the correct, current grade.