A Note on Grading
Even when grading to a set standard, grading a banknote can be very subjective. Factors such as lighting, tired eyes, being hurried, etc., can produce a small error that, depending on the rarity of the banknote, may result in large price differences. The standard commonly used for world banknotes is that used by the International Bank Note Society and can be found here.
When judging the grade of a banknote that you are considering for purchase from a seller you are unfamiliar with, it is best to take the advertised grade of a banknote as a ballpark estimate and look at it for yourself. Many times there will be banknotes that are not graded and you are left to judge for yourself. Either way, you can assess the grade of the banknote and make an informed decision if you know the grading system.
Attempting to judge the grade of a banknote from a photo, or on a computer, is very difficult under the best of circumstances. One must assume that the seller has not manipulated the banknote and that the picture is of the actual banknote offered for sale. If you have any questions, it is best to ask the seller about your concerns before committing to buy.
In grading your personal banknotes, you should always do so under the best possible conditions, and follow the guidelines as close as possible.
There are certain conditions inherent to the production of some banknotes that are not usually taken in consideration as a defect when grading. For instance, some modern notes will have counting marks or a crimp at the ends of some of the security foils. Older banknotes from some countries have staple holes that occur at the printing offices when they bundle them together. Certain issues of French printed banknotes will have a wave to the paper that is almost unavoidable. These may be, but are not always, identified along with the advertised grade.
There are also companies that will grade a banknote (and coins) for a fee. These companies charge a premium for their services and, unless the seller decides to absorb the cost, their charge is always part of the resell of the banknote. These companies are affectionately known as “Slabbers”, a term representative of the ‘Slab’ the banknote is placed into, a sealed plastic holder with the grade and the company name. They are also called Third Party Graders, or TPG’s. While one may feel assured of an official grade from a reputable Third Party Grading company, they are known to make mistakes as well. I am aware of mistakes from a TPG company such as an obvious wrong grade, wrong banknote label on the holder, and even an obvious counterfeit banknote uncaught by the obviously inexperienced employee. These Thrird Party Grading companies are primarily focused on USA and Canadian notes, though they have had more and more world notes sent to them for grading. One of the main differences is that these companies grade to their own individual standards instead of a national or international standard. This can, and does, produce varieties both large and small for notes graded the same value. This in my mind only complicates the issue of grading.
In the end, only you can be the true judge of the banknote for yourself.