John N. writes: How does damage to a coin affect its grading? In particular, I stumbled across a U.S “shield” nickel that would probably grade as Fine or even Very Fine (lettering is clear, shield showing wear but the fine horizontal lines in the top of the shield are still partially visible) except for one small problem; it has a hole punched in it — right through the center of the date! You can still make out that the initial digit is ‘1’ (not surprisingly :-), and the final digit ‘9’, making it an 1869 or 1879 vintage; but the center two digits are obliterated by a gaping hole. What value (if any) is this coin likely to have?
The grade at this point is academic as a damaged coin like you describe above is simply a cull and has minimal value. There is a market for damaged coins. They are inexpensive and allow anyone of any means to have a historic coin collection. I’ve seen cull collections that were interesting and even exciting. Often the damage is in one place like on your shield nickel leaving all the detail available to see. Enjoy!