Learn Grading: What is the PMG Star Designation?

Posted on 4/21/2020

An elite group of notes are special enough to earn this stellar distinction as part of their PMG grade.

PMG’s Learn Grading column illuminates the techniques, grades and terminology that are used by PMG’s graders. This methodology provides an accurate and succinct description of a note’s condition and appearance.

This month’s topic is the PMG Star Designation (★), which is assigned to notes with exceptional eye appeal for their assigned grade. In particular, the PMG Star Designation (★) can indicate:

  • exceptionally strong plate and/or overprint embossing
  • vibrant ink color
  • pristine paper quality exceeding the well-established standards used to determine the Exceptional Paper Quality (EPQ) Designation.

Great Britain / British Armed Forces undated (1958) £5 Special Voucher graded PMG 67 Superb Gem Uncirculated EPQ★.Click images to enlarge.

All US and world notes are automatically evaluated for the distinction of the PMG Star (★) Designation. However, a note cannot qualify for the PMG Star Designation (★) without first achieving the EPQ Designation. EPQ is only available for the grade Very Fine 20 and higher, and is required for any note to be graded Gem Uncirculated 65 and higher. Furthermore, any note that achieves a grade of 70 must qualify for the PMG Star Designation (★).

In the PMG Population Report, you can show or hide the columns that contain the PMG Star Designation (★).
Click image to enlarge.

To explore the relative rarity of notes with the PMG Star Designation (★), visit the PMG Population Report, click on the Filters button and then click on the Star (★) box. Columns for grades with the PMG Star Designation (★) will appear.

The PMG Star Designation (★) should not be confused with the attribution of Star / Replacement notes. Many paper money printing authorities add a star to the serial number to indicate the original banknote with that serial number was defective and therefore was stricken from the roster of legitimate notes.

1934 $100 Federal Reserve Note graded PMG 63 Choice Uncirculated EPQ★.
Click images to enlarge.

The PMG certification label recognizes these notes with an asterisk in the serial number. Having the PMG Star Designation (★) assigned to a Star/Replacement note, when it does happen, is merely an interesting coincidence.

To learn more about the PMG Grading Scale, click here.

Previous Learn Grading columns:

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