How do you feel when a seller listed a banknote in uncirculated (UNC) condition and then went on by saying that - "I am not an expert in grading a banknote and do not want to misled anyone. Please judge the note yourselves from the scan".
Is that fair? My short and simple answer is a big fat "NO".
My immediate question to the seller was that if you are not an expert or qualify to grade them, then why do you listed them as UNC conditions? Isn't that statement is contradicting and misleading too?
Perhaps the seller wants to play it safe from any possible after sale complains. Perhaps the seller wants to tell the buyer it's at your own risk. Let the buyer beware!
No one expect you to be an expert, but at least you can judge the note from your end especially when you have the note in your hand. No one, and I repeat, no one can grade a note from a scan. I can scan you a VF note and it still looks like UNC condition.
In case you are wondering, and not an expert just like me, do try this simple technique. This is how I decide if a note is in UNC or note. My definition as UNC is in general term only and not in any specific term.
1) Hold the note flat just above the height of your head;
2) View the surfaces of the note (front and back) at an angle of between say 35 to 45 degrees under a strong light by tilting it slowly back and forward. Natural sunlight is the best. Table lamp light is still okay but has to be closed to the lamp. Ceiling lights are not so good;
3) By tilting the note back and forward slowly, the lights reflected on the surface of the note will reveal any possible flaws on it, like soft folds, creases, teller flicks etc.
4) This is how I checked all my notes, but I must say that sometime I have to repeat this technique few times in order to pick up any possible flaws on the note;
5) Nowadays, certain flaws are quite acceptable to many collectors, especially for paper banknotes. Cutting cup mark on the security thread is quite common. However sellers should state that in their listing to avoid any disappointment. A seller should not flatten this mark with a hot iron. In most cases you should be able to pick that up from the scan. I am not sure if binding marks (wavy edges) are acceptable as UNC condition. I won't. You have to draw the line somewhere. Wavy edges from binding should be considered as slightly damaged note, in my opinion;
6) Polymer notes should be in perfect condition in order to grade the note as UNC condition. Any flaws on the note should be able to pick up easily, and once they are damaged, there is no way you can repair them. For a polymer note, you will have to watch out for any tiny dent marks, any fine scratched lines especially on the transparent window(s) or on the shinning metallic strip like those latest Canadian polymer notes. Unfortunately this is unavoidable for the Canadian notes. The fine lines on the strip must be created during the printing process and is just unfortunate. Other fine scratch lines could be caused by the ATM when processing for the notes by the machine for your withdrawal. This should not be considered as UNC;
7) Of course, there are always a possibility of getting a note that has been washed and pressed. Some artists even go on as far as to trim all the edges too to ensure you have nice, clean and sharp corners too. Well, this will have to be another topic of discussion. Fortunately, you will never find a pressed polymer note, because if there was one, it won't be in UNC condition, I guaranteed;
8) Wavy effects on a brand new notes (not caused by the binding of the notes into a bundle) should be acceptable as UNC condition especially for paper banknotes. You will find the note has the wave effect (not completely flat) within the printed area of the note. If you place the note in a banknote sleeve and let it rest flat for a while, in no time, you will find these wavy effects disappeared. However some notes have the wavy effects no matter how you store them. You will find them mostly the earlier French notes or banknotes printed for countries that had strong French influences. These are usually old notes printed right up to the 70s etc;
9) No matter how new the notes are, even with no sign of circulation, I would not grade a note as UNC if there are foxing on it. This kind of note has been damaged by an environment with high humidity and should never be graded as UNC condition. Would you buy a brand new car with rust spots all over it?;
10) And finally, have a good look at all the corners of the note. It should be clean and reasonable sharp. If they are blunt (or roundish), chances are the note may have been washed too and seller didn't bother to trim it. It's sad to say that there are still sellers out there engineering such note just to achieve a quick sale.
Feel free to share your experiences with me.