I just saw this thread. I think I know how PCGS
came up with VF-30, and I don't disagree with that net grade. I think PCGS
graded the obverse at VF-30, reverse at VF-20, net whole coin at VF-25, with a +0.5 step for eye appeal, resulting in VF-30.
Eye appeal is solid here. For a Buff, there are four elements to eye appeal: matching die state, strike quality, evidence of die polishing, and visual appearance. The obverse is MDS and the reverse looks to be EMDS. That's an unusually good die marriage for 1926-S. Fine details in the feathers, eye, nose, and lips on the obverse and in the neck, beard, lettering, left foreleg, and sinews in the rear legs on the reverse point to an unusually good strike for 1926-S. There is minimal evidence of die clashing, and therefore minimal die polishing. That also suggests an early strike. Obverse and reverse wear is consistent, without heavy gouging or environmental damage. This one has positive eye appeal. (Just for an exercise, place it in a mug shot lineup with other VF 1926-S buffs. This one will stand out.)
In terms of wear, the obverse is a solid VF-30. There is clear separation from the hair and forehead and cheek. The second feather is complete, though fairly weak. (The rachis can be traced continuously.) The ribbons are identifiable all the way, though weak. The date has all four digits complete, though weak.
The reverse is more mixed, with decent detail on the horn, eye, beard, neck, and hair on the back. On the other hand, the "S" in CENTS and the tail are merging with the rim. I could see either VF-20 or VF-25 for the reverse.
A net whole coin grade of VF-25 would be fair. That makes the final grade an adjusted grade because of eye appeal.
The 1926-S has always been one of my least favorite dates in the series. It is notorious for mismatched die states, horrible strikes, and over-the-top die polishing. It isn't unusual to see technical EF coins with partial feathers, partial ribbons, no detail on the head or back, and lettering merging with the rims.
Any 1926-S with good eye appeal is a keeper, regardless of technical grade. This is one of the nicer mid-grade examples I've seen in a while. Great coin! I would expect a good bump over slabbed VF-30 trend because of the eye appeal.