An evaluation was made of the degree of coalification of two coal balls from the Illinois Basin of the Pennsylvanian (upper Carboniferous) of the United States. Previous interpretations are mainly misleading and contradictory, primarily because of the assumption that the brown color and exceptional cellular and subcellular preservation typical of American coal balls imply chemical preservation of cellulose and lignin, the primary components of peat. Xylem tissue from a medullosan seed fern contained in a coal ball and the coal attached to the coal ball from the Calhoun coal bed, Mattoon Formation, Illinois, was analyzed by elemental, petrographic, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques to determine the degree of coalification. The NMR and elemental data indicate the lack of cellulose and lignin and a probable rank of high-volatile C bituminous coal. These data corroborate data for a coal ball from the Herrin (No. 6) coal bed (Carbondale Formation, Middle Pennsylvanian) and support our hypothesis that the organic matter in coal balls of the Pennsylvanian strata of the United States is coalified to about the same degree as the surrounding coal. Data presented show a range of lower reflectances for xylem tissue and vitrinite in the analyzed coal balls compared with vitrinite in the attached coal. The data reported indicate that physical preservation of organic matter in coal balls does not imply chemical preservation. Also our study supports the hypothesis that compactional (static load) pressure is not a prerequisite for coalification up to a rank of high-volatile C bituminous coal. A whole-rock analysis of the Calhoun coal ball indicates a similarity to other carbonate coal balls from the United States. It consists primarily of calcium carbonate and 1-2% organic matter; silica and alumina together make up less than 0.5%, indicating the lack of minerals such as quartz and clays. ?? 1984.