Two stages are observed. The first stage yields products of the primary and partial decomposition of coal, mainly water, CO/sub 2/, and CO as decomposition products of functional groups (-COOH, > CO, - OH, and so forth). No tar is formed in this stage. The structural decomposition and tar formation occur in the second stage. The rate of heating is important for the quality of the tar obtained. The slow rate of heating with both stages following each other yields a good-quality tar, richer in C and H, with lower O content. In case of high rate of heating both stages overlap. The tar is of poorer quality with higher specific gravity, and contains more O and asphaltenes. The complete experimental data are given in detail.