NGC and PCGS Graded Coins

SHOULD I BUY CERTIFIED COINS OR RAW COINS?

At the end of the day, it depends on your preference. “Raw” (ungraded) bullion and numismatic coins are going to be less expensive than graded coins because we only know their value based on its mintage, purity, weight, design, and mint of origin. When a coin is certified, then it has been assessed for its quality of production and preservation in addition to these other factors. Because this guarantees a coin as a genuine product and rates its quality under magnification, these coins are more valuable than raw coins that have not been assessed. However, one downside to graded coins is that they are often disqualified from IRA-eligibility. 

Certifications of authenticity from PCGS or NGC assure higher numismatic value to your coin. As a result, a graded coin becomes a guaranteed product as opposed to a raw coin, which is at higher risk to be counterfeited when buying from non-reputable dealers. 

If you want to sell your certified coins, you can find estimated quotes here.

WHO ARE THE TOP GRADING COMPANIES?

 

You may already know that when determining the value of the coin, its grade sometimes matters the most. The grade is a sum of factors, subjective ones sometimes, that would place the coin in a specific category. But who has the authority and knowledge to know best what is the coin’s grade? The grading companies!

In the United States, reputation and reliability place grading companies into three main tiers. Most grading companies fall into the lowest-tier of grading services due to reputation built on some inconsistencies in rating coins. ANACS stands for “American Numismatic Association Certification Service” One of its slogans is “America's Oldest Coin Authentication and Grading Service”. It was founded in 1972. Their grades are considered acceptable, but not the best. 

The best, and of course with the highest rates in the grading business, are the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). Both companies have been around since the late 1980s, but what’s the difference between them?

SHOULD I USE PCGS OR NGC?

Both companies benefit from an impeccable reputation. Coins graded by them have recognized high values in the marketplace. PCGS and NGC use what is known as the “Sheldon Scale” to grade coins from 1 to 70. This is the industry standard scale. 

PCGS and NGC have already become world leaders in grading coins, including Chinese gold and silver coins. However, one of the stark differences between PCGS and NGC is that the latter is more open to sharing more detailed information about the grading process. At NGC each coin is graded by two experts separately, and if they cannot agree on the coin’s grade, then a third expert steps in. Also, NGC is the official grading service of the American Numismatic Association and part of the Professional Numismatists Guild. Either way, these are two companies about which you can feel confident grading your coins. 

WHAT DO THE DESIGNATIONS FDOI, FS, AND ER MEAN? HOW DO THESE INFLUENCE MARKET VALUE?

A coin that undergoes the grading process will receive a grade usually in the form of MS, PF, or SP and is followed by a number.  Basically, MS stands for Mint State, and this is meant for bullion coins or coins intended for circulation. PF means Proof, which is only assigned to coins with a special mirror-like finish. SP is a rare designation. This stands for “Specimen” which pertains to coins that are hybrids between Mint State and Proof. One example of this is the Burnished Silver Eagles.

You may also notice the words FDOI, FS, and ER on PCGS and NGC’s labels. These designations pertain to when the coin was released to the public after it was struck. FDOI means “First Day of Issue”, meaning the coin was issued the first official day of its release from the mint. FS means “First Strike” and ER means “Early Releases”. Both these terms convey that the coin was received for grading within the first 30 days of its release from the mint. However, the difference between the two designations is that FS is used by PCGS, and ER is used by NGC. 

A coin that is designated as FDOI is going to be more valuable than a coin graded as FS or ER simply because a coin released on the first day of issue is more collectible than one released within the first 30 days. That means relatively few coins of the entire mintage are going to receive this designation, making them rarer and more valuable. FS and ER are still more valuable than a coin without a designation because, again, they are under a strict time constraint. If a coin does not have FDOI, FS, or ER, but it is graded, it will still be less valuable in comparison because it does not have the designation on its label.

 

GRADING SCALE

Finish

Numeric Grade

Detailed information

MS/PF/SP

70

A coin that is perfect with no post-production flaws under 5x magnification.

MS/PF/SP

69

A coin that is nearly perfect with almost imperceivable imperfections under magnification.

MS/PF/SP

68

A sharply struck coin with very minor imperfections.

MS/PF/SP

67

A sharply struck coin with a few flaws.

MS/PF/SP

66

An otherwise well-struck coin with minuscule marks and hairlines.

MS/PF/SP

65

An above-average coin with some marks/hairlines mostly outside the main design of the coin.

MS/PF/SP

64

An average or slightly better than average coin with obvious flaws and minuscule imperfections.

MS/PF/SP

63

An average or slightly under average coin with moderate flaws and hairlines of varying degrees.

MS/PF/SP

62

A coin that is not worn out, and is average or slightly under average coin with more or larger multiple abrasions than a grade of 63.

MS/PF/SP

61

A coin that is not worn out, and is a weak or average strike with heavier marks and/or multiple larger hairlines.

MS/PF/SP

60

A poorly struck coin that is not worn out with many flaws, abrasions, hairlines, and/or larger marks.

AU

58

“Almost Uncirculated.” A coin that is slightly worn by friction on the highest points of the design with visibly full luster.

AU

55

A coin that is slightly worn on less than half of the design where you can still see the details and a good amount of the luster remains.

AU

53

A coin that is flatter on the high points, slightly worn on more than half of the design, but you can still mostly see the details. Only some of the luster remains.

AU

50

A coin that has minor softness on the high points, slight wear on more than half of the design, and few traces of luster remaining.

XF

45

“Extra-Fine.” A coin with full details and light wear on some of the high points. Some luster could be visible.

XF

40

A coin with full details and light wear on most of the high points, meaning the coin has flatter relief. Some luster could be visible.

VF

35

“Very Fine.” A coin with mostly complete but slightly softer details. It is worn out and flatter on all the high points.

VF

30

A coin with mostly complete, moderately softer details on the entirety of the coin. Flatter on all the high points, and some smaller details are starting to flatten.

VF

25

A coin with mostly complete detail but is softer on the entirety of the coin. Design features are still very clear despite flattening.

VF

20

A coin with moderate wear and loss of finer details. Inscriptions remain visible.

F

15

“Fine.” Slightly less than half of the smaller details are flat from wear. Inscriptions remain visible.

F

12

Approximately half of the smaller details are flat from wear. Inscriptions remain visible.

VG

10

“Very Good.” A coin that is worn out. Most of its finer details are flattened entirely, and the inscriptions are clear but soft.

VG

8

A coin that is worn out. Most of the main details are flat. Inscriptions are softer than VG 10.

G

6

“Good.” The coin’s rims (borders) and peripheral lettering are full but the design has flattened. Inscriptions are still clear, but not as sharp.

G

4

Peripheral letters and digits are mostly full. Rims are mostly full but could be flat or slightly worn.

AG

3

“Almost Good.” The rims are worn out and merge into the main design. The coin’s inscriptions are still mostly readable.

FR

2

“Fair.” Some of the main details are distinguishable, but the entire coin is flat with very few traces of the border’s inscriptions still visible.

PO

1 & 0

“Poor.” Coins with only enough detail to identify its mintage year and the type of coin. Rims are either flat or mostly flat.

 

 

Source: PCGS

 

WHY ARE COINS OF LESSER GRADES STILL MORE EXPENSIVE?

Sometimes, coins with a grade of less than 70 are still priced higher than a perfectly graded coin. One example is the Attica Athens Silver Athena Owl Tetradrachm Coin. These coins are not going to receive a perfect grade. Despite this, these coins are still extremely valuable. Why? Simply put, these coins are very old, and it is highly rare to find surviving coins today. They are also considered “ancient coins” and are therefore graded differently from modern coins.

Here’s another example. If the highest grade recorded so far for an older coin is only AU 55, then that coin would be the most valuable among coins of that issue. This is because it is already rare and this is the finest specimen found among this type of coin. If many other coins were then found and certified above this grade, an AU 55 coin would likely depreciate in value. 

Mint Error Coins

If grading companies assess coins for flaws, do errors count? The answer is complicated. As long as Mints have been producing currency, they have been making Mint Error coins. Mint errors happen when an error occurs during the coin minting process. Though we live in the modern age, Mints all around the world have continued to produce "Mint Errors" on numerous types of coins and print currency. 

Considered quite rare compared to the global production of coins each year, coins with mint errors usually hold high value among most collectors. Some errors occur more frequently than others and can occur for numerous reasons. Because ancient coins were struck by hand and were more prone to errors, newer error coins usually hold greater value than older coins. Hand-striking coins cause mistakes more commonly than using machines to strike coins. Mint Error Proof coins often sell for higher prices because they are specially released by the mint to collectors, and are subject to higher quality control than circulation or bullion strikes. 

Can I Myself Submit Coins for Certification?

Absolutely, but using either PCGS or NGC will require membership of some kind. For NGC, you must be an American Numismatic Association (ANA) member, and PCGS requires a private membership. For both companies, you will have to fill out forms that include providing an estimate of the grading tier (First Strike, True View, etc.) and your desired turnaround time in addition to the coin’s specifications. There can also be extra costs to apply for a label, including the First Strike label. You can take a look at what NGC and PCGS’ grading process, fees, and services are on their websites.

Having a coin graded yourself might prove to be more costly and time-consuming for a collector, which is why it might be a better idea to purchase pre-graded coins instead. So for example, if you are not a member of the ANA and you want NGC to grade your Silver Canadian Maple Leaf coin, you might have to pay $150 on the service alone to get your coin graded. A Silver American Eagle that is a perfect MS 70 might be only around $50 after being graded. Therefore, you must consider if it is worth investing more of your time and money instead of buying a pre-certified coin. 

Keep in mind that not every coin sold by dealers is going to be graded. This is especially true for coins that are part of a commemorative, limited series. If you want your coin graded, take a look at your options. This might involve purchasing a membership, which could be good if you are a consistent collector. Alternatively, you can consider going through a dealer that already has a membership and offers you this service. Bullion Exchanges is happy to provide this service for all our customers, so please get in touch with us if you are interested in having your coins graded!