Neil S Berman
Expert Numismatist & Rare Coin Dealer
Getting Your Coins Graded
Collecting coins has been a hobby probably for as long as coins have been made. And there are probably as many different reasons for collecting coins as there are coin collectors. We buy and sell all coins. This includes both coins that are certified and coins that are not.
A certified coin is a coin that has been authenticated and graded by a professional coin grading certification service. It is usually a good idea to have your coins certified because the grading service that grades the coin guarantees both the authenticity and the grade of the coin. Many coins are worth a lot of money, so this guarantee is a good idea on a collector coin and is a must on an expensive coin. In addition, the coin is protected from abuse by an uneducated owner and natural damage from the environment. In addition the coin is photographed which makes it more difficult to sell if it is lost or stolen.
An ungraded coin is a coin that has not has been authenticated and graded by a professional coin grading certification service. Coins that have not been graded are often called “raw” by coin dealers. While we will buy raw coins, we highly recommend the collectors and investors only buy certified coins from coin dealers. It is usually a good idea to have your own coins certified as well if you are going to keep them, or pass them down the family tree.
There are two professional coin grading services that we recognize and recommend. They grade, authenticate, and encapsulate coins at "market grade." That is, they grade a coin according to its technical wear, using industry-accepted standards like those theoretically described in the book Official A.N.A. Grading Standards for United States Coins and/or the book Photograde: A Photographic Grading Guide for United States Coins. Both grading services include subjective factors like the coin's eye appeal when they grade a coin. They weigh positive eye appeal factors such as luster and toning and negative eye appeal factors such as scratches and spots, all of which affect a coin's market value. The coin and authentication grading services also favor originality. If a coin looks “original”, that is no one has tried to “improve” it, they will be more lenient with other minor problems, like light scratches. If the coin has been cleaned they will reject it for grading altogether.
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) 800 642-2646 - Website
We consider NGC one of only two grading services that we would use ourselves or recommend to our customers. NGC is rated "superior" in a survey of PNG (Professional Numismatists Guild) and ICTA (Industry Council for Tangible Assets) members in terms of grading accuracy and ability to detect altered, repaired, damaged, cleaned, and counterfeit coins. NGC has the stronger standards of the two top two grading services. NGCs newest slabs have fine perforation at bottom of label and small rounded square hologram on back; older slabs have full-width hologram. If you buy an NGC-graded coin and feel NGC over graded it, you can submit it to NGC for re-examination for free. If NGC determines that the actual grade is lower than the grade on the slab, it will rectify the problem by either replacing the coin for one at the originally assigned grade or pay you the difference.
Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) 800 447-8848 - Website
At the time of this posting PCGS graded coins have higher retail value of any grading company, according to the Coin Dealer Newsletter. Along with NGC, PCGS was rated "superior" in a survey of the PNG and ICTAs members in terms of grading accuracy and ability to detect altered, repaired, damaged, cleaned, and counterfeit coins. Coins in older slabs are generally graded more conservatively. Newest PCGS slabs have blue label, the older have a green label, and oldest a dot-matrix printed label.
Learn more about grading coins in The Investor's Guide to United States Coins
by Neil S. Berman and Silvano DiGenova.