Grading Coins 101

I have been collecting coins for over 30 years. I have hosted hundreds of coin shows for various networks and I have worked with some of the most respected numismatists in the business. The question I get all the time is “Should I have my coins graded?

Before I answer these questions, let me provide you with a brief description of graded coins. Coins that are submitted to a professional grading service are inspected and assigned a grade. They are also certified authentic and are placed in a protective holder called a “slab.” Other information besides the grade may be placed on the holder such as the denomination, precious metal content, and sometimes the provenance or the source where the coins were discovered.

The reasons to consider grading or collecting graded certified coins are:

To establish a Coin’s Grade

Location is to real estate as the condition is to the value of the coin. The grade will establish this condition. For example, uncirculated coins will grade from MS60 to MS70. An MS70 will be more valuable than the same coin graded as an MS63. When you are ready to sell or upgrade your coin, it’s important to know its value so you get the most for it. The condition will always be an issue when buying or selling a collectible coin. Having the coin professionally certified and graded by a reputable company will eliminate any argument over its condition.

 To establish authenticity

1893S Morgan Silver Dollar
Here is an 1893S Morgan Silver Dollar that has been improperly cleaned.

Professional coin graders will reject any coin they believe isn’t authentic or altered. If a coin has been altered in any way such as cleaning, polishing, or modifying the design, it would be unfit to authenticate. You want to be assured your coin is the real thing.

To establish identity

Value of $1775 based on NCG Price Guide

 

It is the coin grader’s responsibility to identify any critical devices on the coin that may affect its value. A mint mark is one such device. A 1909 SVDB cent is worth much more than a 1909 VDB cent of the same grade (the “S” denotes the San Francisco Mint,“VDB” are the initials of the designer Victor David Brenner). Design changes may identify different “types” or “varieties.” A good example of this is the $1 gold coin that was originally minted in 1849. When Lady Liberty’s design was changed in 1854, it became a Type II.

Value of $25 based on NGC Price Guide

To protect your coins

Any damage to your coin may mean a loss of value. Damage could be caused by fingerprints, dropping your coin on a hard surface, or even environmental exposure. A slab is an airtight holder and protects your coin from these damages.

Credibility and Consistency

As mentioned, the grade of a coin is an important factor in establishing its value. You will want to choose a professional grading company that is reliable and consistent. The reputation of a grading service may also be a consideration when buying or selling a coin. They must follow strict grading guidelines of the ANA (American Numismatic Association). The four most popular grading services are:

NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation)

PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service)

ANACS (American Numismatic Association Certification Service)

ICG (Independent Coin Graders)

I hope this was helpful for those who collect coins or want to begin a collection. I will admit when I first started collecting coins, it was in the hopes of someday selling my inventory to raise a nice profit. The larger my collection grows, the more my original intent has changed. I can’t imagine selling many of my coins now, they have become treasured possessions.

Wally likes coins, too!
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1 thought on “Grading Coins 101”

  1. My husband and I are trying to think of valuable gifts we can offer our children as they grow up, and we thought it might be fun to help them start a coin collection. Thank you for informing me that the grade of a coin is an important factor in establishing its value. It would be good to choose a professional grading company that is reliable and consistent. We will put this information to good use as we start our collecting, thanks.

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