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Grading Companies and Why Only Two Are Worth Using

When it comes to coin collecting, there is only one thing worth knowing: how much is the coin worth? But evaluating a coin’s worth is more than just looking at it and guessing an approximate value. There is a strict process that each coin is subjected to in order to determine the value and grade of the coin.

That’s where grading companies come in. These companies are known as a TPG, or Third Party Grading Service. They are responsible for authenticating the coin and determining the preservation state. They are called “Third Party” because they have no personal or financial interest in either the buyer or the seller, and are independent of both parties.

Most TPGs will utilize three different graders in determining the value, and one more to finalize things; this means that at least four people have looked at and evaluated the coin in question to determine its final grade. In the U.S. all TPGs use the Sheldon 70 point grading scale.  70 means that the coin is in perfect condition, and 1 means that the coin is nothing more than  a faded, bent piece of copper that is hardly distinguishable. There are several third party grading companies. Here are the top two.

ANA (American Numismatic Association)

This is actually not a TPG Service, but it is worth mentioning. The ANA was established in 1891 by Dr. George F. Heath. It was headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The purpose of the ANA was to advance the knowledge of the study of money through science, education and history; the founder also wanted to enhance interest in the hobby.  They offer memberships in various terms (1-year, 5-year and lifetime) and boast a membership base of over 32,000. Today, the money museum is housed in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The ANA holds conventions several times a year, and offers educational seminars and classes on the value and grading systems of coins.

PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service)

Recently a survey was taken by members of the PNG (Professional Numismatists Guild) and members rated PCGS ‘superior’ as a Third Party Grading Service. Since its inception in 1985, PCGS has graded over 20 million coins and has become one of the most trusted sources for grading coins. They offer a guarantee of grading and authenticity. Collectors who have their coins graded by PCGS, they often receive more money for them. There are two ways you can get your coins graded through PCGS. You can become a Collectors Club Member, or you can submit the coin via an authorized PCGS dealer. You can find more information at pcgs.com

NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation)

The same survey stated above listed NGC as ‘superior’ as well. These are the only two TPG Services to receive such high ratings among professionals and novice collectors alike. Grading is done by at least two professional numismatists. The coins are compared against several published references in order to determine whether it qualifies as a particular variety of coin. If so, the numbers and descriptions are added to its record. This is done without any labeling that could potentially identify the submitter. This makes NGC’s grading system unbiased and unique. In order to maintain impartiality, the coin graders at NGC cannot be involved in buying and selling coins on a commercial level. Each coin is graded by one professional at a time, who then enters the grade into the system. For more information, you can go to ngccoin.com

 PNG (Professional Numismatists Guild)

The PNG is not a Third Party Grading Service; its members are comprised of leading numismatists from the U.S. and abroad. The NGC is the official TPG Service of the PNG. In order to gain membership, a dealer must have extensive field experience, and must certify that they have a significant net financial worth. An election takes place, in which the majority of existing members must agree to the membership request.

There are other TPG Services, but they do not adhere to the strict standards and processes that PCGS and NGC do. The survey listed Accu-Grade (ACG) as ‘unacceptable’ due to the fact that they are known for over-grading their coins. This is a real danger, because if you think your coins are worth a certain amount and then go to sell them you may be sorely disappointed. When it comes to grading companies, there are only two worth using: PCGS and NGC.




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