ON COIN GRADING
Some state that grading is subjective. Allow us to provide a competing interpretation:
Namely, in all respects, grading is a matter of perspective. Your perspective includes factors such as:
Coin grades are opinions, and opinions change for many reasons and factors, including the time of day.
Coin rarity drives grading standards. If you are lucky enough to own a very rare coin that has only been graded a few times, or if you have a very high quality rare coin that has a chance of fetching or besting the current highest-grade status given for that particular date and mintmark, the grading company will scrutinize very carefully. They must ensure the coin meets the standards for that grade beyond reasonable doubt since the coin will garner interest throughout the industry and affect perception of the grading company, perhaps to the point that collectors and dealers submitting coins will consider whether or not to submit coins to that particular third party grading company.
The coin's demand also drives the grade. For instance, in the Morgan series the 1893-s is so desirable, the third party grading services will sometimes push the grade higher - for circulated grades only. This is known as market grade or market acceptable. Examples in mint state are actually graded more rigorously since they command such a higher dollar figure and the difference in price between the grades is so large.
Coin grading is part art and part science. The Third Party Graders (TPGs) realize this and also recognize how difficult it is to quickly (graders may only look at a coin for a minute or less) assign a grade with certainty, accuracy, and precision. Often a coin grade could easily go one of two ways, especially in the higher grades such as Mint State (MS) 64 and 65 where there is just a one point difference. The TPGs also know that their in-house studies have determined that professional graders may reach 70-75% accuracy as an individual but by using multiple graders averaging their grades the accuracy will reach the higher 90th percentile. This is why the TPGs use one grader to establish that a coin is gradable (not damaged, counterfeit, altered surfaces or otherwise non-deserving) and assign an initial grade. A second grader then offers a grade, and then a third. These are all offered independently so that each grader is not influenced by the opinion of the others. Then these three grades are all merged, or in less straight-forward cases, the graders convene to reach consensus. This is the general approach that TPGs employee, though they vary amongst different grading houses.
Any grader should establish the best lighting conditions possible, and emulate those under which the professional coin graders practice their craft. Use the most natural light possible. Full sunshine is best, but not practical under the photochemical haze of the US eastern seaboard, especially when in a high-rise cubicle farm (not too mention global dimming - saved for another special report). So, second place provides for full incandescent light (your standard 60 watt filament bulbs). A 100w frosted incandescent light in an otherwise darkened room is best. The Tensor lamp will suffice should you not be able to avoid indirect overhead lighting. However, a Tensor light by itself in an otherwise dark room is too bright and will not allow you to properly grade a coin. One important point is to maintain a constant and consistent lighting environment. Fluorescent and halogen lights are not acceptable because they make the coins look better than they are.
Now, holding the coin between thumb and forefinger along the edge of the coin (not the front or back) gently spin or rotate the coin. The light should reflect differently on varying aspects of the coin surface. Uncirculated coins with full luster will show a 'cartwheel' effect. This is a radiant reflection of light produced by full mint luster. Anything less is second place at best.
After this initial review, which may be done in a matter of just a couple seconds, the grader then picks up a loupe - a magnifier with varying resolution - typically between five and ten times power. Those individuals who do not evaluate the overall appearance of a coin before diving in with a magnifying glass may not capture the intangibles that a coin possesses and hence think of any observed marks as more damaging than they really are. This then becomes the amateur graders first impression, one that is difficult to shake, and often results in a coin graded - in the mind at least - lower than should be.
What professional coin graders look for:
Eye appeal is the most important of the five major grading factors: Eye appeal, strike, luster, surface marks, and toning.
Coin graders first focus on overall appearance of the coin. When grading a coin, the knowledgeable and experienced look at the entire coin from half an arm's length distance to gauge the entire package as a first impression. This allows the grader to formulate an immediate feel for the coin and observe the luster and other less tangible factors that create a pleasing appearance to the naked human eye.
The most difficult skill to acquire is the "eye" needed to detect the light circulation rub on the coins high relief areas (pick up points). This light rub means the difference between AU and MS states. This can correlate to a difference between AU58 and MS 62, a full four points and potentially thousands of dollars for high end coins. Light circulation is usually indicated by a very slight change in color, not a flattening of coin design. This fact sometimes proves difficult to grasp and detect in beginning coin graders.
Contact Marks. Even the finest coins will typically show marks left by other coins jostling up against each other in mint bags during transportation from the mint to the banks. The professional grader will carefully evaluate these contact marks and judge the overall impact on the coin. The source of the mark is important. For example, reeding marks are considered a natural occurrence in the life of a coin and hence are not penalized near as much as man-made marks. Proof-like (PL) coins have a deep and reflective appearance that highlight contact whereas semi-PL coins have a greater ability to hide minor marks. This creates an imbalance and graders may judge a coin too harshly on those PL coins with more obvious marks.
Graders first search the obverse and look for wear on the design features, pickup points, and fields. The grader will looks at the
reverse secondly. Although the reverse cannot over compensate for a weak obverse and raise the overall coin grade on its own merit, it can and does help as a tie-breaker for those coins that are caught in between two grades. This can be important as perhaps one in five coins is caught between grades. These coins are known as sliders. The grader then looks at the 'third side' - the coins edge. Although many amateur graders forget to look here, for the professional grader many coins give up their secrets on this third edge.
Following bag marks, and wear, the graders will look at scratches, especially hairline scratches that are typically only visible under 2x magnification. You should look for these also. This is the first point to pick up using a magnifier, or jeweler's 'loupe'.
Following evidence of circulation, graders look at the coin surface to determine if the coin has been altered, cleaned, doctored or otherwise worked on. Whizzing, use of a high speed buffing attachment on a drill followed by altered toning (or dipping, acetone bath, etc.) proves vexing to a number of graders as these two treatments by themselves are sometimes difficult to detect and when used in tandem to disguise each other can be very difficult to identify. Hence, there are a fair number of altered surface coins that were not 'body-bagged' (returned by a TPG for altered surfaces) but instead made it into a slab and received a grade.
Coin doctors will use wax or apply other foreign substances to alter the coin's appearance. They hope this will provide the coin a chance at a higher grade (and moreover a higher value). One way to test for wax on a coin is to drop it in a polypropylene bag and rub it between your thumb and finger for a few seconds. If the coin had wax applied, it might adhere to the bag, leaving a residue trace when the coin is removed.
Altered coins are extremely common in the market place currently, to the chagrin
of honest collectors and graders alike. It is difficult to gauge if toning
is natural or not. One way to tell is the boundary of the toning. Artificially
toned (AT) coins often have more abrupt color, hues, grains, and changes
than do naturally toned coins. This is because naturally toned coins
acquire the look over many years so the metal chemistry is more standard whereas
AT coins had their surface chemistry altered at one or two moments of their
There are many exceptions and caveats to the rule that altered surface coins will not get slabbed and be returned in a 'body bag', a plastic bag with a note that the coin was not gradable because of altered surfaces. Some of these caveats and exceptions include:
- A coin that has been dipped and rinsed well often doesn't constitute "cleaning" by the TPGs. Strictly speaking it should, but the accepted market definition does NOT consider those techniques which created "metal movement" as cleaning and deserving of the dreaded body bag.
- Cleaning done by you, the end user, is generally not acceptable. Cleaning done by those who submit coins for grading in large volumes or by the TPGs themselves (they call it 'curation') is more acceptable.
- The market will allow a thumb rub along a coin up to, but not over, the grade MS65.
- The market accepts minor (one or two) 'green spots' - whether PVC or verdigris - on copper coins.
- On copper coins, either the grade or the color designation may
curry the favor of
doubt, but not both.
More on Altered Surfaces
One thing constant amongst graders is the requirement to know the series and the dates thoroughly. The difference in strike quality from one year to another can drive the difference between a very fine (VF) and an extra fine (XF). For that matter the die state, die pair, and die wear also affect the coin strike and therefore the grade.
Wrapping up the Grade
After a couple second flash of the coin at half an arm's length and another half minute look-over under a loupe, it is now time to select a grading range, though not necessarily the exact grade. The ranges are usually easy except for two areas: The range between 58 and 62 and super high coins between 67 and 69. Those that can make the call quickly, confidently and accurately in these two shades of grey will shine themselves brilliantly into a popular and profitable niche. As a general rule, when a coin is borderline or split-grade the obverse has a different grade than the reverse (this is actually fairly common. Some TPGs had experimented with split grading, but the market place offered no support).
Now, do all this in 30 seconds or less!
On submitting a Coin For Grading
Professional graders will look at the price spread between the grades. Where the dollar difference is slight, the benefit goes to the submitter and the coin gets the higher grade. Where the dollar difference is large, the grader must be conservative and assign a lower grade. So, by learning how to grade yourself, and by only sending in coins that you deem have a good shot at a particular grade, rather than sending in any old coin and hoping for the best, you put yourself in a better position from the start. Sometimes you can find a coin in a slab that has been under-graded (grade inflation does exist). By re-sending the coin to the TPGs you may get a better grade. There are two ways to do this. The first is submitting the coin in the current slab, called a 'regrade'. The second is by taking the coin out of the slab (be careful!) and resubmitting just the coin 'raw' (without a slab), called a 'crackout'. Our experience is that crackouts have a higher chance of upgrade than do regrades. Another strategy to consider is placement and makeup of your submission. Sometimes your success will increase when you submit a group of like coins at one instance rather than submitting one at a time or a mixed group. For instance, consider submitting all toned high grade Morgans in one batch and circulated Buffalo Nickels in another, rather than mixing the groups.
Net Grading - This term refers to TPG grades that consider damage and/or cleaning when determining a grade. The major TPGs usually will not grade the coin and instead return in a 'Body Bag' - where the coin is refused a grade for an altered surface. However, the large grading firm ANACS will "net-grade" most coins by, for example, giving an MS 63 coin with a problem a 'net grade' of MS60 and note the reason for the net grade.
Here is Scott Traver's take on Coin Grading:
Although Sheldon left behind a troubled legacy, his coin grading scale has lasted the test of time, despite repeated feints by the large Third Party Grading services to explore a 100 point scale. The Sheldon Scale rates from 1 to 70. There are many books dedicated to the art and science of coin grading . Rather than present an iteration of pictures and those commensurate grades, we intend this page to provide an introduction to the subject and a qualitative insight into the factors, sometimes sublime, that are not presented in technical grading books and articles but nevertheless drive the grade and therefore the market. At CoinMine, we dig deeper!
Mint State (Uncirculated) MS 60-70: Absolutely no trace of wear
Almost Uncirculated (AU 50- 58): Small trace of wear visible on the highest design points
Extremely Fine (XF or EF 40-48): Very light wear on only the highest points
Very Fine (VF 20-30): Light to medium wear. All major features are sharp
Fine (F12-18): Moderate to heavy even wear. Entire design clear and bold
Very Good (VG 8-11): Well worn. Design clear, but flat and lacking details
Good (G4-7): Heavily worn. Design and legend visible but faint in spots
Almost Good (AG 3): Outlined design. Parts of date and legend worn smooth
Fair (Fair 2): You can identify the coin as to its type
Poor 1: You can identify the coin's general metal type.
Basal State (Basal 0): You can identify the lump of metal as being a coin
Grading Morgan Dollars
Morgan Dollar provide a great starting point to learn coin grading because they are large coins, easy to grade, have a high demand, and are so popular that they make up almost half the grading market. Every coin type has a primary area of focus, that point where the design naturally draws the human eye, and is known as "the focal area". This area contributes much to the coin grade. The other major grading focus areas are the high points on the coins, those features with the most relief, that are first worn during circulation. These areas are the "pick-up points".
On a Morgan dollar the pick-up points include the cheek and rest of the face, hair, and date on the obverse and the eagle feathers on the reverse. The focus area is the fields, so a scratch or dink directly front of Liberty's nose counts much more than that same distracting mark behind her head.
Favorite coins receive the favor of tie-goes-to-the-higher grade. In Morgan dollars the favorite coin is the Carson City (CC) mint mark. Hence, the favored son technique may often provide the CC dollar with between a 1/2 and 3/4 point increase over non-CC mint mark adorned Morgan Dollars.
Grading Peace Dollars
Peace Dollars may have what is known as a "water spots", minor blemishes on the coin surface that reduce eye appeal though they don't necessarily affect the grade. The reverse of the Peace Dollar is typically worse than the obverse (opposite of Morgans). Peace Dollars are graded fairly conservatively and usually will not get a jump in grade for borderline coins unlike a few other series.
Cameo Designation - The front of the bust below the date is a key pick up point for Franklin Halves that might qualify for the cameo designation. This key area may fade quicker than other surface areas and prevent the coin from receiving full cameo designation from the TPGs.
Full Bell Line (FBL) - A minor
break on the top row of bell lines directly adjacent to the bell crack may not
preclude FBL designation. Also, the coin can have a small break on the lower set of lines directly to the
left of the bell crack and still get the FBL designation since this
weakness is common to the design, not strike.
Grading Barber Half Dollars
NOTE: About Uncirculated Barber Halves are often dipped since they have a decent shot at getting graded as uncirculated by the TPGs. TIP: Search out and acquire 1910 Barber halves with VF or XF designation since these grades are uncommon for the year.
Grading Standing Liberty Quarters
Standing Liberty Quarters (SLQ) have issues with weak strikes on many dates. One main pickup point on the obverse is the knee, which is higher than the rim, and immediately suffers surface friction rub. With this rub, the SLQ won't grade higher than MS 64 even thought the wear is not from circulation. Coin luster and eye appeal is critical in this series and will forgive many 'slider' coins, those that may technically grade one point lower but receive a higher grade due to an outstanding feature such as luster or eye appeal. These sliders can fall all over the map between AU58 and MS62. NGC gives Full Head designations more often than PCGS or ANACS.
Grading Washington Quarters
Uncirculated Washington quarters typically have very good luster and eye appeal although strikes can vary considerably. What this provokes, unfortunately, is a tendency for folks to dip these coins to restore a strong eye appeal and gloss over technical weakness. For example, grade books may stress that the coin's legend wearing into the rim creates negative grading pressure, but strong eye appeal provides some relief here as many coins in a technical VF will grade EF - since the luster remains. The eagle's breast feathers on the reverse also receive high attention as both a pickup and focal point.
Grading Barber Dimes
About Good AG-3: Design is present in outline form. Legend is partially worn smooth as is date. On the obverse nearly all details are worn but Liberty's head is fully outlined. The legend merges into the rim. On the reverse the entire wreath is partially won and merged into the rim.
Good 4-7: Heavy wear on the entire design. On the obverse the legend is visible but worn; the head remains with little detail. On the reverse the wreath is worn flat but the outline is there entirely. Most of the rim shows.
Very Good 8-11:Very Good 8: The design is quite worn but more details are present. On the obverse most of the facial details are worn but three letters of Liberty in the headband are clear and whole. The rim is complete. On the reverse there is some detail on the wreath although the bow, corn ears, and wheat heads are flat
Fine 12: Design elements are clear and bold although coin shows moderate to heavy wear. On the obverse all letters of Liberty in the headband are readable, the olive leaves in the wreath are outlined in the top but worn nearly smooth on the bottom. On the reverse the letters in the legend are clear though worn. Details in the lower leave clusters show. The rim is full and bold.
Very Fine 20: All design elements are sharp though the coin has moderate wear. On the reverse Liberty is full and complete and the hair is bold but worn. Half the details on the wreath's leaves show. On the reverse the ribbon is worn but shows details, the details on the leaves are clear though wear spots show on the bottom leaves.
Extra Fine 40: The coin shows light wear on all design high points. The obverse shows liberty sharp with clear banded edges. The wreath leaves are lightly worn. On the reverse are design details are clear but wear shows on the high points. Mint luster traces may still be present.
About Uncirculated 50: The coin is pleasing with only a trace of wear on the high points. Coin must have at least half of the original mint luster. On the obverse her cheek is slightly flat. Traces of wear show in her hair below liberty in the headband. On the reverse traces of wear show on the bow, tips of leaves, and the wheat heads.
Mint State 60 (UNC): The coin is uncirculated with no traces of wear. The coin may have large detracting marks from storage in mint bags where other coins struck up against the surface. The strike may be weak or uneven. The coin surface may appear dull, lack full mint luster, have large detracting contact marks, damage spots, uneven toning, hairline scratches, scuffs and scrapes and generally poor eye appeal for an uncirculated coin.
Mint State 63 (Brilliant Uncirculated [BU]): The coin is uncirculated with no traces of wear although the surface may have a few but scattered heavy contact marks and many light contact marks. Hairline scratches are visible to the naked eyes. The coin may have several detracting scuff marks on the design elements or coin field. The mint luster may be incomplete or impaired. Overall a very pleasing coin.
Mint State 65 (GEM BU): The coin is uncirculated with no traces of wear although a few small and scattered contact marks may appear. A couple small hairline scratches are acceptable under light magnification as are a couple light scuff marks on design high points. Strong eye appeal and mint luster and strike (for the date/mint mark) are required.
Grading Mercury Dimes
Grading Buffalo Nickels
TPGs grade the following coins conservatively: 13 mound, over-dates, errors and the 34-D
Grading Liberty Nickels
TPGs grade the following coins conservatively: 1883 NC, 1912S
Grading Indian Head Cents
Pick up points: Cheek, Obverse Field
Grading Gold Coins
$2 1/2 and $5 Indians
The incuse design presented new challenges for mint engineers and continues to present grading challenges today on the $2 1/2 and $5 Indians. For instance, wear on these coins is hard to judge. These coins are especially difficult to grade especially between XF and AU. In these cases opportunity presents itself when a coin may be improperly labeled or graded and is ripe for an upgrade.
Pickup points on the obverse are the
face and date; focal areas include the headdress neck and shoulder. Pickup
points on the reverse are the top of the eagle's left wing and mint mark (or
mint mark area).
Grading Mint Sets
1958 Mint Set coins tend to tone a certain green not seen in any other year mint state coin, except perhaps the 1957 sets.
Third Party Grading Services
Third Party Grading (TPG) services will authenticate, certify and grade a coin that you submit. Sometimes they will send back the coin, not in a slab, but in a plastic baggy known as a 'body bag' with a statement that they cannot grade the coin because it has been cleaned/altered or is of uncertain authenticity. The unfortunate aspect is that the TPGs will grade coins that have been altered if the coins have been altered in a manner to their liking. Many 'dipped' coins do end up in certified plastic. And in some cases the quality of these coins begin to deteriorate once in the slab. Acetone dipped coins that turn brown around the rims are a common example. Buyer beware.
In the 1960's, before the advent of TPGs, the coin collectors relied upon the Brown and Dunn guide book. Later, Photograde and ANA standards replaced the Brown and Dunn guide.
Not all TPG services are equal. Some slabbed coins carry considerably more weight, and therefore realized price, than their competitors. Frankly, you are better off learning how to grade coins for yourself and developing your own skills than relying upon the plastic opinion of a third party in it for economic gain. Buy the coin and not the plastic!
The TPGs listed below are presented in our interpretation of their current merit based solely upon our own experience. TPG exhibit inconsistency even in their own current grading systems. Furthermore, some grading firms excel at one grading service, such as certifying varieties, but fall behind the middle of the pack in other grading sectors, such as security of their slabs or customer service. Most services are strong in a couple types of coins, but lack expertise in other areas. Also, current grading standards may vary considerably from past grading standards. Additionally, the TPG community is now floating the trial balloon to change the grading scale (Sheldon) used for decades to a new 1-100 scale, mostly in an attempt to create yet another artificial market. Note that some of the TPGs have gone out of business, and numerous new ones have arisen as the coin market has gained strength and new members in the last few years. Accordingly, some of these companies, or their corporate parents, have branched out and now grade everything from comic books to baseball cards. I have seen a list of over 100 grading services but list herein only the ones where I have come across their wares:
THE BIG THREE
PCGS - Professional Coin Grading Service of Newport Beach, California.
This TPG service ranks high among many dealers and in some cases their coins will realize a small premium over other grading services. However, they do not grade errors or varieties. Also, their estimation in our opinion took a very serious decline with the SS Central America debacle. Essentially, PCGS slabbed numerous coins that had been salvaged from this shipwreck, and then cleaned. Of course their determination was that the coins were expertly conserved and hence were able to be slabbed. My determination is that they pick and choose whose cleaned coins they will slab and certify. Also, collectors have maintained that ANACS and NGC favor coins with original (unaltered) services compared to PCGS.
In years past PCGS had the reputation of grading coins way to conservatively, by a full two grades in some cases. Yet the grading services are a business that ultimately must comport with the standards of the marketplace. They ultimately must match collector perception of the market standards or go out of business because if they don't, they will no longer receive coins submitted for grading, and the retail dealers will no longer be able to sell the coins into the market place. However in the last 6-8 years the market place has evened the playing field to the degree that the major first tier TPGs have experienced a flattening of the grade curve - those swings in grading standards both within an individual company and between competing TPGs. The market, built by collectors, speculators, and dealers in various percentages at different stages of the market and business conditions ultimately drive the standards governing coin grading, not the grading services themselves.
As of December 2008 PCGS was publicly owned as Collectors Universe, INC, and traded (ticker symbol CLCT). Major stock holders include coin dealers John Danruether and David Hall.
Glossary to PCGS Codes
List of Morgan Variety Coins that PCGS Will Attribute
Attributes of Fake PCGS Coin Holders (Slabs)
NGC - Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America of Sarasota, Florida
SS Republic. Same story as SS Central America and PCGS, but a different ship and different TPG. Same story, same results. NGS also now has a conservation (i.e. cleaning) arm called National Conservation Service (NCS). CoinMine utilized NCG grading services as we have found they provide the best customer service amongst the major grading services. As of December 2008
Heritage owners Steve Ivy and Jim Halperin maintain a 30% share in NGC.
ANACS - Dublin, Ohio. ANACS has performed very strong in the last few years and provides an extensive array of services. However, some of their earlier slabs are questionable. Slabs with a 'cleaned' designation typically move well in the market place although investors are much more cautious for those labeled 'polished' or 'heavily cleaned'. ANACS had the reputation for grading gold more conservatively than the other two top-tier TPGs although this has shifted somewhat to NGC. As of December, 2008 ANACS was owned by James Taylor and Driving Force, LLC.
After the three listed above, and perhaps ICG, SEGS and PCI/DGS, the perceived quality and hence retail sales of the coin graded by these companies falls off considerably. Perception isn't necessarily reality, but it does set the market...
CoinMine is willing to buy and sell coins grades by the 'big three' grading services: NGC, PCGS, and ANACS and ICG, PCI/DGS and SEGS. We currently strive not to deal in the other markets, though we occasionally pick them up as stock through purchases of estates and collections.
AACGS - I suppose they wanted to be first, alphabetically.
ACC - American Certified Coins of Milton, Wisconsin
ACG - ASA Accugrade of Longwood, Florida. My experience with their grading standards does not leave a pleasant aftertaste.
ACCS - American Coin Certification Service
ACCGS - American Coin Club Grading Service of Beverly Hills, Ca
ACGS American Coin Grading Service. Regrettably, it appears that this firm does not guaranty that the coin they grade and slab is not counterfeit.
AGP - American Grading Professionals
AGS - American Grading Service
ANACS - American Numismatic Association Certification Service. Originally the grading arm of the American Numismatist Association, now and independent firm.
ANI - American Numismatic Institute of Birmingham, Alabama
ANICS - American Numismatic Institute Certification Service. Circa 1988 from Lewis Revels, before the 'The Coin Vault'
BCW - Apparently another do-it-yourself grading company.
CAC - This company does not slab coins. Rather they (often John Albanese) will place a green or gold stickers on the slab. This shows if they agree with the TPG grade, or not. If you buy a coin with this little bean-like sticker, do not remove from the slab. Although it really doesn't increase the value of the coin, it does provide some level of comfort for those who may purchase the coin from you.
Compugrade - This company slabbed and graded coins for only a few months in 1991.
CCG - Colonial Coin Graders
CCGS - Certified Coin Grading Service; Collectors Coin Grading Service
CRC - Certified Rare Coins
CSI - Certified Silver Investments
DGS - Dominion Grading Service (Mike Ellis/David Lawrence Rare Coins. DGS Acquired PCI in 2008 and operated as a solid grading company that closed up shop in 2010. They actually graded correctly, even conservatively. CoinMine recommends.
DCGS - Digital Coin Grading Service of Weston, Fl.
ENGS - Another home grading operation; we have not heard good things about this one.
FSG - First Strike Grading
FTGS - First Token Grading Service
GCGS - Global Coin Grading Service
GCS - Global Certification Service
GEC - Grade Evaluation Company. Check out their 'non-guarantee'. Wonder how much they paid their legal team for that disclaimer... http://www.gecgrading.com/
GEGS - Details Unknown
GGC - Gallery (coins and) Grading Company. Another recent firm (2004) trying to make a niche and take advantage of the strong demand for graded coins by novice investors.
HCGS - Hallmark Coin Grading Services
ICCS - International Coin Certification Service. The grading company uses high standards for Canadian Coins.
ICG - Independent Coin Grading Company of Englewood, Colorado. ICG rates fairly high as a second tier grading services, one of the top five or six in all. The firm tends to provide higher grades for strong eye appeal as compared to the top tier TPGs. We are willing to buy and sell ICG coins. As of December 2008, ICG is owned - at least in part - by National Gold Exchange.
ICGS - Integrity Coin Grading Service. CoinMine does not recommend (as of Jan. 07 they were using coinworld slabs).
ICGS - Independent Coin Grading Service
IGS - International Grading Service (Established in 2005, formerly PGS)
IGS - Independent Grading Service. Operates in Tennessee; blue and white slabs. Fancy lawyer disclaimer right on the slab.
INB - International Numismatic Bureau. CoinMine does not recommend.
INS/INSAB - INS proffered coin grades on slips of paper in the 1970s and issued plastic slabs beginning in the early 1980s.
INCG - Details Unknown
INGS - International Numismatic Grading Service. This firm lasted for about two years in the late 1980s.
INS - INS Authentication Grading They used Accugrade slabs and operated late 1980's and early 90's.
IRI - Investment Rarities Incorporated. Late 1980's vintage, one of the early operators.
LCGS - Liberty Coin Grading Service.
MEGS - Another home grading operation; we have not heard good things about this one.
NAC - Numismatic Authentication Company
NACGS - North American Coin Grading Service. I suggested they buy their own plastic instead of using CoinWorld slabs. http://nacgs.com/
NAGC - Numismatic Assurance Grading Corp
NANC - North American Numismatic Certification. We've seen these trade around raw (non-graded) values.
NAS - Numismatic Authentication Services
NCC - Numismatic Collectors Company. Apparently a more recent addition to the third world slabbing community.
NCI - Numismatic Certification Institute (circa 1989)
NCS - Numismatic Conservation Services
NCGS -National Coin Grading Service
NES - Numismatic Evaluation Service
NGC - Numismatic Guaranty Corporation
NGP - Numismatic Grading Pros. They use CoinWorld slabs. CoinMine does not recommend.
NGS - Nugrade Grading Service. Became Trugrade.
NNC - National Numismatic Certification. Unknown; might be the same as NAS.
NNC - National Numismatic Certification
NNGS - National Numismatic Grading Service
NPG - Numismatic Professional Grading (using Amos plastic holders)
NTC - Numitrust Corporation of Boca Raton, Florida
NU Coin Grading Service - Another newcomer using coinworld slabs.
Nu-Mint Certification -
PICS - Paramount International Coin Corporation. A previous subsidiary of Amark used to purchase, grade, and sell the Redfield Collection. Buy one of these if you see them. Defunct. http://www.carsoncityking.com/Redfield%20Dollars.htm
PCC - Premier Certified Coins
PCI - Photo-Certified Coin Institute of Rossville, Georgia
PGS - Professional Grading Service of Chattanooga, Tennessee (Changed name to IGS in 2005).
PNANS - Don't know much about this one; found them in Nov 08. They actually seem to grade fairly reasonably for a self slabber based upon the limited offerings we have seen. PNANS.com
PNGS - Professional Numismatic Grading Service
QCGCS - Quality Coin Grading and Certification Services
QVC - Quasar Valuation Company
RCGS - Rarity Coin Grading Service of Boston, Ma
SDGC - Silver Dollar Grading Company
SEGS - Sovereign Entities Grading Service of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Very good certification and attributions; though many of their slabbed coins sell near raw values. Their Jefferson nickels grades appear one of their strongest suits.
SGS - Star Grading Service of Ashland, Ohio
SGS - Spectrum Grading Service
SGS - Strategic Grading Service. They only lasted a few months far as we can tell.
TGS - TruGrade Service
UGS - Universal Grading Service
USCG - US Coin Grading. We've seen this firm put allegedly counterfeit coins in their homemade slab as seen here:
USCGS - United States Coin Grading Service
UTIC - http://www.ustic.com/ (They slabbed coins in the 1980's but no longer. Currently associated with Heritage.)
WGC - World Coin Grading. We've seen some massively over-graded coins in these holders.
WCG - World Class Grading, World Coin Grading
WCGS - West Coast Grading Service
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