No matter if you are a well-experienced or an amateur coin enthusiast, for sure, when you come across an unusual coin that you want in your collection you’ll want to know its true value. However, determining a real value often can be a hard thing to do since every coin is a story for itself.
As we all know a collectible’s value depends on various factors. From condition, and rarity to material, demand, and supply. One thing is guaranteed – the higher the coin’s preservation state is the higher the value.
Now, since we already told you that determining the value isn’t as easy as it seems, there is only one thing you can do – take it for professional grading. But is it always profitable to take coins for assessing their quality and grade?
How much does it cost to get coins graded? What affects the price of grading coins? Will that certificate further enhance the value of the coin? What organizations are best at grading coins? If you need an answer to all these questions, this guide is for you!
Here are some details on the costs of getting coins professionally graded:
- The main third-party coin grading services are PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) and NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation). Both have tiered pricing structures based on the value of the coin.
- For modern coins (1965 to present), PCGS charges $20-30 per coin if you are a member, or $35-50 if non-member. NGC charges $18-25 for members, $30-50 non-members.
- For vintage coins (pre-1965), PCGS charges $35-100 per coin for members, $50-125 non-members. NGC is $30-75 members, $45-100 non-members.
- For high value rare coins over $10,000, fees can be negotiated but often range from 1% to 3% of the coin’s value.
- There are also add-on services like imaging, variety attributions, or faster turnaround times for extra fees.
- You also have to factor in shipping costs to and from the grading service. Insured shipping can range from $20-$100+ depending on the value.
- Many coin dealers and auction houses can submit coins for you to the grading services, often for a small markup on the grading fees but taking care of the shipping.
- Grading fees are generally a worthwhile investment for rarer and more valuable coins, increasing liquidity and marketability. But for common coins, fees can exceed the increased value from grading.
So in summary, expected costs can range from around $30 on the low end to over $1000 for ultra rare coins when factoring in all services, shipping, and middleman fees if applicable. It pays to shop around.
What Is Coin Grading?
Coin grading is a type of essential service provided by an expert numismatic grading company. These grading companies will evaluate the physical condition, point out all possible flaws and damages, determine the material, and assess the quality of your coin.
The process of evaluation should be done so the coin can get a “grade”. Grades are given according to the popular grading system Sheldon’s scale. The range of grades goes from Poor which is given to very damaged and worn out coins to Brilliant Uncirculated for coins that are in perfect mint condition.
Getting the coin graded helps collectors get a real assessment of how much the particular coin or entire collection is worth so they can set a fair price for both parties. Keep in mind that having your coin graded won’t always increase the value of the coin, but it will enhance the chances of selling.
Coin grading throughout the history
Coin grading became popular in the early 1900s when numismatics as a hobby started to develop and grow. Just like nowadays, scarcity was one of the most important factors when starting to build a valuable coin collection. Logically, with time and demand grading standards started to evolve. However, this is the time when official grading scales didn’t exist, so the numismatics and coin dealers used terms as – Good, Fine, or Uncirculated to describe the coin’s condition.
- Good – coin with some wear marks, but most of the design details are in good shape and intact.
- Fine – a coin with light wear marks, there are still some traces of mint luster and almost all design details are clear
- Uncirculated – a term for a coin that is in mint state condition and has never been in circulation
However, the problem with this grading system was that it was too general to say so. Something that looks fine to you might not look fine to me, or it will look way better than just fine. You get the point. With time a lot of “Fine” coins, were labeled as “Very Good” or “Very Fine” since they look much better than just fine.
The problem was that the same people who were trading the coins are the ones who determined their condition and value, and that doesn’t sound fair. This is why in 1972 the first third-party assessment company was founded under the name ANACS (American Numismatic Association Certification Service).
Following their example, in 1985, in California, the PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) company started operating. Two years later in Florida, the NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation) was established.
Naturally, there are a lot of grading services today, however, the three that we mentioned above are the most reliable and reputable ones. Just remember that these three companies together have certified approximately 100 million coins until this day.
Also Read: Coin Grading Companies: PCGS vs. NGC
How Does A Grading Process Work?
The grading process will slightly vary from one corporation to another, however, there are the basic premises that always remains the same. Here are the five basic steps:
- Submission – No matter the company every grading process starts off with the coin submission. You as an owner must fill out some forms with information about the coin. These include quantity, date, mintmark, and denomination. Also, you must put the return shipping address, the method of payment, and some other information depending on the company. Also, you must place a coin in a plastic container or protective bag before shipping.
- Receiving – When the coin arrives at the office, it will undergo an identification process. First, the content of the package will be checked to see if it matches the description of the submission invoice. After that coins will be input in the company’s database and barcoded. Coins are stored in the vault before the actual grading.
- Grading – When the time comes coins will be transported from the vault into a grading room. The common practice is that each coin is graded separately by, at least, two coin graders. They will carefully examine and compare coins to published references to check which variety qualifies.
- Encapsulating – After grading, another department encapsulates the coins and labels them with all grading specifications and details. For safety coins will be placed in a plastic core and then in a transparent holder.
- Shipping – Lastly coins are shipped back to the owner using the address that the owner stated in the submission document. As a matter of fact, most companies return the coins to the grading department before shipping for a final inspection, making sure the label matches the actual grade for the coin.
Besides authenticating this coin grading involves identifying the coin’s type, variety, denomination, mint year, mint mark, mint errors (if exists), condition of the edges, surface condition, and design.
Sheldon’s grading scale
The condition and grade of the coin will significantly affect the value and final price. Logically, coins that are most expensive and valuable are labeled with some of the uncirculated grades.
Keep in mind that the lowest-value coin grade acceptable for collectors is good, everything below that is not suitable and can only be used for melt value, in case the coin is made from precious metals.
All grading companies use this grading scale as a universal grading standard. It was invented in 1949 by the doctor William H. Sheldon. This system revolves around a 70-point scale, and the idea is that a coin graded 70 will be 70 times more expensive than a coin graded 1.
Besides the numerical Sheldon scale, you will find the abbreviation which indicates the coin’s condition. These terms can range from PO (Poor) to MS (Mint State). While the abbreviation PR is an indicating that the coin is Proof, and SP means Specimen.
Here is the list of grades with a detailed explanation:
- (P-1) Poor – Coins are in an indistinguishable state. Very damaged, yet to be accepted as collectible items they must have a visible date and mintmark.
- (FR-2) Fair – Coins are not smooth, however, they do not have any large damage that makes them indistinguishable. These coins must have enough visible details.
- (G-4) Fair – Fair coins are in a bit better condition than previous ones. However, almost all the inscriptions have merged into the rim, and all important elements have been erased.
- (VG-8) Very Good – What is characteristic of these coins is that all the primary design elements are visible, yet not so clear.
- (F-12) Good – These coins are taken out of circulation, meaning that they are worn but the overall design details stand out clearly. Rims must be completely isolated from the rest of the coin.
- (VF-20) Very Fine – Coins used in circulation, however, they are still in great condition. Rims are completely separated from the rest of the coin on both sides. A lot of fine details and features are still visible. The inscriptions like the motto LIBERTY are easily readable.
- (EF-40) Extremely Fine – These coins were in use but for a short period of time and come with light signs of wear. All details are visible, and those that are the most important are still bold. Mintmarks are bold and clear.
- (AU-50) Uncirculated – These coins may have minor contact marks but the eye appeal must be on point.
- (AU-58) Uncirculated Choice – These are coins with minor traces of wear. The coin must have almost full shine and no severe contact marks.
- (MS-60) Mint State Basal – Uncirculated coin with strictly no signs of wear on the coin’s highest points. Reduced luster is only acceptable in small amounts, as well as minor visible contact marks, hairlines, and other small flaws.
- (MS-63) Mint State Acceptable – Coins are uncirculated with only minor contact scratches and small nicks. The shine is slightly reduced, overall it has a great eye appeal. Also, the strike must be weak to average.
- (MS-65) Mint State Choice – Uncirculated coin with a great mint shine. There shouldn’t be any contact marks, but if any they can only be minor contact blemishes. The strike is unusually severe.
- (MS-68) Mint State Premium Quality – Uncirculated coin with superb luster and no obvious contact marks. Exceptional overall eye appeal paired with the quick and appealing strike.
- (MS-69) Almost Perfect Mint State – Uncirculated coin with perfect mint brilliance. Sharp and appealing strike and extremely good eye appeal are the main characteristics of this grade. These coins are in near-perfect condition with minor imperfections on the planchet, strike, and tiny contact markings like hairlines.
- (MS-70) Mint State Perfect – These coins are in perfect condition. When you place it under 8x magnification, you won’t see any tiny imperfections. The strike is sharp and strong, and the coin is perfectly centered. The coin also must feature a bright shine and original luster.
What are the main goin grading criteria?
Besides the Scheldon grading system, there are still a few other different coin grading systems such as the European grading system for example. The only differences between these systems are in slight variations of grading criteria.
You should know that there are six different coin grading criteria that will help grader to review and evaluate coins. Those include the following:
- Eye appeal
- Country of origin, state, or location of the mint where the coin is minted.
Most professional coin grading companies use these criteria, while some others will add their own additional criteria to help them grade the coin as fair as possible.
How to decide if the coin is worth grading?
The most important thing is to realize if the coin you own is worth grading or not. Not all coins are worth grading. So before making that decision, do some research to ensure that submitting a coin makes at least some financial sense. Coin grading isn’t too expensive, however, it isn’t cheap as well. Whether or not a coin is worth grading depends largely on the value it would receive after grading.
A simple rule is that if you believe that your coin is rare and that the grading will add drastically more value to it, then don’t hesitate. That means if you think that your coin can easily get a grade 65 and above, you’ll get a fantastic return on investment which justifies the costs of grading, shipping, and insurance.
The Costs Of Coin Grading
This mainly depends on the company you choose to work with. Some are more affordable than others, and some have specifically designed payment plans. It is only up to you to decide which one suits your financial situation the best.
For instance, if you choose NGC or PCGS, they will not charge you a fee for grading a coin. However, this doesn’t mean it is for free, you still need to become a member which comes at a certain price. These companies offer membership plans depending on how many coins you have for grading.
The PCGS membership has three tiers:
- Silver membership which costs $69 per year and you get no grading vouchers
- Gold membership which costs $149 per year and grants you 4 grading vouchers
- Platinum membership which costs $249 per year and grants you 8 grading vouchers
All PCGS membership plans offer their members member-only show access, direct submission, and quarterly grading specials.
On the other hand, NGC offers four different membership plans:
- Free which cost $0 per year and offers you access to online resources.
- Associate which costs $25 per year and offers you access to online resources and 10% off display boxes and selected add-in services.
- Premium which costs $149 per year offers you all the Associate benefits and provides you with a $150 grading credit.
- Elite membership plan costs $299 per year and in return, you’ll get all the Premium-level benefits, a $150 grading credit, bulk submission rates, and 10% off on all grading and conservation fees.
Besides the membership fees, both PCGS and the NGC charge a fee for every coin you send for grading. The price depends on the coin’s mintage date, type of coin, and in the end the coin’s maximum value.
Keep in mind that these prices do not include shipping and insurance costs. Also, you will have to pay an additional fee which is in direct correlation with the coin’s declared values, postage, and insurance.
Why Is Important To Grade Coins?
You need to understand that there is a difference between grading and assessing value. The grading agency will provide you with a numerical grade based on the coin’s condition and quality. Some coins will get a high grade and they still won’t be of much value since they aren’t rare or currently attractive among collectors.
Assessing value is left to the current market situation. Remember that demand and supply will determine the final value. When you want to sell the coin, having the grading certificate as proof will make trading easier.
Also, when a coin has grading and certification it is less susceptible to price fluctuations than can occur. For instance, if your coin is rare and graded with mint conditions, for example, high factors like demand, any market fluctuations won’t have any impact on the final price. Main reasons why grading can be necessary:
- Grading guarantees the coin’s quality as well as establishes authenticity in the eyes of buyers
- Easy identification and valuation
- Protects against further wear and environmental contamination
- Help determine the real coin’s market value
- Allow you to sell coins at the highest possible price
Will grading always increase the coin’s value?
As we already mentioned, coin grading won’t always automatically increase the value of your coin. If you have a common coin that is graded with the highest MS70 grade that coin will still remain low in value.
Grading can only guarantee verification and validation of your coin’s condition and rarity. Everything else is up to the situation on the coin market. You know that prices are always dictated by the laws of supply and demand, even though sometimes it doesn’t do you justice.
What are the advantages of buying graded coins?
For starters buying graded coins is a great thing to do since there is no doubt if the coin is real or fake. There will be no pressure or fear since you know you are getting precisely what you looked for.
A big plus is that all coins after grading go through process of the encapsulation. This way coins maintain their condition in the long run.
When In Doubt Schedule A Consultation
Hopefully, after reading this article you will understand coin grading a lot better. Even though coin grading it’s not something that everyone can afford, a lot of people who are serious about coin collecting will agree that these expenses are necessary and worth it.
There is nothing that puts you at an advantage like knowing beforehand what you’re holding in your hands. When trading coins knowing the real worth and how to negotiate are the two most important things, however, remember to keep your expectations low.
The biggest misconception is that grading a coin will significantly increase its value. Don’t forget that majority of coins are graded just so the buyer and seller can comfortably agree and close the deal.