Having a coin professionally graded and certified is not a difficult proposition, but having a specialized coin graded requires some thought and effort. Two major, independent, third-party grading services will authenticate, grade and encapsulate your coins for a fee. The Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) began operations in 1986, and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) followed about a year later.
Let’s examine the steps to select the right coins in your collection to be graded and encapsulated. There are two issues to consider.
CLEANING OR DAMAGE
Examine the coin for any traces of harsh cleaning or major or minor damage. If the coin has either of these problems, the grading services will still authenticate and encapsulate your coin, but they won’t assign a numerical grade.
Both NGC and PCGS will only grade essentially problem-free coins. Unless you have a scarce, key date coin that might have a problem or cleaning, I wouldn’t recommend having it professionally graded. A key date coin with a problem or that has been cleaned will be encapsulated and designated as “Unc Details,” “Fine Details” or whatever grade approximates the actual grade of the coin. A numerical grade will not be assigned.
COST VERSUS VALUE
You also need to determine whether the value of the coin, once it has been certified, justifies the cost of the certification process. Generally, you can spend between $30 and $200 on certification costs. A general rule of thumb is that most coins under $200 in value are not good candidates for certification.
Once you have determined that the coin is a viable candidate for certification, you must decide which grading service to use. Each grading service has its own rules, pricing and requirements for submitting coins. Both NGC and PCGS are similar in many respects.
NGC Submission Process
NGC is based in Florida. To submit a coin to NGC for grading, the submitter must be at least an associate NGC member (current cost is $25 annually) or submit coins through any NGC authorized dealer who accepts collector submissions.
You can submit coins immediately after joining NGC. Instructions for completing submission forms are found at ngccoin.com/submit/how-to-submit/.
The next step is to determine the Grading Tier, which is based on the type and value of the coin that you are submitting as well as the level of turnaround time you will accept. There are eight different Grading Tiers—two of the most popular tiers are “Express” and “Early Bird.” The range of costs for submitting a coin runs from $18 for a modern coin (1965 or newer) valued under $2,000, which may take up to three months for grading, to $175 for a Walk-Through submission which allows coins valued up to $25,000 to be graded within six business days.
There are also options to consider for other coins and desired timelines.
NGC Grading Tiers
After determining the Grading Tier, you can download and complete a PDF or fill the form online. Either method requires you to print copies to accompany the coins you are submitting. NGC requires three copies to be sent along with the coins.
Each coin should be submitted in a non-PVC plastic flip measuring 63.5mm x 63.5 mm (2.5” x 2.5”) that allows you to slide the coin in the back pocket. As you complete the submission forms, you may also print a label to accompany each coin. The label should be attached to the front pocket of each flip. No other markings, identification or stickers should be attached to the flip. The labels should only contain the invoice number and the line number that corresponds to that coin on the submission invoice.
The form will require you to provide your NGC member number, name, address and phone number for identification and contact purposes. Payment in the form of a check, money order or credit card must be submitted with the submission form. You will calculate the grading tier, return mail and insurance fees, then select the method of return—either your own insured overnight courier delivery (such as FedEx) or Registered U.S. Mail.
NGC accepts both U.S. and world coins, as well as certain tokens and medals. Additional services, such as high-definition photos, may be requested at an additional fee.
PCGS Submission Process
PCGS restricts submissions of coins to their authorized dealers or to members of the PCGS Collectors’ Club. There are three levels of membership for the PCGS Collectors’ Club: Silver ($49), Gold ($149) and Platinum ($249). Each has different benefits, but all levels permit submissions. Instructions for submission are listed at pcgs.com/submissionguide.
PCGS offers submission forms as either a fillable PDF or an online submission.
With either method, you will send your coins and a copy of your form to PCGS for grading. PCGS requires you to fill out your name, member number, return address and the service you are willing to pay for with the coins you are submitting.
PCGS offers different services for coins in addition to grading. Services include professional curation (non-harmful removal of PVC or unattractive toning), high-resolution photographs, review of previously assigned grades, re-holdering and more.
PCGS and NGC grading services are in high demand by dealers and collectors alike, so you must be prepared to either pay a higher fee to get your coins back quicker or wait weeks to months for PCGS to grade, encapsulate and return your coins.
After filling the PCGS submission form, you must complete a form for each coin you are submitting. Multiple coins of the same date-mintmark-denomination and type can be submitted on the same line by marking a quantity greater than one.
PCGS requires you to enter the PCGS coin number, which is a unique identifier for all coins that PCGS grades. You may use the PCGS coin number lookup function at pcgs.com/pcgsnolookup.
Select your preferred return using either a personal account with FedEx or USPS Express Mail and your insurance or PCGS’s method via USPS Registered Mail. Then calculate your fees for grading, any other services and return shipping. Include a check, cash, money order or credit card information with your submission.
Both NGC and PCGS require coins to be submitted in 2.5” x 2.5” unstapled flips bearing a sticker with the submission invoice number and the appropriate line number on your submission form. Seal the envelope or box securely and include payment with your coins. If you send your coins to PCGS by USPS Registered Mail, cover all the seams of the envelope with paper tape so that the U.S. Post Office can date stamp each piece of tape to keep your package secure.
By sending your package using USPS Registered Mail, your shipment must be signed for each step of the way and will be securely stored at every stop, ensuring its safety. Your shipment is fully insured while at PCGS and while it is returned to you.
In addition, PCGS also offers a Gold Shield service where each coin is imaged in high resolution and registered in its vast database. The Gold Shield holder uses the latest anti-counterfeiting technology and helps detect counterfeits.
Both NGC and PCGS also grade certain tokens, medals and bank notes.
Check both websites for specifics. Both companies also provide different ancillary services that you may find beneficial.
Coin grading generally adds value to your coins, so choose your grading service as carefully as you would select coins for your collection.
To subscribe to COINage magazine click here. Story by Mike Garofalo.