Exchange is aware of these coin grading services and
others, but the ONLY two coin grading services we
will buy coins sight unseen are PCGS and NGC.
Their grading standards are trusted and without question
the best. When AGE gives
advice on gold coins we
have to know the exact grading is accurate. The
coin prices and our
customers deserve to know what they are paying for is
High Bandwidth (Cable/DSL)
PCGS, which started
in 1985, has certified millions of coins in its history
- making it the largest third party grading and
authentication service in the world. In this brief
video, we are going to show you how coins are graded at
PCGS. We hope this overview will help answer your
questions about the processing of your coins and provide
insight into what PCGS is all about.
Once your package arrives at PCGS corporate headquarters
your package is itemized, logged into the system and
separated based on the service level marked on the
outside of the package.
Once the packages have been separated, each package is
opened by priority of service and the coins are counted.
The receiving step is one of the most crucial steps in
the PCGS process.
After verifying the
service level and payment, the identifying information
is removed from the order and the submission is assigned
a generic order number. Finally, all pertinent data is
entered from the PCGS submission form, an e-mail
confirmation is sent out to the customer, and the coins
are off to the next stage.
The next step in the PCGS process is called the Sticker
Stage. At this stage, the coins are counted again and
labels are placed on the outside of each coin flip. The
label or sticker assigned to each coin contains
information including the order number and individual
certification number - that is the same certification
number that will appear on the PCGS label once the coin
is graded. In addition, the information on each coin is
stored and tracked in the PCGS database as it travels
through the PCGS processes.
The coins are now ready for grading. Each order is
distributed to graders based on their particular skill
and expertise. While the graders are generally trained
to handle coins from virtually all eras, they are
assigned coins based on their strengths. The sheer
number of graders assigned to each coin can also vary
depending on the type of coin submitted. In all cases,
at minimum, 3-4 graders are assigned to every coin for
grading and verification.
As each grader
receives the order, they will enter the order number
into the computer. This provides the contents of that
order on the PCGS grading screen. Grader #1 will then
enter his grade for the coin in question (and for each
coin within the order until the order is completed) and
close the order on his screen. Once Grader #1 has
completed grading the order, the order is redistributed
for Grader #2 to provide their grade and so forth. Each
grader is not privy to the opinion of the other graders
on any of the coins within that order.
If their grades match
in the computer, the coin would then go to a 3rd grader
at the Grading Verification Stage. If the opinion of the
first two graders does not match, that coin will be
assigned to a 3rd grader whose opinion is required to "break
the tie." As a PCGS standard, the coin would still be
assigned to yet a 4th grader for verification to make
sure the grade is accurate and consistent.
The actual grading
process itself consists of a few steps. The first is
determining whether the coin is authentic. With the
values of some coins today, counterfeits are not
Once the coin has
been determined to be authentic, it is then checked for
Once the graders have
determined the coin to be authentic and unaltered, the
final step in the process is to assign a grade to the
coin in question. Graders are now focusing on the
characteristics of the coin such as the strength and
quality of toning, strike, marks, luster, and overall
eye-appeal. All these characteristics are taken into
account when assigning a grade.
PCGS's 1-70 grading
scale, with 70 being best, is universally accepted
throughout the industry. PCGS's grading standards can be
found on our website at www.pcgs.com. We highly
recommend that submitters become familiar with those
standards because your improved knowledge may help
increase your chances of attaining the grade you are
Once the grades have been assigned in the database, the
PCGS labels are now generated and printed. By entering
the order number into the system, our team can now print
all of the crucial information for the PCGS label
including the date, denomination, grade, variety if any,
coin number, and the unique certification number
Now that the PCGS labels have been printed, the sealing
department is given the task of selecting the
appropriate custom holders for each coin and then
carefully placing the coin and PCGS label within the
holder. Once the contents have been assembled, each coin
is taken to the boom room where coins are sonically
sealed in our tamper-evident holders. This sonic weld is
strong and helps ensure this security feature on the
After the coins have been sealed in the PCGS holders,
they are then sent to the Grading Verification stage. As
mentioned earlier, this is where another grader will
check the orders for accuracy and consistency in
relation to PCGS standards. If any of the coins do not
appear to meet the standards, the coin is then removed
from the holder and re-evaluated. If the coins appear to
meet PCGS guidelines then they move on to the next stage.
Now we arrive at the final quality control checkpoint
where the order is reunited with the original submission
form and each coin is matched against the paperwork.
Additionally, the coins and holders are examined for
defects such as scratched cases or improper information
on the PCGS label that may have been overlooked in prior
stages. Upon completion, the grades are posted and an
e-mail confirmation is sent to the customer with the
We are now at the final stage in the PCGS process - the
shipping department. Now PCGS's shipping staff will
count the coins within the order once again to ensure
that the coin count and submission form matches the
information in our system.
Once this is
completed, a staff member enters the shipping
instructions into the computer, packages the order,
prints a packing slip, and ships it back to the customer
- who is eagerly awaiting their coins. Once the order is
shipped from our facility, an e-mail is generated
automatically to alert the customer that the order is on
That concludes our look at the PCGS grading process. We
hope you enjoyed this inside look at the journey of a
PCGS submission and, hopefully, this guide will help
answer many commonly asked questions about our service.
From all of us at PCGS; thanks for your continued
support over the years.
Your support has made
PCGS the preferred choice for collectors across the
globe and the foundation of all great collections.
Coin Grading Terminology
UNC DETAILS (Uncirculated)
— A coin that shows no wear or evidence of circulation.
AU DETAILS (About Uncirculated)
— Traces of light wear are evident on the high points of
the coin's design.
XF DETAILS (Extremely Fine)
— Design features are well defined, although light wear
is evident throughout.
VF DETAILS (Very Fine)
— Major details of the coin are clear although light
wear is evident; the high points show moderate wear.
F DETAILS (Fine)
— Moderate wear or many elements with heavy wear on high
points. The major design elements remain visible.
VG DETAILS (Very Good)
— Heavy wear flattens design elements, although major
features are clearly outlined.
G DETAILS (Good)
— Design details are flat and visible in outline. Some
portions of the design may be faint.
AG DETAILS (About Good)
— Design details are flat and appear in outline.
Portions of the rim are lost to wear.
FA DETAILS (Fair)
— Coin is identifiable, design is flat and visible in
outline, and rim is essentially indistinguishable from
PR DETAILS (Poor)
— Heavily worn; only basal detail remains.
indicates that the coin’s mintmark has been applied
fraudulently to enhance its value.
describes a coin that has had its date changed by any
means in an attempt to increase its value.
is a general term used to describe a coin whose surfaces
are clearly not natural but whose exact treatment is
uncertain. Among the deceptive processes that fall into
this category is the application of pastes to either
hide contact marks or to simulate Cameo frosting or
refers to bronze, copper and copper-nickel coins that
have been chemically dipped or cleaned. Under natural
conditions, most copper coins will darken over time, but
examples that retain their original “red” color are
highly valued. That’s why “Red Brown” (RB) or “Brown” (BN)
copper coins are sometimes treated to remove this
toning. The resulting color usually has an unnatural and
refers to the process whereby patina is imparted to a
coin in an accelerated reaction process using chemicals
and / or heat. Artificial toning may be removable with
proper conservation by NCS but, since it often hides
improper cleaning or other surface issues, the coin may
yet require Details Grading.
coins are simply that — they show a non-mint-made
curvature when viewed on end.
is a term describing a form of corrosion unique to
copper or bronze coins that typically affects ancient
describes a coin that has been wiped with an abrasive
brush. The affected areas may be narrowed down to OBV
BRUSHED or REV BRUSHED.
is the term used when the cleaning is more aggressive
and gives the coin a very brilliant but unnatural sheen.
Sometimes this action is performed with some abrasive
media such as ball bearings, or it may result from
treatment within a rock tumbler.
coins have had Asian characters punched into them as
assurances of their value by the merchants who handled
them many years ago. This was a common practice with
silver coins, particularly trade dollars, circulating in
reveals that a chopmark has been fully or partially
effaced through tooling or filling.
refers to a portion missing from the edge of a coin’s
planchet. A large missing area is gradeable as a Mint
Error, while very small clips will result in Details
is a problem for most metals, though gold and platinum
are nearly immune to its effects. A natural chemical
reaction, it causes the surfaces of a coin to form new
molecular compounds. Light corrosion results in the
often pleasing condition of toning. When corrosion is
severe or unattractive, it results in coins certifiable
only under Details Grading. NGC’s graders may narrow
down the problem area by using the terms OBV CORROSION,
REV CORROSION and EDGE CORROSION.
coins have had a figure or character punched into them
by some non-official agent, such as a merchant or
jeweler. Lacking any official sanction, these punchings
are considered just damage.
is a catchall term used when the coin displays any form
of destructive contact that may not be defined more
precisely. This may be narrowed down a bit by specifying
OBV DAMAGE, REV DAMAGE, RIM DAMAGE or EDGE DAMAGE.
describes a coloration that results from a coin being
chemically cleaned (dipped) to remove toning and not
properly rinsed off afterward. This makes the coin have
a cloudy or brown unnatural look.
is the result of a hostile storage environment, where
the exact cause of the surface damage is indeterminable.
is self-explanatory, and may be treatable with proper
conservation. NGC’s graders may narrow this down to read
OBV GLUE or REV GLUE. Such coins should be submitted to
NCS for removal of this material.
describes a coin into which initials or some other
writing has been scratched or carved. This may be
narrowed down to read OBV GRAFFITI or REV GRAFFITI.
is self-explanatory. If the exact date cannot be
determined for any reason, then the coin is not eligible
may be due to wear, damage or extreme die erosion and
will not be graded.
is used to describe Proof coins that have received light
circulation or mishandling, but whose Proof surfaces
remain detectable, even if marred or worn.
is a generic term to describe unskilled cleaning when
the exact nature of the action is uncertain.
describes a class of coin, medal or token that NGC does
not certify, regardless of its condition.
Insufficient Detail to ID
applies mostly to Ancient coins, but this restriction is
in effect for all coins, medals and tokens that are of
coins have had a coat of clear lacquer applied in an
attempt to prevent tarnishing, a common practice in past
decades. The terms OBV LACQUER and REV LACQUER provide
greater specificity. Proper conservation by NCS may be
able to remove this contaminant.
refers to some sort of jewelry attachment still present
with the coin.
indicates that the coin was formerly mounted to a ring
or bezel and that this attachment has left evidence of
its one-time presence. Most modern bezels are designed
to secure a coin without doing any harm, but some older
ones resulted in a crimping effect.
coins display an extreme form of damage, whether
intentional or accidental.
means that the piece is either a souvenir replica or a
counterfeit. Circulating counterfeits are contemporary
with the coins they imitate and are intended to pass as
money at their face value. Numismatic counterfeits are
intended to deceive collectors and typically are made
years after the originals.
describes a void or lamination (separation) in a coin’s
planchet as made. OBV PLANCHET FLAW and REV PLANCHET
FLAW provide a guide to the problem’s location.
coins are ones that were previously holed, typically for
suspension as jewelry, and have had their holes filled
in to conceal the damage. As the affected area usually
includes design features, these will show evidence of
is similar to Burnished, though it’s typically applied
when the abrasive action is less severe.
(polyvinyl chloride) film on a coin’s surfaces will
preclude encapsulation by NGC, as this continues to be
an active contaminant and may cause further damage. Such
coins should be sent to NCS for removal of PVC through
indicates that a coin has been irreparably harmed by
environmental reaction to the chemical plasticizer in
plastic coin holders. PVC is a widely used thermoplastic
that has many applications. In the numismatic field it
is found in the manufacture of “flips,” the transparent,
dual-pocket envelopes used by dealers, collectors and
grading services for displaying and handling coins. This
plastic is safe enough for short-term use, but long-term
storage brings with it a serious hazard. To make PVC
flexible, it is impregnated with a chemical plasticizer
that, over time, separates from the PVC base and may
form a green film on the surface of a coin. If left
untreated, the plasticizer combines with moisture in the
air to create hydrochloric acid that etches the coin’s
surfaces. When caught in time, the PVC contaminant may
be removable through NCS conservation.
indicates that there is reason to doubt the genuineness
of a submitted coin, though it may be impossible to
describes a coin that has had worn or damaged details
replaced through the use of engraving or chasing. This
may be narrowed down by stating OBV RE-ENGRAVED or REV
RE-ENGRAVED. A related repair is ETCHED STARS, these
peripheral features being among the first to wear down
on older coins.
Removed from Jewelry
is more or less self-explanatory but is used when the
more specific damage descriptors are not enough to fully
describe the effect.
like its counterpart Added Mintmark, is a fraudulent
attempt to misrepresent the value of the coin.
describes some surface contaminant that cannot be
identified more specifically by NGC’s graders. OBV
RESIDUE and REV RESIDUE provide a guide to the
contaminant’s location when it appears on just one side.
With proper conservation, such residue may be removable
before it results in environmental damage.
is done to coins to remove irregular metal or to even
out their rims. It may be used to obscure normal
circulation damage or signs of jewelry use. OBV RIM
FILED and REV RIM FILED are used to identify the
specific area affected.
describes work performed to obscure either naturally
occurring or intentionally inflicted damage. A common
cause of such damage was the attachment of coins to pins
or rings, as well as encasement of a coin within a bezel
or “lucky coin” frame.
of a very minor nature may permit a coin to be
certified, but use of this term in Details Grading
indicates that the damage is more severe.
is akin to Tooled (see below), but it is used when the
exact means of achieving the described effect is
describes a coin that has been used as an item of
jewelry and still displays evidence of this traditional
bonding agent. Solder may or may not be removable with
describes the unskilled, mechanical removal of
“flyspecks,” small black spots of intense toning or
corrosion. It also refers to similar removal of reddish
“copper spots” often seen on gold coins.
coins display discoloration but not corrosion. More
often than not such staining is irremovable. When
isolated to one side, it is described as OBV STAINED or
are faint, abrasive lines that disturb a coin’s
appearance, even though some original surface may remain
underneath. They typically result from gentle rubbing
with a cloth, and their severity may be described more
fully through addition of the terms LIGHT, MODERATE or
refers to either the smoothing of a coin’s fields to
remove scratches, corrosion and other forms of damage or
to the restoration of lost details through use of a
graver or knife. When a single side of the coin is
affected, the terms OBV TOOLED and REV TOOLED are used.
occur when a coin-counting machine has left a shallow
indentation on the coin, resulting in a highly polished
spot. This may be narrowed down to specify OBV WHEELMARK
or REV WHEELMARK.
coins have been cleaned with a fast, rotary wire brush
in order to simulate the effect of mint luster on a
circulated coin. These are easily spotted by experts, as
their lettering and other design details typically are
distorted a bit by this action.
describes a coin that displays surface hairlines in one
or more isolated areas. This is usually the result of
accidental mishandling rather than intentional cleaning,
but it still requires Details Grading. NGC’s graders may
specify OBV WIPED or REV WIPED to more accurately
describe the condition.