Certified Graded Coins
By: Roger Paulen
At Boston Pizza following the December ENS meeting, an interesting debate took place regarding the place of certified coins or “slabs” in our hobby. That discussion prompted me to write this article for our ENS members, particularly those who are young and/or new to the hobby.
Coin grading is the process of determining the grade or physical condition of a coin, which is the key factor in its value. When buying and selling coins, it’s important to have basic knowledge of grading and its terms, since a small difference in grade can mean a big difference in price, especially in uncirculated grades and key dates.
High-quality grading services such as International Coin Certification Service (ICCS), Canadian Coin Certification Service (CCCS), Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) and Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) use a thorough process that involves numerous steps and specialized expertise along the way. Each step is performed with the goal of accurately and safely grading your coins, after which they’re typically sealed in protective holders, marked with codes delineating their grade, and entered into the service’s database. Proper coin grading requires expert numismatists that can accurately compare your coins against published references. The best coin graders have had experience in the commercial sector, many having been professional coin dealers. It’s also common for ethical grading services to prohibit their graders from actively buying and selling coins so that there’s no conflict in their ability to appropriately grade your items.
The philosophy of certifying coins seems to suffer from a generational gap among collectors. Older collectors scoff at the mere thought of paying a company to provide a service that seems redundant; experienced coin collectors and dealers already know the grades of their coins, so the statement, “Why waste good money to have someone tell me what I already know?” is often heard. However, the younger generation of collectors has diverged from the standard completion of sets and filling in holes over time. Type sets, specialty sets and other collecting niches have collectors wanting to ensure they are getting the quality they are seeking, and that their “investment” is secured in some respects, with a grade guarantee. The certified coin holder, the protection it offers for long-term storage and even their visual attributes are appealing to some. The confidence of authenticity and condition is also very important. Some dealers accept that the above factors are important to their clients, and now certified coins are a large part of their inventory.
Here is an example of a CCCS certified coin. This is a fairly new Canadian company, founded in 2004 and located in Quebec. CCCS certifies their coins within a protective Mylar envelope that is sealed inside a flip holder with a certificate. This certificate identifies the coin’s origin, denomination, mint mark, date and grade; comments are added when relevant. The certificate has an exclusive CCCS number that is unique to each coin graded. There is an added security features inside the flip; C.C.C.S. © 2004 is hot ,stamped in the inside part of one layer of the flip before it is assembled. One service they also provide is an online verification service. Next is an example of an ICCS certified coin. Located in Toronto and founded in 1986, ICCS certifies their coins within a protective Mylar envelope, which is sealed inside a flip holder with a certificate. ICCS also publishes a Condition Census Report (i.e., population report) annually. This grading service is well established among the Canadian collecting community and is highly respected for its consistent, conservative grading.
Next is an example of a NGC certified coin. NGC, founded in 1987, is located in Florida Most coins are submitted through NGC authorized dealers (there are 4 authorized dealers in Canada). The graded coins are placed inside a plastic core piece that holds it securely within a hard transparent holder. The core, like other components of the NGC holder, is made of inert material that won’t adversely affect the coin it holds. Each certified coin has its label positioned in place on the core, and these components are then enclosed within matching top and bottom shells of transparent plastic. The shell pieces are sealed around the core through a combination of compression and ultrasonic vibration.
Lastly, is an example of a PCGS certified coin. PCGS, located in California, founded in 1986, is responsible for dramatic improvements throughout the rare coin industry, which have forever changed the way rare coins are bought and sold. Most coins are submitted through PCGS authorized dealers (there are 2 authorized dealers in Alberta).
Once graded, each coin is sonically sealed inside its protective, tamper-evident PCGS NumisCap holder. A special tag within indicates the coin’s certification number, grade, date, denomination, unique bar code and pedigree if applicable.
Within the United States, there are several other respected and reputable coin certification companies. By no means do I exclude them here based on reputation. I have mainly chosen to highlight the above four coin certification firms that are most commonly used by Canadian coin collectors and dealers. I doubt this article will bridge the ‘generation gap’ between those who use certification services and those who avoid them, but for the newest generation of coin collectors who often buy certified coins sight unseen, always remember: buy the coin, not the holder!
Previously published in the ENS “The Planchet” Magazine Vol-55 Issue-01
Numismatic Grading Services
ICCS (International Coin Certification Service)
PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service)
NGC (Numismatic Guarantee Corp.)
CCCS (Canadian Coin Certification Service)
BCS (Banknote Certification Service)
PMG (Paper Money Grading Service)
ANACS (American Numismatic Association Certification Service)