PCGS, or Professional Coin Grading Service (http://www.pcgs.com/), is a respected name in coin certification. To date, PCGS has graded 25 million coins with a total value of more than $27 billion. The company began grading coins in 1986, and is quickly becoming an industry standard in third-party coin grading.
The Grading System
The Professional Coin Grading Service grew out of a need for standardized grading for rare coins. The 1-70 scale, currently used by numerous coin grading companies in addition to PCGS, was developed in the 1940s. However, assigning a numerical grade to a specific coin remained subjective.
In 1985, a group of leading rare coin experts developed a universal standard to ensure that a coin graded, for example, MS65 by one grader would also be given the grade MS65 by another professional. This concept would come to revolutionize the rare coin industry. Today, PCGS is a leading authority in the grading of rare coins.
PCGS certifies U.S. coins and those from more than 100 countries worldwide. Prices begin at $14 per coin. Estimated turnaround times range from 4 days for the Express service, to 20-29 days for Economy service. In addition to the 1-70 numerical grade, PCGS may also assign various suffixes in order to expand on the condition information available through the numerical grade. PCGS will also attribute select varieties differentiated by collectors.
How it Works
To submit a coin to PCGS for authentication and grading, you must either join the Collector’s Club or submit them through a PCGS Authorized Dealer. Once a coin is received, it is assigned a unique certification number which allows it to be tracked through every step of the grading process. It is then inspected by a team of world-class numismatic experts who are experienced in the PCGS grading standards. Each coin is independently graded to ensure consistency.
Following the grading process, each coin is sonically sealed in a tamper-evident, sealed capsule and returned to the grading room for final verification by another coin expert. All coins encapsulated by PCGS are guaranteed to be authentic. As long as the coin remains in the capsule, its grade is guaranteed by PCGS. Each coin capsule carries a unique certification number which may be utilized as a way of identifying the coin.
In addition to coin grading services, PCGS also maintains a count of all coins they have graded, revealing the incidence of each date, mint mark, variety, and grade for each coin. Access to the Population Report data is available to PCGS Authorized Dealers and members of the company’s Collector’s Club. Analysis of this data has allowed numismatic professionals to estimate the rarity of specific coins.
Despite the many services offered by PCGS to rare coin collectors, and the strides it has made towards standardization of coin grading, the company has been involved in several controversies in its past. In some cases, PCGS has been known to overlook clear evidence that a coin has been cleaned prior to grading. There have also been examples of counterfeit PCGS capsules containing authentic coins. Improvements in security such as a holographic emblem have reduced this issue.