How to Get a Coin Graded

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Your options for determining the value of your coin or coin collection

1879 Morgan Silver Dollar

Ever wondered what your grandfather’s coin is worth? Inherited an interesting old coin collection? New to the numismatic world? Not to worry, coin grading is a process that involves several steps, but it’s fairly straightforward. With a lot of online resources, anyone can do it. And, of course, there’s also an app for that.

What Is Coin Grading?

First, what is coin grading? Grading is an industry term for determining the physical condition of a coin. As PCGS explains:

“Grading is a way of determining the physical condition of a coin. Grades range from Poor (almost completely worn out) to Perfect Uncirculated (a coin with absolutely no wear and no flaws of any kind). Over 99.9% of all coins fall somewhere between these two extremes.”

Uncirculated coins can also be referred to using another industry term, “mint state.” That’s because they were carefully and properly stored since the moment they were minted. If the coin has been circulated for a short time but still looks new it’s graded as “about uncirculated.”

A Word About the Sheldon Grading Scale

Until notable numismatist, Dr. William H. Sheldon, developed what is referred to as the Sheldon Scale in 1949, there were no industry standards for evaluating coins. What looked great to one dealer, another would describe (and therefore value) very differently.

The Sheldon grading scale determines the condition of a coin based on a 70-point system. Why 70 and not 100? We are not sure. Apparently, to Dr. Sheldon, a coin that received a “70” would be worth 70 times as much as a coin that received a “1.” Regardless, this grading system became the industry standard all reputable third-party coin certification companies use.

The ANA Grading Standards

The American Numismatic Association (ANA) also bases its coin grading standards largely on the Sheldon Scale but includes the addition of a clearly defined description of each numerical grade. Here’s a quick list of coin grades:

  • Proof – (PF/PR): A specially made coin distinguished by sharpness of detail, minted primarily for collectors and not released for general circulation.
  • Mint State (MS): is interchangeably used with Uncirculated (UNC) to describe the coin without any trace of wear.
  • Perfect Uncirculated (MS-70): The coin is in new condition showing no trace of wear. Very few regular-issue coins are ever found in this condition.
  • Gem Uncirculated (MS-65 to MS-69): Very few signs of wear and contact marks.
  • Choice Uncirculated (MS-63 to MS-64): Similar to GU above, but a grade lower, maybe lightly toned, with a few contact marks.
  • Uncirculated (MS-60 to MS-62): No wear but has contact marks and maybe some spotting.
  • Choice About Uncirculated (AU-55 TO AU-58): Light wear, but still in very good condition.
  • About Uncirculated (AU-50 TO AU-53): Light wear, some luster remains.
  • Choice Extremely Fine (XF-45 or EF-45): Light wear shows, but details are still clear. Minor mint luster is present.
  • Extremely Fine (XF-40 or EF-40): The design is lightly worn throughout, but all features are clear and well-defined. Traces of luster may show.
  • Choice Very Fine (VF-30 to VF-35): Light wear throughout, major features including lettering still visible but not clearly.
  • Very Fine (VF-20 top VF-25): Moderate wear, major features including lettering still visible but not clearly.
  • Fine (F-12 to F-15): Moderate to considerable even wear. The entire design is still visible but is worn.
  • Very Good (VG-8 to VG-10): Well-worn with main features clear
  • Also Good (G-4 to G-6): Heavily worn, details not visible clearly.
  • Also About Good (AG-3): Very heavily worn, with portions of the lettering, date, and legends worn smooth. The date is barely readable. Rims merge into the lettering.
  • Fair (2): Most of the design details are worn completely smooth. Rims are flat or missing. May have serious nicks, dents, and defects.
  • Poor (1): Only the basic coin type is identifiable. The date and mintmark must be strong enough to be readable. The entire surface is worn and may sport numerous blemishes.

Why You Want to Grade Your Coin

It’s simple: If you want to know how much the coin is worth you need to get it graded. Coin grading and authentication emerged as a solution to rampant counterfeiting and coin doctoring in the collectible coin industry. Depending on the type of coin, minute differences in grade can sometimes mean thousands of dollars difference in a coin’s market value.

Why Grade Coins Professionally

If you are a coin collector, you can probably learn to grade your coins with some accuracy, but to get it authenticated, certified as genuine, and professionally graded requires the expertise and precision of experts.

With professional coin grading not only will you get peace of mind, but the numeric grade assigned by experts will be recognized and accepted by dealers and collectors worldwide. Each coin is given a unique registration number which serves to catalog the coin at the grading service. It’s also sonically sealed in an archival acrylic holder to preserve its condition and permanently attest to its grade and its authenticity after grading.

Your Options for Coin Grading Services

The go-to in the industry are Professional Coin Grading Services (PCGS) and Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC). They offer an unbiased appraisal of the condition or grade of each coin, which is accepted in the marketplace.

In addition to PCGS and NGC grading services, many numismatists go a step further and submit their coins for CAC recognition.

The Certified Acceptance Corporation examines slabbed coin and verifies that it meets the standard of quality within the grade. A CAC sticker on your coin can add valuable liquidity because stickers are awarded only to coins that meet the standard for selective buyers.

In fact, CAC recently announced they will not be stickering coins any longer and will start a full grading service to compete with PCGS and NGC. CAC feels strongly that coin grading has started to degrade over the last decade and has taken on the honorable task of adding more competition to the coin grading market to ensure the industry leaders stay true to the grading standards collectors and investors expect.

How to ID a Coin: The DIY Approach

PCGS Photograde is a helpful tool to use when you want to identify your coin. It won’t give you the price, but it may help you get the necessary info for your submission form and avoid that pesky fee. We used Photograde to drill down the images to ID our sample coin, and it was very easy. Turns out, we had an 1879 Morgan dollar MS65 on our hands (pictured, front and back). We found it on sale for $109.99 at the PCGS auction. Again, this is not grading, just identifying, and definitely doesn’t accurately reflect the condition or the value of the coin

The bottom line

Three major factors determine the grade the coin will be awarded: how the coin was made, handled, and stored. The best-preserved coins tend to have the greatest value, and you’ll want a professional to grade your coin, someone who can authenticate your coin and whose expert opinion is accepted in the marketplace.

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26 thoughts on “How to Get a Coin Graded

  1. I would like to know what the cost would be for grading I have uncirculated 1955 DD 3 rolls of them and the grading companies want 49.09 a coin when your on a fixed income that can become really steep . Then their other packages are 400.00 a year and there’s a cap on amount that you can have graded . If you do open company to compete with PCGS and NCG what would your cost be for average consumer for coins grading ito be done .

    1. Hi there!

      Grading costs vary, based on the grading service, number of coins, etc. so it’s almost impossible to give you a specific price. You could reach out to either PCGS or NGC to see if they may be able to give you accurate information on your specific coins.

    2. Yes I have a 1958 no mint double die obverse reverse seeing double Lincoln cent that’s what it’s called that’s what I got and now I need to have go about getting it to y’all so I can get rid of it as far as selling it it’s the one they’re looking for is called seeing double please anybody get back with me on it I’ll be happy to send pictures and everything else this is the real deal it’s got a red dive Mark what it was hit above the w on the rim also fold the top over a little bit and when you look at it you can see the double in and God and we and also Liberty and a little bit 1958 maybe they ate please get back with me

  2. I agree with the other comment, getting coins professionally graded is far too expensive for a small personal collector. I have say $500 face value in dollar coins down to a Canadian half penny. I would need a small fortune to find out if I had anything even worth selling to barely break even if I could sell. I can do basic evaluation, like I know my stacks of 1964 Kennedy halfs are worth more melted down for bullion right now but my 1886 Morgan dollar that looks super new with very clearly defined details I would likely over value as I want it to be worth a lot. I wish there was even maybe a non universally recognized service that could ballpark grade coins without certificate or sealed capsules. Just grading service for ebay sales

  3. Nobody’s out here to help us that have coins unless they’re wanting to continue to get rich and keep us poor. Where are the people that are willing to help us to get where they are in this world today.

    1. Amen big facts
      Foster is right

      1. Like pcgs and ngc charge for registration for membership. We are not complaining but we the people who are on fixed income can’t afford all the extra charges. So we keep our findings hope one day,our family (children)Will make the right choice having themgraded and not selling to pawn shops.Thank you for your time and effort.

        1. What do they charge, a monthly or annual fee?
          If you grade your coin(s) can you keep them at home and try to sell yourself?

          1. Hey Joseph! The fees for grading depend on a number of factors, like how many coins you’re sending in. Some grade on a “per piece” scale but you’d need to reach out to PCGS and NGC for specific pricing. And, once your coins are graded, you absolutely can keep them at home and do whatever you’d like with them.

  4. In today’s economy we penny wise collectors need honest outlet for select coins we know are capable. Been collecting for sixty years an found very few honest folks willing meet half way on coins price/sale. Wish God sent few more Angels to clear this up an help more folks get by with their change.hugs Gail Dent

  5. I have a draped bust dollar which I would like to be authenticated and graded. I believe that the coin has an error (no date). How much will it cost me for the service?

    1. Coin grading services fall within a range of costs, so your best bet would be to reach out to PCGS and/or NGC and get their latest fees list. Good luck!

    2. So I call these girls lol and I asking about a 1943 Denver copper penny I just got verbally authenticated at the Van Nuys masianic coin show in van Nuys last weekend by 5 dealers who all said it looked good and amazing .so I call this company cause they state on there website coin grading authentication blah blah blah so we’re talking 1943 Denver copper penny .you know ehst this jetk tells me nah were not interested in that anyways .kick me stupid but I think any registery set collected in the world needs this coin to say yes I have the best collection now hands downthe coin is beautiful as well dd odvers slightly off center with a amazing strick weights 3 3 grams and is not altered but I’m sure some ride hater that wishes its there’s will find a way to discredit this amazing gem of a find …jerks to say the least .we’re not I terested OK bit I’m sure someone else is but wouldn’t even help .how the he’ll did these guys get in thus business is what I’m wondering. Seems to be a lot of envy in this hobby haters God bless theses people and there souks cause there playing with hate and spit in there hearts and money the root of all evil and it shows .

  6. Which way do we go? Small collectors get it appraised and then see it appraised it a whole different price with all the double dies or whatever is going on DPS whatever is going on with the coin double here on the Lincoln and nobody really wants anything to do with it because they don’t want to take the time so they’re not really collectors where are the real small time collectors to trade coins? Or so why do we have to pay to have our coins graded? This is not politics!

  7. I have over 800 error coins from 1862 Indian head pennies to present day. That could be very expensive for me to have them all graded. So what can I do!

  8. I hqve a 1987 Liberty quarter that has a blop of silver on it and was stamped on it. Left side of the heads neck..know one can tell me anything about this.

  9. I hqve a 1987 Liberty quarter that has a blop of silver on it and was stamped on it. Left side of the heads neck..know one can tell me anything about this. Can someone tell me who to contact..

    1. Hi Teresa:
      Do you have a local coin store that you trust? We suggest this as a solution because it’s always better for someone to see your coin in person in order to provide you with the best information.

  10. It would be in your best interest to get your most valuable coin graded.then get that one sold and use the money from that sale to certify the rest of your collection at your liesure.

  11. A friend of mine got me in to collecting coin in a metal detecting trip , now I’m hooked ,so out garage selling came into some wheat penny s .I have never had a penny graded , but I feel the need to get three of the 25 coins looked at so here I am , 1914-D and a 1922-D,the 1914-D has the gap between the nine and 4 w/3.11.

  12. How do I get a coin graded and certified

    1. Hi Rich:
      You can reach out to PCGS or NCG to see about getting your coins graded. Both sites offer great information on how to get the process started. Good luck!

  13. Why is there so much “BULL****” talk in coin sites on Utube (such as BRSH)? You have Sean on that show talking about Kennedy Half dollars 1971 D being worth $13,000 each. It is so much BS, he should be held accountable about it because I have sent him four (4) messages saying that I own 8 1971D Kennedy halfs, he can purchase my Kennedy halfs for $1,000 each, he could pay me $8,000 (8 coins) and he could resale my 8 coins for $104,000 at $13,000 each. He has refused to reply, because it’s ********, lying **** from his mouth. They should be censored.
    Then he touts about grading your coins whereas now the price of it increases ‘Tremendously “, but no one is going to buy your coin, however don’t they salesman get a kick back reward amount of money from graders for referring them to certain graders?

  14. I have two 1968 s Lincoln cents that have very noticible errors. One has a 6 on top of the 8 on the date, can see with naked eye and the other is a DDO on the date, mint mark and all lettering also can see with naked eye. Have these errors been seen on this year and mint mark and in your opinion would it be worth getting them graded?

  15. I have 2-1848 LIBERTY HEAD/LARGE CENTS, sm & lg in great condition. One is an Error cent; can barely see the second (8) in 1848.
    Who might be interested and will grade my coins, fairly.

  16. I have a 1919 penny 8s great shape is it worth anything

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