Bob A. writes: I have “collected” coins as a hobby for quite some time, mostly by trades and searches. Some of my coins I would like to have professionally graded. I’ve become concerned with the cost to do so compared with my own estimated value of the coin (based on my grade of it). It is extremely rare that collectors can agree when it comes to grading (and ultimately the value) and even more disappointing when attempting trades with “dealers”. It seems that some will even question the grades of professionally graded coins. My questions are: What is the general “rule of thumb” that will help reaching that decision – to have the coin authenticated and profesionally graded or not? and: Can you give me an idea what to expect to pay to get a coin professionally graded; how do those services establish their prices; is it based on the appraised value of the coin, or what??
Grading is more art than science but standards exist. Circulated coins are far easier to grade since degree of wear is measurable against a set of existing standards. Manuals such as the ANA’s Grading Standards for U.S. Coins and Brown & Dunn, are benchmarks against which coins can be evaluated successfully. Attempts by 3rd party grading services to make fine, one point delineations between circulated coins is as confusing as their similar attempt at evaluating mint state coins.
Factors that influence grade of circulated coins:
- Luster remaining (only a factor in EF coins and higher)
- Cleaning (reduces value)
- Physical damage besides wear (edge bumps and cuts, scraps, digs in fields and devices).
Factors that influence grade of uncirculated coins:
- Bag marks
- Strike (this is controversial)
- Toning or patina (controversial)
If you employ a third party grading service, there is no way to predict what a specific grading service will grade a coin since the above factors have become completely subjective. It is possible to have a coin graded over and over again by the same service and get widely different results (five grades on a AU/Unc coin is my personal observation). The majority of uncirculated coins submitted are graded between AU 58 and MS64. I think that the chief value in the grading services is their authentication service. You can almost be sure that if they graded the coin then it is genuine.
Coins will be rejected by grading services for various reasons such as:
- Alteration to the coin
- Added mintmark, altered date, altered surfaces, artificial toning
- Damage – Bent, brushed, burnished or polished, chopmarks (controversial), clipped, corrosion, physical damage, environmental damage, residue of glue or other material, graffiti, lacquered, evidence of removed mount (jewelry), plugged, rim damage, repairs, solder marks, tooling, whizzed (polished with a fine wire brush) and wiped.
Cost of grading services vary from approximately $14 -$45 per coin regardless of value. Coins are shipped insured so postal insurance is factored into the final fee. The value of the coin will influence whether the coin should be graded or not. Recently, the lure has been that common coins in gem condition are selling (at least retail) at breathtaking prices. Your $6.00 worth of silver 1964 Kennedy half dollar could be $175 if you can get it in a MS68 or MS69 holder!
You can find links to third party grading services on the CoinSite Links page .