Age, rarity and condition are factors which determine the value of collectable coins. Coin collectors price, sell, buy and trade on a coins condition. Coin condition is a factor that can be disputed between buyer and seller. Coin grading services evaluate coins and certify condition. Collectors value grading companies service as minor condition differences can amount to a significant amount of money. It can be the difference between profit or loss.

Liberty Obverse

American Numismatic Association

The American Numismatic Association (ANA) is the premier organization of coin collectors and dealers in the United States. This organization defines rare coin grading rules. They have adopted the Sheldon system named after Dr. William Sheldon who devised it. It is an alphanumeric system that defines coin condition from proof and uncirculated to circulated and worn so much that the date is barely ANA Standards For Grading United States CoinsCredit: Amazondiscernible. This is the system used by coin grading services. The standard for coin grading is the book, ANA Standards for United States Coins by Kenneth Bressett and Q. David Bowers. The book, Photograde: Official Grading Guide for United States Coins by James F. Ruddy is also acceptable. Collectors active in coin collecting own both.PhotogradeCredit: Amazon

Grading coins is one of the first things a collector should learn. He should be familiar with the basic grading terms and practices to collect coins. This applies to lower grade and common coins not normally sent to a grading service for authentication. This is a basic skill needed to acquire collector coins.

Coin Grading Company Services

Coin grading companies offer several services. They determine coin authenticity and that it isn’t counterfeit. If the coin has been previously graded, they determine that the plastic container is authentic and not counterfeited. They set up a record that includes color, flaws, damage, if the mint strike was weak and other unusual features. After grade certification, they encapsulate the coin in a plastic case called a slab. Information about the coin such as type, year, denomination and the grade is noted on the slab. Coin removal or slab damage invalidates the grading certificate. The slab is chemically inert so as not to affect the coin. Care is taken to prevent damage to the coin and that it is enclosed without dust, chemicals or other foreign matter. Of course, all this is done for a fee.

The Numismatic Guaranty Certification (NGC) and Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) are two highly used services. There are other competent grading services, but these two services are considered official.


NGC is the official coin grading service of the American Numismatic Association. Because the ANA authorizes NGC its grading may carry a bit more authority. Two graders independently grade the coins. Graders cannot engage in commercially buying or selling coins. NGC offers a warranty regarding their certified grades.


PCGS offers similar services and warranty as NGC. It requires a club membership or the coins be submitted by a PCGS club member to be graded.

Whether or not a collector uses a grading service depends on the quality and rarity of the coins he collects. This would also determine the advantage or disadvantage for joining a grading club. There are several reliable grading companies that offer similar services. It’s best to use one that offers a good warranty, prices, and gives reliable grades that are recognized in the coin collecting community.