Professional Coin Grading Service

We are going to write a series of blogs pertaining to one of the worlds rare coin grading organizations, PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service). In the early 1900s, coin collecting started to gain popularity and the condition of a coin, along with its rarity, essentially determined its value as it is today. Over the years, coin grading has evolved to a system of finer and finer grade distinctions, but in that lied the problem. Coin grading was the often subjective assignment by many different coin dealers. Not every dealer saw every coin the same.

When the rare coin market was limited to a small number of numismatists trading with each other, three broad definitions were enough to determine grade: “Good” – a coin with most of the detail intact; “Fine” – a coin with clear detail and some luster on its surfaces; and “Uncirculated” – a coin which had never been in general circulation and therefore retained its Mint State condition.

This was a 50,000 ft view, so to speak, of a coins overall appearance. As coin collecting grew, collectors realized that some “fine” coins were finer than others. There very varying levels of fine, and even some uncirculated coins rose above the rest in detail, luster, and general appearance. So there needed to be even further distinction on of a coins quality. So terms such as “Very Fine” and “Extra Fine” began to emerge, as collectors sought to further define the condition of their coins and increase their value.

In 1948, Dr. William Sheldon, a renowned numismatist, developed the Sheldon Scale, assigning grades from 1 through 70 to coins on the theory that a coin graded at 70 would be worth 70 times as much as the same coin type being graded as a 1.

Although coin collectors agreed on the scale, they could not agree on the standard, and assigning a Sheldon Scale grade to any given coin was still a matter of subjective opinion. One dealer’s 60 was not the same as another dealers 60 grading. Now there are several professional coin grading services such as PCGS, which have very accurate system for grading coins and maintaining consistency in the grading process.