Coin grading is an essential service that you should always look for if you’re investing in this collectible. There are reliable and well-known grading services that will provide an expert and unbiased assessment of any coin. The coins that have been graded by such services come with a guarantee that lets you know you’re dealing with genuine collectibles with verified value. Learn more about coin grading and the associated cost for this service.
How Are Coins Graded?
Professionally graded coins are assigned a number from 1 to 70, which corresponds to the Sheldon Scale. This universally accepted grading system was designed on the premise that a coin with a rating of 70 would be worth 70 times a coin with a rating of 1.
The standard ratings are as follows: 
- MS 60-70: Uncirculated (or Mint State)
- AU 50, 53, 55, 58: About Uncirculated.
- XF 40, 45: Extremely Fine
- VF 20, 25, 30, 35: Very Fine
- F 12, 15: Fine
- VG 8, 10: Very Good
- G 4, 6: Good
- AG 3: About Good
- FA 2: Fair
- PR 1: Poor
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC)
The NGC has two professional numismatists grade every coin. These coin graders are not involved in the buying or selling process and have no knowledge of the submitter, so their grades are entirely impartial. The coin graders assess the coin for quality and assign it a number between 1 and 70 that aligns with the universally accepted numismatic grading scale. 
NGC may also assign additional designations to the coin: 
- BN: Brown
- CA: Cameo
- DPL: Deep Prooflike
- FB: Full Split Bands
- FBL: Full Bell Lines
- FH: Full Head
- FT: Full Torch
- MS: Mint State
- PF: Proof
- PL: Prooflike
- RB: Red-Brown
- RD: Red
- SP: Specimen
- UC: Ultra Cameo
- 5FS: Five Full Steps
- 6FS: Six Full Steps
Professional Coin Grading Services (PCGS)
PCGS graders are trained to handle any type of coin, but they are assigned coins to grade based on their personal strengths, so each coin is assessed by the best person for the job. At least three graders evaluate each coin. If the first two graders agree, a third grader is used to verify their assessments. If the first two graders disagree on their evaluation, the third grader acts as a tie-breaker, and a fourth grader verifies the assessment. 
In addition to a standard rating from 1 to 70, PCGS may assign the following designations to their coins: 
- Color: Red
- Color: Red-Brown
- Color: Brown
- Strike: Full Steps
- Strike: Full Bands
- Strike: Full Head
- Strike: Full Bell Lines
- Surface: Deep Mirror Prooflike
- Surface: Prooflike
- Surface: Deep Cameo
- Surface: Cameo
- BM: Branch Mint Proof
- BMCA: Branch Mint Cameo
- FS: First Strike
- SF: Satin Finish
- SMS: Special Mint Set
- SP: Specimen
How Did Coin Grading Start?
Coin grading was inconsistent and subjective through the 19th century and into the first half of the 20th century. The manner of coin grading changed in 1949 when Dr. William Sheldon created the 70-point grading scale detailed in the previous section. He designed this scale for pennies made between 1793 and 1814, but it quickly caught on and became standard for other coins as well.
In 1977, Abe Kosoff’s book, ‘The Official ANA Grading Standards for United States Coins,’ was published. Kosoff defined the numerical grades clearly for the first time, and he added descriptions to accompany each major rating, such as MS for ‘Mint State.’ This gave more detail to Sheldon’s system and was adopted as a welcome addition to this standard.
The ANA Certification Service was established in 1972 and began offering grading services in 1979. PCGS started in 1986, and NGC followed in 1987. These two services quickly became the standard for most coin collectors and sellers.
Eventually, PCGS began to encapsulate the coins they graded in clear plastic holders, which collectors call ‘slabs.’ The grades of the coins that are kept safe within their protective packaging are guaranteed. This allows buyers and sellers to confidently execute remote transactions with a solid understanding of what kind of coin they’re getting. 
What Is the Cost of Grading Coins?
There is a fee associated with having any coin professionally graded. The cost varies based on the type of coin and the type of service. If you’re wondering whether you can afford NGC or PCGS grading, you can browse recent rates below.
NGC’s rates are as follows: 
- Unlimited Value Walkthrough: $300 + 1% of the fair market value*
- Walkthrough (max coin value $100,000): $150*
- Express (max coin value $10,000): $60*
- Early Bird/Standard (max coin value $3,000): $35
- Specialty Gold (U.S. coins only, max value $3,000): $35
- Gold (max value $3,000): U.S. coins $25, world coins $30
- Economy (max coin value $300): $22
- Modern (max coin value $2,000): $17
*Includes scratch-resistant coin holder.
Where the scratch-resistant coin holder is not included, you may add this feature for $5.
The 2020 PCGS’s rates are as follows: 
- Rarities: $300 + 1% of the PCGS price guide value or declared value
- Walkthrough (max coin value $100,000): $150
- Express (max coin value $10,000): $65
- Regular (max coin value $2,500): $35
- Economy (max coin value $300): $22
- Modern (max coin value $300): $16
- Modern Gold (max coin value $2,500): $30
- Mint Errors (max coin value $10,000): $65
- Special Issues (max coin value $10,000): $65
- Economy Special Issues (max coin value $300): $25
Unless you take your coins to a show and opt for on-site grading, shipping and handling fees will apply to your grading as well. Though you have to invest in professional coin grading, the cost is worthwhile for any coin that you want to sell in order to ensure that your buyer knows what they’re getting.
If you’re purchasing coins, it’s always advisable to ask for NGC or PCGS certification with them. This gives you quality assurance and a clear assessment of the coin’s value that will help you sell the coin in the future.
Using coin grading services wisely can help you protect your coin collection and ensure that you’re always making smart investments with your coins.
1. NGC. ‘The NGC Coin Grading System,’ https://www.ngccoin.com/coin-grading/grading-process/ngc-grading-process.aspx. Accessed October 2, 2020.
2. PCGS. ‘PCGS Grading Process Video,’ https://www.pcgs.com/pcgs-grading-process-video. Accessed October 2, 2020.
3. PCGS. ‘PCGS Grading Standards,’ https://www.pcgs.com/grades. Accessed October 2, 2020.
4. GovMint.com. ‘The History of Coin Grading,’ https://www.govmint.com/coin-authority/post/the-history-of-coin-grading. Accessed October 2, 2020.
5. NGC. ‘NGC Services & Fees,’ https://www.ngccoin.com/submit/services-fees/ngc/. Accessed October 2, 2020.
6. PCGS. ‘2020 PCGS Collector Services & Fees,’ https://www.pcgs.com/servicesandfees. Accessed October 2, 2020.