If you’ve watched my video about submitting gold coins to PCGS for grading, you know that this process can increase the value of your coins exponentially. PCGS, or Professional Coin Grading Service, is a company that grades coins on the Sheldon scale, and getting a high grade can significantly boost the value of your coins.
In this blog, I’m going to provide you with a step-by-step guide to submitting your coins to PCGS for grading and authentication, so you too can potentially unlock the hidden value in your coin collection. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or just starting out, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to get started with confidence.
And, as a bonus, I’m going to share my own personal tips and tricks to make sure you focus on the coins that really mean the big bucks.
How to get a coin graded
Coin grading is a process used to determine the physical condition of a coin, ranging from poor to perfect uncirculated. In 1949, Dr. William H. Sheldon developed the Sheldon Scale, a 70-point system which became the industry standard for coin grading. The American Numismatic Association also uses the Sheldon Scale and provides a clear description for each numerical grade, from “proof” to “poor”. Coin grading emerged as a solution to counterfeiting and coin doctoring, as even slight differences in grade can drastically affect a coin’s market value. Grading coins professionally provides an authenticated, certified grade recognised worldwide and each coin is given a unique registration number and sealed in an archival acrylic holder for preservation.
Notable industry services for coin grading include Professional Coin Grading Services (PCGS) and the Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC). Additionally, the Certified Acceptance Corporation offers a quality standard check for coins already graded. Recently, the CAC announced its plan to start a full grading service to add competition to the coin grading market. Tools like PCGS Photograde can be used for identifying coins but not for grading or determining their value. Finally, the coin’s grade is determined by how it was made, handled, and stored, with the best-preserved coins having the greatest value. Therefore, professional grading by a reputable authority is crucial for authentication and market acceptance.
Wait, so who are PCGS exactly?
The Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) was founded in 1986 by seven numismatic experts with a mission to provide a standardized and impartial grading system for coins. Prior to the establishment of PCGS, coin grading was a subjective process that often varied between dealers and collectors. This lack of standardization led to confusion and mistrust within the numismatic community.
PCGS introduced a revolutionary system for grading coins, which involved assigning a numerical grade to each coin based on its condition, with 70 being the highest possible grade. This objective grading system provided a universal standard that collectors and dealers could trust, and it quickly gained widespread acceptance within the numismatic industry.
In addition to its grading services, PCGS also began to authenticate and certify rare coins, providing an added layer of security for collectors and investors. This helped to reduce the prevalence of counterfeit coins in the market and further bolstered the reputation of PCGS as a trusted authority in the field of coin grading.
Today, PCGS is recognized as one of the leading coin grading services in the world, with a team of expert graders and authenticators who have graded and certified over 45 million coins to date. The company continues to innovate and improve its services, using cutting-edge technology to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of its grading process.
OK, enough with the history lesson. Let’s see how we can actually submit our coins.
How to submit your coins to PCGS
TL;DR: To submit coins for grading by PCGS, create an account on their website, select a grading tier, and complete the submission form. Carefully pack and ship your coins to PCGS, where expert graders will evaluate and grade them. Upon completion, you’ll receive a detailed report and a tamper-evident holder with your graded coins. Following the submission guidelines closely will ensure a successful process.
1. Set up an account
First thing’s first. Let’s set up an account with PCGS.
Creating a PCGS Account
Before submitting your coins to PCGS for grading, you will need to create an account on the PCGS website. To do this, simply navigate to the PCGS website and click on the “Join” button at the top of the page. Follow the prompts to create your account, which will require you to provide some basic information such as your name, email address, and a password.
Membership Options and Their Benefits
PCGS offers several membership options, each of which comes with different benefits. The main benefit of becoming a PCGS member is the ability to submit your coins for grading, but there are other perks as well. For example, higher-tier memberships come with access to exclusive resources and services, such as price guides, research tools, and expert consultations.
Here are the current membership options and their benefits:
- Silver: Includes Collectors Club benefits, plus discounted grading fees, PCGS Set Registry, and free return shipping for five submissions.
- Gold: Includes Silver benefits, plus access to PCGS grading specials, PCGS Photograde online, and a $150 credit towards grading fees.
- Platinum: Includes Gold benefits, plus access to the PCGS Secure Plus program, PCGS Grading Guarantee, and a $300 credit towards grading fees.
Explanation of PCGS Submission Form
After creating an account and selecting a membership, you’ll need to fill out the PCGS submission form to submit your coins for grading. The submission form is where you provide all the relevant information about your coins, such as the type of coin, date, mintmark, and any other pertinent details.
To fill out the PCGS coin submission form, provide the details of the coins you are submitting, such as the coin’s date, mint, and type. Print out the form, sign and date it, and enclose a signed copy with the coins listed on the submission form. Make sure to double-check the information you provide to ensure accuracy.
You can see what it looks like here:
Step 2: Choose the right grading tier
PCGS offers several grading tiers to accommodate different types of coins and grading needs. Understanding the grading tiers and their associated costs is crucial in selecting the appropriate tier for your coins. The grading tiers available are as follows:
- Standard: For regular U.S. coins with a declared value of $300 or less per coin.
- Economy: For regular U.S. coins with a declared value of $1,000 or less per coin.
- Express: For regular U.S. coins with a declared value of $3,000 or less per coin.
- Walkthrough: For regular U.S. coins with a declared value of $100,000 or less per submission.
- Secure: For any coin with a declared value of $1,500 or more per coin, and offers an additional level of security with tamper-evident packaging.
- High-Value: For any coin with a declared value of $50,000 or more per coin, and includes personalized service and hand delivery.
Selecting the Appropriate Grading Tier
Selecting the appropriate grading tier depends on the value and rarity of your coins, as well as your grading needs. For example, if you have a rare and valuable coin that requires the highest level of expertise and attention to detail, you may want to choose the Secure or High-Value grading tiers. If you have more common coins with a lower value, you may want to choose the Standard or Economy grading tiers.
When selecting a grading tier, it’s important to note that higher tiers generally come with a higher cost and longer turnaround times. However, the potential increase in value that comes with higher grades can often offset the additional cost of a higher tier.
Explanation of Turnaround Times for Each Tier
Each grading tier comes with a different estimated turnaround time, which is the time it takes for PCGS to grade and authenticate your coins. It’s important to note that these are only estimated times, and actual turnaround times can vary depending on the current workload of the grading facility.
Here are the current estimated turnaround times for each grading tier:
- Standard: 20 business days
- Economy: 12 business days
- Express: 6 business days
- Walkthrough: 3 business days
- Secure: 25 business days
- High-Value: personalized service and turnaround time varies
It’s important to consider the estimated turnaround time when selecting a grading tier, especially if you have a time-sensitive need for your coins. If you need your coins graded and returned quickly, you may want to choose a higher-tier grading option. It should be noted that, due to massive backlogs, turnaround times over the past two years have been as long as 6 months.
Step 3: Prepare your coins for submission
Coin Holder Requirements
PCGS has specific requirements for the type of coin holder or flip that your coins must be submitted in. Coins submitted in improper holders may result in a delay or rejection of your submission. Here are the current PCGS holder requirements:
- Coins must be submitted in 2.5×2.5 inch mylar flips.
- Coins must be fully visible within the holder, and the entire surface of the coin must be visible and unobstructed.
- No tape or staples are allowed on the holder or flip.
- The holder must be completely sealed and free of any cracks or damage.
Shipping and Packaging Requirements
When shipping your coins to PCGS for grading, it’s important to pack and ship them carefully to avoid any damage or loss. Here are the current PCGS shipping and packaging requirements:
- Use a sturdy, well-padded box to ship your coins.
- Use a shipping carrier that provides tracking and insurance.
- Place each coin in its own flip or holder, and secure the flips or holders in a non-abrasive material like bubble wrap or packing peanuts.
- Include a copy of your submission form and payment receipt in the package.
- Place the package in a shipping box and seal it securely with tape.
Following these guidelines will help ensure that your coins arrive safely and in good condition for grading. Keep in mind that coins that are improperly packaged or damaged during shipping may result in a delay or rejection of your submission.
Step 4: The grading process
Receiving and Logging Your Submission
Once your coins arrive at the PCGS headquarters, they will be logged into the system and assigned a unique tracking number. This number will be used to track your submission throughout the grading process. PCGS provides regular updates on the status of your submission through your account on their website.
Verification, Grading, and Authentication Process
After your submission is logged into the system, the coins will be verified, graded, and authenticated by expert numismatists. The grading process involves a thorough examination of each coin to determine its condition and other characteristics. The grader will evaluate the coin’s strike, luster, surface preservation, and other factors to assign a numerical grade on the 1-70 Sheldon scale.
Authentication is a critical part of the process, as it confirms that the coin is genuine and has not been altered or tampered with. PCGS uses state-of-the-art technology and a team of experienced experts to authenticate coins, ensuring that you receive an accurate and reliable assessment of your coins.
Quality Control and Imaging
After grading and authentication, the coins go through a quality control process to ensure that they meet PCGS’s high standards. This process includes a final inspection of the coins to confirm the grade and authenticity. Once the coins have passed this inspection, they are placed in PCGS’s tamper-evident holder, which displays the coin’s grade, certification number, and other pertinent information.
PCGS also provides high-quality imaging of the graded coins, which allows you to see the details of the coin’s surface and other features. This imaging service is available for all coins graded by PCGS, and it is a valuable tool for coin collectors and investors.
Step 5: Receive your graded coins
Notification of Completed Grading
Once the grading process is complete, PCGS will notify you that your submission is ready to be shipped back to you. This notification will come through the email you used to create your account, and it will include your submission number, certification number, and return tracking information.
Reviewing Your PCGS Grading Report
When you receive the notification that your submission is ready to be shipped, you’ll also be able to view your PCGS grading report on the website. The grading report is a detailed analysis of each coin, including its grade, certification number, and other pertinent information. You can also view high-quality images of the graded coins, which can be useful for identifying key features and assessing the coin’s overall condition.
Receiving Your Coins and Their New Grade
When your graded coins arrive, they will be securely packaged in a tamper-evident holder that displays the coin’s grade and certification number. This holder provides protection and security for your graded coins, and it is an important part of the grading process.
The new grade assigned to your coins by PCGS is an important factor in determining the value of your coin collection. Higher grades typically result in higher values, so receiving a high grade from PCGS can be a valuable achievement. Keep in mind that grading is subjective, and the value of your coins can vary based on market conditions and other factors.
PCGS has several pricing tiers for coin grading, found on their site. The cost can be anything from $30-150. Bear in mind that you may need to factor in shipping costs via Registered Mail, which can add to the overall price.
PCGS has strict guidelines for coin grading and will not assign a grade to a coin if it has been artificially toned, altered, or repaired, or if it has very large scratches or is a counterfeit coin that has been harshly altered or intentionally damaged. Furthermore, coins that have been damaged in counting or rolling machines cannot be graded.
PCGS does not engage in buying, selling, valuing or appraising coins. Rather, they offer collectors resources that can help them in pricing, selling, authenticating, and grading their coins.
But good news. While PCGS won’t buy your coins, there are some pretty great options out there. I’ve recently started using Whatnot, and have been blown away but some of the deals I’ve found. I’m involved as a buyer and as a seller, and couldn’t be happier with my experience.
I’ve even joined up with them to give you guys $10 in Whatnot credit. What are you waiting for? Get my deal here!
I’ve actually put together a list of good places to get your coins here.