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Independent Coin Grading Services

Since 1986 there have been independent professional coin grading services, originally in the USA, but now elsewhere. We discuss the merits of independent coin grading services, along with encapsulation (slabbing) of coins.

Brief History

Systems for describing and defining the condition of coins for collectors and dealers appear to have evolved over several hundred years. When we came into the hobby and business in the early 1960's, it seemed that the existing systems had been around for a long time. Publications such as "Seaby's Standard Catalogue of British Coins" contained a page defining 7 basic descriptive coin grades from poor to FDC. By adding the modifiers "almost" or "good", this could easily be expanded to about 20 grades or more. Similarly "The Standard Catalogue of U.S. Coins", published from the 1930s contained comments about grading.
In 1958, Martin R. Brown and John W. Dunn published A Guide to the Grading of United States Coins, which may have been the first book devoted to coin grading, even though it was restricted to US coins. When we first saw it, we wondered what it was about Americans that they needed a book to tell them how to grade every single US coin type, surely if you learn how to grade one type of coin, you know how to grade all coins. Perhaps the answer is that this book did not teach people how to grade coins, it simply showed them US coins of each grade, with notes about what to look for in each type.
Since then, other books about how to grade US coins have been published, notably Photograde, by James F. Ruddy in 1970, and Official ANA Grading Standards for U.S. Coins in 1977.

Grading & Market Prices

According to some sources, in the good old days, there used to be only two grades, used and unused, although others state three grades. We doubt the accuracy of these sources.
What has made grading more important is the growth in the number of collectors, and the increase in the value of most coins. It has always been the case that the desirability and market value of any coin depends on its state of preservation. As market prices have risen, then the price difference between grades has increased.

Independent Grading - A Substitute for Judgement?

When independent grading was first introduced, we felt that it was possibly used by buyers as a substitute for their own judgement. We still have this view.
For the vendor, it is another marketing tool. It is very easy as the owner of a coin, to overgrade it, simply because you want it to be better than it is. An independent grade removes the buyer's suspicion that the vendor may have overgraded it deliberately or otherwise.
An independent grader should have no emotional or financial attachment to the coin, so should be able to be more objective when appraising it.

Grading & Encapsulation

Grading & encapsulation go hand in hand to some extent. If you are going to buy a high value coin based on its independent grading, and you lacked sufficient intelligence and judgement to form your own opinion, you would presumably need assurance that the coin you were buying was indeed the same coin that had been graded, and that it had not later been switched for an inferior one.


Slabbing is a rather ugly sounding word, but one which is not wholly inappropriate. The expression "independently graded and encapsulated" does not quite run easily and quickly off the tongue, while "slabbed" does. It is no surprise then to find that most dealers and collectors refer to "slabbed" coins. Indeed it would have been very surprising if this lingual shortcut had not developed.

Is It Just Us?

Are we the only coin dealer who has reservations about slabbed coins? No, one of our biggest London competitors is on record as saying their company does not deal in them. Compared with this highly polarised view, our view of slabbing is quite liberal and pragmatic. While we have never submitted a coin for independent grading, we are quite happy to buy and sell secondary market coins which have already been slabbed, it's just that we are never particularly impressed by a slabbed coin, they are in some cases much harder to sell than, for example, a proof complete with its original box and certificate. We are also aware that some collectors with slabbed coins for sale may have overpaid for them, which will always make it more difficult for us to buy them. They also take up much more storage space, and we have to find a separate storage system for them in a different place from our regular stock, so sometimes we forget we have them in stock.

Harder to Photograph

We also like to shoot and process high quality photographs of all the coins we handle, for a number of reasons. It helps to sell them, and it also means we get to retain a record of coins we have already sold. this policy also means we are steadily building a catalogue of numismatic photos, which help us to provide a free service to collectors and members of the public, subject to copyright! It is much harder with less satisfactory results, to photograph slabbed coins.

PCGS - Professional Coin Grading Service

PCGS, The Professional Coin Grading Service began serving the coin-buying public on February 3, 1986.

Slabbed Coins For Sale

How Do Grading Services Rate?

PNG & ICTA Reveal Survey Results

  • Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) and Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) were both listed overall as "superior," the second highest ranking on the scale. Accu-Grade (ACG) was listed overall as "unacceptable," the lowest-ranking category on the scale.
  • ANACS and Independent Coin Grading Company (ICG) were ranked overall as "average." PCI Coin Grading Service (PCI) and Sovereign Entities Grading Service (SEGS) were ranked overall as "poor."
Slabbed 2005 Proof Gold Five Pounds

Slabbed 2005 Proof Gold Five Pounds

Slabbed Coins For Sale


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