What is the best coin certification service?

In this day and age of coin collecting, more and more people are buying certified coins. There are a lot of positives when buying coins that are certified by a third party grading services (TPG). One of which is the the coin is guaranteed genuine. This is especially important when buying rare or expensive coins. Another pro is the coin is professionally graded, so you know exactly what grade the coin is, though opinions still can vary. Lastly, the coin is protected in an air-tight holder, so it is not prone as much to tarnishing, hazing and corrosion.

There have been many, many grading services over the years, but in today’s collecting age, there are four main grading services: PCGS, NGC, ANACS and ICG. The others out there are not worthy of review, as they are too inconsistent, or even worse, some of them are just plain corrupt.  Below is our current ranking and brief review of the four relevant grading services of today.

1.  PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service):

PCGS, or Professional Coin Grading Service, was founded in 1985 and started grading coins in 1986.  It was started by seven coin dealers, in attempts to establish a standard for grading.  PCGS started out using a smaller holder than they use today, often called a rattler holder.  This is because the coin was held in place by little plastic pieces, but they didn’t do the best job of keeping it there.  Many coins would rotate in the holder, and many of them would move ever so slightly, causing a rattling sound.  The design was eventually changed to a similar design used today, though went through many minor facelifts in-between.  PCGS was very strict in it’s grading during the early years for the most part.  As they were trying to establish a reputation, often the rattler slabs are undergraded.  Because of this, they sometimes will draw a premium being in this holder.  PCGS has kept up their grading standards very well over the years.  To date, they have graded over 33 million coins!  With that large number, mistakes and opinion variations are bound to happen, but overall PCGS is the most accurate, consistent grading service in our opinion.

PCGS Certified Holder

2.  NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation):

NGC, or Numismatic Guaranty Corporation was founded in 1987, just a couple years after PCGS.  As PCGS was gaining momentum, the new kid on the block came on the scene.    In 1995, NGC was named the official grading service of the ANA (American Numismatic Association).  NGC’s holder has always looked pretty similar to the holder of today.  In terms of quality, NGC has graded the most coins of any certification service, with a whopping 35+ million coins graded!  There have been many small design changes, though and it is, in our opinion, the nicest looking certified holder.  NGC is right up there with PCGS in terms of grading and consistency.  Overall, PCGS seems to be just slightly more strict and consistent than NGC, though one could make a case to say the opposite.   It is almost a flip of the coin as to which is better, though PCGS coins generally sell for slightly more and we had to pick one for the winner!

NGC Certified Holder

3.  ANACS (American Numismatic Association Certification Service)

ANACS which stands for American Numismatic Association Certification Service (try saying that 10 times fast), is one of the pioneers in coin grading and started in 1972.  Originally, they started certifying their coins with photo certificates.  Certification meant a photo card with the obverse, reverse and grade of the coin, though the coin was not encased in a holder.  There were obvious problems with this, as the coins could get cleaned, scratched, dinged, and even worn and still have the same grading certificate.  Later, they started encapsulating their coins with a small holder, which changed designs many times. Though they are a good, reputable coin grading service, they are less consistent than PCGS and NGC.  That’s not to say that you shouldn’t buy their coins, but you just have to be a bit more careful.  The higher grade/price coins, such as MS65 and above, will often bring less money in an ANACS holder.  The nice thing about ANACS coins, is that if you play your cards right, you can sometimes get a coin just as nice as any PCGS or NGC graded coin at a lower price

ANACS Certified Holder

4.  ICG (Independent Coin Graders)

ICG, the newest of the bunch, was started in 1998 and stands for Independent Coin Graders.  They have niche since they have fast turnaround times and cheaper pricing than the top grading services.  They also have no minimum submissions, meaning that you can just submit one coin to get graded.  They also have changed holder designs a few times.  There holders used to easily get nicks in the plastic, leaving little white marks on the holder.  Often this would be on the face of the coin, which would somewhat ruin the eye appeal of the coin.  Grading is pretty similar to ANACS overall.  They are not nearly as popular as PCGS or NGC or even ANACS, so you don’t see too many of these holders out there.  As with ANACS, you have to be more careful buying ICG graded coins, but if you do your homework, it is possible to get a coin on par with PCGS or NGC at a lower price.

ICG Certified HolderOverall, PCGS and NGC stand alone in terms of accurate grading, consistency and popularity.  ANACS and ICG are distant 3rd and 4th places in terms of popularity, but are still reputable grading services.  The golden rule of certified coins is to buy the coin, not the holder.  However, If you are looking specifically for investment coins, your best bet is to stick with PCGS and NGC.

What are your thoughts on the top grading services and which is your favorite?  Let us know in the comments below!

Rating: 9.3. From 7 votes. Show votes.
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  1. Third Party Grading in a plastic sealed Holder start on 1984 by Accugrade and the owner is Mr ALAN HAGER a professional master coin grader in Numismatic World. The PCGS owner David Hall paid 100,000.00 US dollars to Mr. ALAN HAGER for his expertise and his PATENT. PCGS start 1986 follow by NGC on 1987. Mr. ALAN HAGER of ACG is the man authenticated/certified slab the very first 11c cent piece doubled denomination 1995 Penny On Dime ACG-MINT at BALTIMORE CONVENTION CENTER COIN SHOW IN MARYLAND OF MARCH 2000. LARGE CROWD. This is after all TPG failed to convince me to authenticate and certified it on the early year of 1996 to the end of 1999. During my visit to NGC Bourse table in Baltimore, Maryland, I was told that they are not yet certifying any coin error but my double denomination is great coin error. This is the tall man with a pony tail hair. AN HONEST GOOD LOOKING MAN OF NGC.. – THE TRUTH NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH.

  2. PCGS is the best grading service but I also give props to NGC as I personally don’t collect NGC coins but they have come a long way over the years. Both are good services but anything else doesn’t hold the same standards. If I didn’t buy expensive coins, I wouldn’t be so picky with the certification company. I want my coins to hold as much value as possible and anything other than NGC and PCGS nobody trusts. Accugrade was a laughable company with the grading of their coins. I will give them kudos for trying, but they had no idea what they were doing in the grading department.

    • PCGS certified Freaking NAIL with a Grade of MS 65 are you expecting another Freaking NAIL with more Higher Grade or Lower Grade of this Big/BS Freaking NAIL not even a Coin Error but NAIL ! I they they are Stupid on what they are doing now with the Hobby of a King for Coin Collection Only Not for Freaking NAIL !

    • So they certified the nail coin? It was a U.S. Mint error struck from U.S. dies. What’s wrong with that? So you are saying that when grease or a foreign object gets on a die causing a struck-thru error, that they shouldn’t certify the coin then?

    • Did you ever see and read the Lawsuit filed by Accugrade against all the vultures and Shark in a Hobby of a King. It was settled in favor of Accugrade ! Boom ! They Hit the Mega Million or Powerball and Retired!

  3. NGC also certifying Waffled Coin as Cancelled Coin. I do not think this trash will be certified because is not Legitimate Coin Error anymore that is why Cancelled as NO Monetary Value as Numismatic because it was declare by US Mint as Cancelled that is why a Waffled Coin called it on a Numismatist term just my honest opinion.. Waffled Coinnis not belong to Hobby of a King like Freaking NAIL that was certified by PCGS MS 65! This two top TPG look like they ruin the Hobby of a King!

  4. The Good News when Accugrade filed a Lawsuit against the BIG Four and other Individual coin collectors they are all loss and settled it in favor of Accugrade! 1995 Penny On Dime -ACG MINT Holder was auctioned on eBay worldwide with over 24,000 + viewer recieved so many offer of 30k, 50,k, 100,k up to Seven Million US Dollars on a Coin Forum of PCGSCollector Universe they message me How I am doing with my auction My Reply So FAR with 2 days more to go I received an offer from the land of Disneyworld of Seven Million US dollars! What ? I DECKINED that offer !

    • If Accugrade is so great, then why are they no longer in business? You can’t be serious! The only reason you are hyping Accugrade is because of your “Penny on Dime Planchet” which is even labeled wrong. It’s not on a dime planchet, it’s on a struck dime. They couldn’t even get the error designation correct. My advice to you is to get it graded by one of the top two (PCGS or NGC) and then auction it off if you want top dollar. In that holder, it’s going to be even debatable if the coin is authentic. If you really got a 7 million dollar offer, the guy was obviously joking. I hope you know this. I could easily go on ebay and offer $50,000,000 for a coin. That doesn’t mean that I am going to do it!! Only legitimate offers on ebay would be when you actually submit an offer with a binding contract such as the “Make Offer’ option on ebay. That guy was just sending you a message to get a rise out of you! If you get an offer over $3,000, I would take the money and RUN!

    • They charge on average $20 per coin. However to be able to submit coins you need to become a member. If you are a member of the American Numismatic Association, NGC offers a free membership with submission privileges. The submission cost is higher for gold coins and coins with a value of more than $2,000.

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