Coin collectors frequently use coin grading services to authenticate and grade their coins to establish their value and certify the grading results. Part of that process involves returning the graded coins in a tamper-resistant case called a slab that includes a coded label with the grading information.
PCGS and NGC Services
The two largest and most widely recognized services are the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). Both use similar labels that list a description of the coin and the appraised grade. They also include a numerical and bar or QR code that refer back to the details about the individual coin on the company’s database.
Color Coding Labels
While this is all relatively straightforward and understandable, some confusion has developed recently since both services have introduced color coding for special types of coins. For NGC, these are coins that don’t fit into standard grading categories—first and early releases, flawed details, and ancient coins, for example.
PCGS has introduced color-coded labels for commemorative coins (U.S. Marshall’s Service 225th Anniversary and 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame among them) as well as a special label to commemorate the 30th anniversary of PCGS itself.
These labels are a quick way to identify special grading situations (NGS) or special events (PCGS), but don’t necessarily indicate the coin’s value. Most coins graded by NGS will continue to have the familiar brown label and most PCGS slabs will carry the standard labels with bar or QR coding.
Coin Grading As a Whole
Ultimately, labels simply state information, and some of it is subjective, especially when it comes to coin grading. While the better-known grading services go to elaborate lengths to ensure the accuracy of their assessments, it’s still possible that other professionals may disagree with them. That’s why it’s important to understand the process and details of coin grading and its pitfalls. There are several good sources on grading information, including this YouTube video titled “Buy the Coin, Not the Holder.”
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Gary Dyner is the owner of Great American Coin Company. Connect with him on Google+.