First Tier Grading Services:

Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). Newport Beach, CA. Largest grading firm, over 6,000,000 coins graded with value in excess of $6 billion. Considered the #1 service by most coin dealers. Prices are reported weekly in CCDN. The PCGS Population Report is published monthly detailing the grading results of newly submitted coins, as well as the status of existing coins. 

                                                                                 PCGS SECURE PLUS

PCGS also provides as Secure Plus program that designates  plus grades for coins that are in the high end of their grade. Plus grades will be designated for grades EF45 thru MS/PR68, with the exception of MS/PR60 and 61. They estimate that about 15 to 20% of the coins in a particular grade will be plus grade coins. 

To potentially earn the PCGC Plus grades, you have to submit in these rather expensive categories: Ultra rarities, 2-5 days turnaround, $600 fee; rarities, $200,000 maximum value, 2-5 days turnaround, $250; Walkthrough (in house), $100,000 maximum value, 2 days turnaround, $125; Express, $20,000 maximum value, 5 days turnaround, $65; reholder, $20,000 maximum value, 10-12 days turnaround, $20. (There are show express, show and show gold fees, too.) PCGS's new service takes a photographic fingerprint of coins to see if they have been submitted before to the company and possibly altered as well as having anti-counterfeiting features incorporated in the new holder.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC). Parsippany, NJ. Smaller firm approximately 3,000,000 coins graded. Popular with gold coin investors. Not recommended for buyers of copper coins due to fact they will not guarantee the condition of the copper coin from deteriorating in their holder. Prices reported weekly in CCDN. The NGC Census is published quarterly detailing grading results and coin status.

NGC uses two important symbols that, when applicable, appear after the numerical grade in order to describe the coin in greater detail. They are the plus and the star.
                                                                                     PLUS DESIGNATION

NGC assigns a to coins at the high end of their assigned grade, approaching the quality requirements for the next grade. In addition to their superior technical merit, coins receiving a plus designation must have above-average eye appeal. For example, a coin graded NGC MS 64 is close to the quality of a coin graded NGC MS 65. The is synonymous with the term "PQ" or "Premium Quality."

Not all coins are eligible for plus designations. Coins grading from XF 45 to MS 68 or PF 45 to PF 68 may receive a plus designation while lower- and higher-grade coins cannot. Additionally, the plus is only assigned to United States coins from 1792 to 1964. Coins must be submitted for grading to receive this designation.

                                                                                      STAR DESIGNATION

NGC assigns a to coins with exceptional eye appeal for their assigned grade. Eye appeal is the most subjective attribute of a coin, but there are norms and standards shared by numismatists. Exceptional eye appeal may include attributes such as vibrant, colorful toning; intense luster; or, in the case of Proof coins, especially strong cameo contrast. To receive a star designantion coins must be free of any obvious planchet irregularities, and display no bothersome spots or blemishes. Toned coins can be of a single color or multicolored but cannot have any areas that are dark brown, approaching black.

Itís important to remember that designated coins can fall anywhere within the grades to which they are assigned. For example, an MS 64-graded coin could be at the lower end, mid-range or higher end of that grade. NGC applies the star designation qualifying US coins in its normal course of grading. It is not used for non-US coins. As they are already of the ultimate grade, any coin graded MS 70 or PF 70 will not be eligible for the star designation. Coins already certified by NGC can be resubmitted and reviewed for using the Designation Review Service.


Collector's Acceptance Corporation (CAC). Far Hills, NJ. Technically, CAC is not a grading services but an ancillary service that "verifies" the grade that has been assigned by either PCGS or NGC.  The founders of CAC are the same principals who founded NGC and state the purpose is to identify coins that are "solid" for the grade, recognizing the evolution of the grading expertise from 1985 to the present. This "grading of the graders" process is a constant activity due to the submission of rare coins that have been in collections for decades that have never been graded by either service or coins that were graded under extremely strict or conversely very loose standards over the history of PCGS and NGC. CAC coins are identified by a green "CAC" oval sticker placed on the coin holder and they also trade at a premium in most markets.

ANACS. Columbus, OH. The letters do not stand for anything. Formerly , they stood for the initials of the American Numismatic Association Certification Service. The ANA sold the service to Amos Press in 1991, which now uses the same letters its the grading service. Prices are reported one a month in a supplement to CCDN.