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Graded and Certified Coins

Coins that have been assigned a grade and authenticated by a major grading service may be referred to as certified or graded coins. While there is a lot of confusion it seems when it comes to grading coins, the process is not as complicated as many think. Although there are different grading services available, for learning purposes here we will focus on coins graded and certified by the NGC or Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.

Why Are Coins Certified or Graded?

The grading and certification of coins does serve a very important purpose. The idea behind this process is to determine a coin’s true market value based on several factors including mintage, wear and tear, imperfections and other factors. A certified coin can carry additional value as the coin has been examined by a third party coin grading expert who authenticates the coin. Having coins graded and/or certified can be especially important for coin collectors.

The Coin Grading Process

Different grading services have different grading processes but the main idea remains the same — determining the condition and market value of a coin. The process is fairly straightforward. Again, for simplicity, we will focus on the NGC’s grading process. When one is looking to have coins graded, they will send the coins in to NGC. The process is then comprised of four steps. These steps are receiving, grading, encapsulation and shipping.

Receiving and Inspecting the Coin

During the receiving process, coins shipped to NGC will be received by the firm and properly identified making sure that the invoice matches the coin sent in. Once the coins are identified and entered into NGC’s database, they will be given a bar code and stored in secure vaults until they are inspected. Before being graded, coins are also inspected by a numismatist that specializes in variety attributions if the coin has varieties. All grading done is a team effort, and each and every coin will be examined by two professional numismatists. Some coins will be eligible for certification and encapsulation while others will not be. NGC uses a universally accepted grading scale from 1-70 with 1 being poor condition and 70 being perfect, uncirculated condition. Needless to say, the vast majority of coins examined will fall somewhere in between these levels.


Once coins have been graded, they are ready to be encapsulated. During the encapsulation process, the coins will have labels made indicating the coin’s mintmark, denomination, variety if applicable, grade, special designation and identification number. All of this information is also duplicated within a bar code below the coin’s text label. NGC uses a variety of plastic core pieces that are transparent and will hold the coin firmly in place. The labels are then affixed. Once completed, the coins and sleeves are blown free of dust and sealed at the top and bottom with transparent plastic shells.

Final Inspection and Shipment

Once this process is completed, the coins are now ready for shipping. Before shipping, however, coins are returned to the grading department for another final inspection. Coins and holders will be examined for any scuffs or flaws, and the description will once again be checked to make sure it matches the coin. Once completed, the coin is ready to be shipped out. Coins are shipped out in heavy duty cardboard boxes with dividers so that coins do not touch each other. In addition, a wire-laden tape is used to close the box and help prevent unauthorized opening. All parcels are sent out via registered and insured service via USPS or private carrier.

Why Buy Graded Coins

Graded coins are certified to be authentic and in a specific condition. Because of this, one can purchase graded coins with peace of mind knowing exactly what they are getting. In addition, graded coins are very secure and protected following the encapsulation process. This process will help keep your coins in great condition for many years to come. The grading process also can give one the best idea of real market value for a coin. While some companies may have a slightly different process, what we have outlined here is a good general outline of the grading process.