By time the frenzy from the 19th century Gold Rush in California had settled into a more common event, coin collecting took its place as the new rush. Coins were bought and sold and the price of coins was determined by condition and rarity. Subjective and opinionated values led to disagreements of the worth of a coin, and the need for a proper grading system arose.

The previous estimates of a coin’s worth included designations of “Good,” “Fine,” and “Uncirculated.” The coin market grew rapidly and these vague labels were no longer appropriate for pricing coins. The list was enlarged to incorporate levels such as “Very Fine” and “Extra Fine” yet the confusion gained ground. In 1948, expert numismatist Dr. William Sheldon created his own scale assigning the numbers 1 through 70 to add to the already established grades. The numeric system was combining to create an alphanumeric system of grading.

Sheldon’s Scale

Sheldon’s Scale propelled coin grading into the most accurate system of evaluation since coin collecting became popular. However, the quandary of personal opinion and skewered opinion caused the system to remain fallible. By 1985, coin experts decided they needed to address the confusion among coin grading and work together to establish specific standards and educational training to create professional graders. After many meetings, this group of professional numismatists drafted a blueprint for organizing and monitoring the coin grading system. From this initial plan came the Professional Coin Grading Service, which began serving coin collectors on February 3, 1986.

PCGS is part of Collector’s Universe, Inc. and they have evolved from coin grading services to include grading for highly valued collectables such as autographs, memorabilia, rare stamps, trading cards, and other rare collectables. PCGS includes many coin dealers and rare collectable shops, and this association lets customers know the dealer offers trustworthy and properly graded coins. Consumers who purchase PCGS graded coinage have the confidence that they are receiving an accurately graded and thus properly priced coin.

PCGS Graded Coins

More than 25 million coins have been professionally graded by PCGS and this represents millions of dollars worth of coins bought and sold by coin collectors knowing they can be confident the grading of each coin is accurate and certified. PCGS coins buy and sell for higher prices than coins not certified. When PCGS receives coins, each individual coin goes through a precise system of grading. Coins are handled by experts and care is taken to preserve the condition of the coin. Representatives treat the coins they grade as if they are their own.

A PCGS Graded American Silver Eagle

A PCGS Graded American Silver Eagle

Graders work independent of each other and they study the condition, physical state of the coin, any signs of wear, and they look for imperfections. There are always two or more graders who inspect each coin, and when finished, they enter the results in the computer system’s database for comparison. The coin is not assigned an official grade until a consensus is reached. Much research is done and there are numerous resources provided to PCGS graders for reference and historical comparison of previously graded similar coins.