Third Party Coin Grading companies came about from a need to have an unbiased opinion on the authenticity of rare and expensive coins. Counterfeit coins have been a concern throughout the history of coins as well as with paper money. Coin collecting has brought in a new factor to counterfeiting, and as prices rise with the popularity of coin collecting more counterfeit coins have been made by those less scrupulous people to take advantage of the less suspecting collectors.
This is not the only service that Third Party Coin Grading companies perform. They also determine if there are “problems” with the coin. These “problems” typically have to do with adjustments to the coins natural state that affects the appearance of the coin. Not the change of a mint mark or the date; such alterations fall under the authenticity state of the coin. “Problems” may be a condition factor beyond the scope of usual grading or have to do with efforts to try to make the coin look more appealing perhaps it has been: improper cleaned, polished, “whizzed” (which is a term used for a coin that has been subjected to some sort of buffing machine), scratched, bent, or damaged are some of the most common.
Then there is the actual grading in which the ideas and process to achieve a unified assessment is covered in more detail in our previous article. The idea of have a standard in grading has become more crucial over the years and with more sellers and buyers using forums, like the internet, to by coins. Without being able to handle them for themselves an accurate and reliable grading is essential.
There may be as many as a hundred different companies who encapsulate coins in sealed slabs with cards indicating a grade and mintage information. Not all of these are actually Third Party Coin Grading companies. Slabs are readily available on the market therefore anyone can buy them, label them and seal them. Some are dealers, and may have their own best interests in mind, others are individuals with their own agendas, and then there are the companies providing a grading service. All of these have various levels of experience and consistency of appraising coins.
There are two well established and respected companies which are not grading companies but are relevant as far as related services that someone who is looking to have a professional grade their coins.
The CAC (Certified Acceptance Corporation) is not affiliated with any company. Their sticker indicates they have verified the authenticity and the grade of third party graded encapsulated coin is in the middle or high end of the indicated grade. There are numerous dealers through whom a coin or coins can be submitted to by a member. Full details can be found on their website.
Another well established entity is the NGS (Numismatic Conservation Service) which is the official conservation service of the ANA (American Numismatic Association). This is not a coin repair company and do not employ any deceitful practices on the coins they receive. However when a coin has been effected by poor treatment and is tarnished, spotted, stained, effected by PCV or otherwise discolored or corroding they can employ safe methods to remove such blemishes and encapsulate the coin in order to protect it from further deterioration. They do not grade coins. They do label the coin with its type and mintage then also include information as to the coins “problem”.
A lot of research has been done by individuals and organizations about Third Party Coin Grading companies and there is a good chance you can find information about the company that has graded and slabbed a coin you are interested in buying. The scope of all these companies is beyond this article but a lot of slabbing companies are inconsistent, over grade, and sometimes both. There are some top notch Third Party Coin Grading companies. PCGS, NGS, ANACS, and a newer company ICG have managed to obtain and sustain reputations of dependability. More will be mentioned in the following article: “Top Coin Grading Companies”.