Professional Coin Grading Service

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Professional Coin Grading Service
Founded California, U.S. (1985)
Founders David Hall, Silvano DiGenova, and five other coin dealers
Headquarters 1921 E. Alton Avenue, Santa Ana, California 92705
Products coin certification services and supplies, memberships and subscriptions

Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) is a rare coin grading and authentication service founded in 1985. The intent of the seven founding dealers, including the firm's president David Hall, was to standardize grading.[1] The firm has divisions in Europe and Asia, and is owned is owned by parent company Collectors Universe. PCGS cofounder Silvano DiGenova was the lone creator of PCGS's grading standards via his assemblage of its grading set of coins, which are still in use and "widely accepted".[2] PCGS has graded over 30 million coins valued at over $29 billion.[3]

An early PCGS slab


PCGS has offered various services during its history, including special label programs, "First Strike" designations, Secure Plus, Tru View (high quality coin photography), and numerous certification service levels (priced according to coins' values).[4]Coins that are improperly cleaned, doctored, damaged, or otherwise impaired will not be numerically graded by PCGS but will still be certified as genuine or given "details" grades.

Coin holders[edit]

The current PCGS holder (aka slab) is made of clear, inert plastic and is designed to be stackable. Anti-counterfeiting measures include a holographic emblem on the back, the design of which has changed over time. The current design depicts the name "PCGS" and a Saint Gaudens double eagle. Printed on the front of the blue paper insert is the coin's type, denomination, grade, and unique serial number and barcode.[5]

First-generation PCGS coin holders are smaller and lack the raised stackable edges of later issues. Their insert was printed on plain white paper. In some of these early holders, the coin will be loose enough to produce noise when the holder is handled, thus their "rattler" nickname.

The appearance of counterfeit holders in August 1989 led PCGS to introduce a redesigned holder with a holographic emblem next to their logo on the back. In part due to subsequent holder counterfeiting, several minor redesigns have occurred,[6] including a transition from the original light green labels to blue ones. PCGS was at one point named the official grading service of the Professional Numismatic Guild; during that time, the PNG logo was included on the back as part of its holographic design. This design was replaced with a different one when PNG switched their affiliation to NGC.[7]

Population report[edit]

PCGS maintains a census of all coins they have graded since their inception, revealing each coin's date, mint mark, and die variety, as well as striking designations such as "prooflike" for Morgan dollars and "full bands" for Mercury dimes. Access to this report is available to dealers and paid members of the PCGS Collectors Club, an annual membership service that allows non-dealers to submit coins directly to PCGS. The report is updated daily on their website, though a discontinued printed version was published at monthly intervals.[8][9]

Analysis of the report, and a similar report published by NGC, has allowed numismatists to estimate the rarity of specific coins. Over time these two data bases have revealed some coins once thought rare to be remarkably common, whereas others thought more common have shown to be likely few in number. The population reports are followed closely by numismatic professionals, who recognize that population numbers can be inflated through multiple submissions of the same coins broken out of their holders and resubmitted with the hope of receiving a higher grade. Population figures can also be artificially low due to the reluctance to submit common coins of little value for a service that costs more than the coins are worth.[10]

Coin Facts[edit]

PCGS maintains, the "single source of information on U.S. coins", by paid subscription only. The site publishes information about all federal and most non-federal U.S. coin issues, including their rarity statistics, PCGS Price Guide values (with more prices listed than in the free version), population data, public auction performances, die varieties, and photographs.[11]

Price Guide[edit]

PCGS publishes a free, partial online list of U.S. and foreign coin values. The values listed are for PCGS-certified coins and are compiled from dealer advertisements and price lists, auction prices realized, and trade show transactions.[12][13]

Set Registry[edit]

Another PCGS innovation was the 2001 establishment of its free PCGS Set Registry program, which includes an online leader board that allowed collectors to compete against each other in thousands of potential sets composed of PCGS-graded coins. Over 72,000 sets are now hosted.[14] Each coin in a set is given a value computed by its relative scarcity.[15] A version of the Registry was also adopted by PCGS' main competitor, NGC.[16]


In the May 26, 2003 edition of Coin World, the hobby newspaper had announced they had contracted investigators to conduct a year-long, comparative study of PCGS, ACCGS, NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation) and several other grading services, each known as a Third Party Grader (TPG). In their investigation, several of the same coins were sent to each grading service over the course of a year, each graded by all Third Party Graders sent to. Their findings: In no case did the grading services agree on the grade of the many coins sent in, and in some cases the difference in grading was seven points off on the standard Sheldon coin grading scale of 1 to 70. The Coin World article cited several cases, noting that ACCGS had correctly identified that some coins had been cleaned while the other services had overlooked this aspect. According to later studies by Coin World in June 2014, PCGS had failed to note on their holders that thousands of shipwreck coins had been cleaned, although the coins slabbed by PCGS had been encrusted with sea debris and barnacles, and subsequently cleaned in acid baths prior to grading by PCGS.

It is standard for professional numismatic dealers to note when coins have been cleaned or treated in acid baths. Not doing is often considered unprofessional and unethical by most professional numismatists, according to Coin World's May, 2003 articles. Further, in U.S. Numismatics, it is standard to grade coins on a point-scale from 1 (poor) to 70 (perfect) and to note on the coin holder if a coin has been cleaned or poorly mishandled, or in many cases, to reject it for encapsulation or "slabbing" if the coins have been cleaned harshly." In September 2004, members of the American Numismatic Association reported seeing counterfeit PCGS slabs at the Long Beach Coin Show.[original research?] More were reported on eBay in the years following,[original research?] but PCGS did not address the issue until March 27, 2008 with the following acknowledgments on the PCGS website:

PCGS notes that the counterfeit PCGS holders are well-executed, but with minor differences from a genuine holder. PCGS anticipates that authentic coins will eventually be placed into counterfeit PCGS holders in the future, perhaps with elevated grades and/or inappropriate designators. The following list of coins and certificate numbers have been seen in fake PCGS holders: China (1916) Silver Dollar, Y-332, Cert #10712316 (valid) China (1923) Silver Dollar, K-677, Cert #11354470 (valid) China (1923) Silver Dollar, K-678, Cert #11285683 (valid) China (1923) Silver Dollar, Y-336.1, Cert #13835186 (valid) China Republic (1912) 20 Cents, Cert #21981173 (invalid) China (1916) Gold Dollar, Pn-44, Cert # 11072163 (invalid) China (1923) Gold Dollar, Tsao Kun, K-677, Cert #11354470 (invalid spec, valid cert�used above) US 1858-O Half Dollar, Cert #03884338 (valid) US 1800 Silver Dollar, Cert #03859118 (valid) US 1795 Silver Dollar, Off-Center Bust, Cert #22030856 (valid) Mexico 1761-MoMM 8 Reales, Cert #05763936 (valid) "Valid" means that the correct information shows up under Cert Verification."

The above listing consists of only the counterfeits known or reported by PCGS as of March, 2008. Other PCGS counterfeit holders have been reported in eBay forums and more may be reported by other firms and individuals, since PCGS anticipates that authentic coins will eventually be placed into counterfeit PCGS holders, and counterfeit holders may multiply and improve over time.[original research?] PCGS offers no reimbursement liability for the prices paid for coins in their counterfeit holders. PCGS has an online link to verify the Cert numbers. On January 7, 2008 Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) posted a notice on their website that high-quality counterfeits of their holders had been purchased on eBay : "Most frequently Trade Dollars and Bust Dollars are found, although Flowing Hair Dollars and foreign coins have also been seen. A range of grades is also represented." Caution is advised by Coin World when purchasing coins in PCGS and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) holders as the seller can disclaim liability due to the "third party" nature of the counterfeit holder.

In 1990 the Federal Trade Commission filed a civil action against PCGS alleging exaggerated advertising claims. A settlement was reached in which PCGS did not admit wrongdoing but agreed to submit its advertising for review for five years, and include a disclaimer in its ads. [17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laibstain, Harry. Investing, collecting & trading in certified commemoratives: an in-depth analysis of gold & silver issues 1892-1954. DLRC Press, 1995, p. 12.
  2. ^ "Silvano DiGenova". Zoom Info. Retrieved 2015-05-21. 
  3. ^ "Our Experts". PCGS Coin Facts. Retrieved 2015-05-21. 
  4. ^ "PCGS Returns First Strike® Inserts to Collector Club Members". Retrieved 2015-05-21. 
  5. ^ "PCGS Announces". Retrieved 2015-05-21. 
  6. ^ "Fake PCGS Slab Diagnostics". Retrieved 2015-05-21. 
  7. ^ "PCGS Announces". Retrieved 2015-05-21. 
  8. ^ "A Close Look". Coin Week. Retrieved 2015-05-21. 
  9. ^ "Population Reports". Retrieved 2015-05-21. 
  10. ^ "Population Reports". Retrieved 2015-05-21. 
  11. ^ "CoinFacts Website Tour". PCGS Coin Facts. Retrieved 2015-05-21. 
  12. ^ "PCGS Coin Price Guide". Retrieved 2015-05-21. 
  13. ^ "Price Guide". PCGS. Retrieved 2015-05-21. 
  14. ^ "New PCGS Set Registry®". Coin World. Retrieved 2015-05-19. 
  15. ^ "Organize Your Coin Collection Online With the Free PCGS Set Registry". Coin World. Retrieved 2015-05-19. 
  16. ^ "What is a coin set registry?: Collecting Basics". Coin World. Retrieved 2015-05-19. 
  17. ^ "Coin Grading Complaint - New York Times". Aug 17, 1990. Archived from the original on November 7, 2012. 

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