Homepage / Bullion Investment Basics: Graded Coins

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Last Updated on 05/26/2024

Graded Coins & Bullion

The Sheldon Scale for Graded Bullion

"Graded Coins" are coins certified by a grading service, encased in protective plastic called "coin slabs," indicating their physical condition and appearance.

The most important thing to know about Graded Coins is what determines its value.  Numismatic grading services use the Sheldon Scale to determine a coin's quality.

The Sheldon Scale has become an industry standard after William Sheldon, a numismatist, created it for grading coins in the late 1940s.

The Sheldon Scale is a widely used tool in the coin industry, aiding dealers, collectors, and investors in accurately assessing the value of coins.

Investors looking for graded bullion coins with the best investment value only need to concern themselves with the higher grades of the Sheldon Scale because any bullion coin with a grade lower than MS-68 isn't worth much more than the intrinsic value of the coin. (MS = Mint State)

2010 Chinese Panda Bullion Coin - PCGS Gem BU
  • Perfect Uncirculated (MS-70) The finest quality coin, showing no marks, blemishes or wear.  A coin with no post-production imperfections at 5x magnification.  Bullion coins with this grading are of the finest quality and have the highest prices.

  • Choice Uncirculated (MS-69) An above average Uncirculated coin which may have a few light marks.

  • Brilliant Uncirculated (BU) Original state from a Mint, although the coin may have some slight imperfections or blemishes.  (Click here to learn more about the BU grading designation from PCGS.)

Premiums on Graded Bullion

Graded bullion coins that hold high premiums are bullion coins with low mintage figures, toned bullion coins, error bullion coins, and bullion coins with a perfect grading of MS-70.

All of these factors make a coin rarer and gives it a numismatic value with a higher premium.   In addition, the coin will carry the same high premium when it is resold.

American Eagle silver graded bullion coins, often carry lower premiums than other graded bullion coins because US silver eagle bullion coins are mass-produced.  

The American Silver Eagle proof and un-circulated graded coins are more sought after graded coins, than the bullion version.

This is why grading services specify "First Strike" on the graded American Silver Eagles to bring rarity to the bullion version of the coin.

Graded Gold and Platinum American Eagle bullion coins, often have premiums closer to their collector's edition counterparts.

Graded "Silver" Bullion Coins from countries other than the United States often carry higher premiums.

For instance, China's Silver Panda, Australia's Silver Lunar, Mexico's Silver Libertad and the UK's Silver Britannia bullion coins are minted in limited production and a lot less of them are graded, giving them a higher premium than the American Silver Eagle.

Note: Graded American Eagle Silver bullion coins and Graded American Eagle Silver "Un-Circulated" coins look very similar to one another.  

The one difference is the "Un-Circulated" version has the "W" Mint Mark on the reverse side, where the bullion version of the coin has no Mint Mark.

Limited Edition Graded Bullion

Third party grading services will often issue limited editions of graded bullion coins.

These limited editions come in the form of signed graded bullion coins, Early Released coins, or First Strike coins. 

By far, signed graded coin slabs offer those investing in graded bullion coins the highest of premiums.

Coin designers or those associated with the mint that produced the coin are the most common of signatories.

Some of the names observed on these coins include John Mercanti, who was the 12th Chief Engraver at the United States Mint, Edmund Moy, a former director of the United States Mint, or Emily Damstra who is the current Master Designer at the United States Mint.

Celebrities and Sports Figures signatures are also found on signed graded coin slabs which make these coins worth in many more times their original price.

If you are in search of these bullion coins the be sure the coin was graded by PCGS or NGC the top two coin grading companies, their coin slabs are the most trusted in the industry.

In every case, if you are in search of a signed coin, the more ways you can prove the authenticity of the signatory's signature, the better.

Third Party
Coin Grading Services

There are four well known and respected coin grading services that collectors look for when they want to purchase a graded coin.

The Top Four Grading Services are:

  • PCGS - Professional Coin Grading Service
  • NGC - Numismatic Guaranty Corporation
  • ANACS - American Numismatic Association Certification Service
  • ICG - Independent Coin Graders
Four Graded Bullion Coins from ICG, ANACS, NGC, PCGS

The two most prevalent coin grading services are PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) and NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation).

ANACS (American Numismatic Association Certification Service) is considered the third leading service, and is credible, but does not carry the market acceptance or liquidity of the other two.

IGC (Independent Coin Graders) is considered the fourth largest coin grading service.

Due to PCGS's and NGC's recognition among the coin grading community, any coin graded by these two companies garner the highest premiums.

In 2007, the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) published a report about grading services and standards.

The survey indicated the professional opinions of numismatists that buy and sell coins.  

No grading service was listed as "outstanding". PCGS and NGC were ranked as "superior". ANACS and ICG were ranked as "good."

PCGS - Professional Coin Grading Service is the most respected name in third party grading companies.

PCGS 2024 MS70 Silver Eagle

PCGS guarantees grading accuracy and authenticity for each coin they encapsulate.

PCGS graders are a selected group of numismatic experts.

PCGS experts work independently in a controlled environment that provides optimum conditions for studying the characteristics and physical condition of each coin.

A series of graders enter independent determinations into a computer database until a consensus is reached and the final grade is assigned.

Graded coins, especially those in PCGS holders, earn more trust and the highest premiums.

PCGS standardized grading system has forever changed the process of buying and selling coins, increasing confidence in buyers and sellers around the world.

Below is a Video from PCGS; it goes into further detail explaining their Coin Grading Process

NGC - Numismatic Guaranty Corporation was founded in 1987 NGC and has grown to become a leader in third party grading services.

NGC - 2023 Gold Eagle MS70

To ensure impartiality and accuracy, three numismatic experts, evaluate each coin submitted for grading.

A grading finalizer assigns a final grade and the coin is then sealed in a protective, inert plastic holder.

NGC's full-time grading experts are impartial and are not associated with any commercial coin marketplace.

Furthermore, NGC's grading experts are prohibited from buying or selling coins the companies graded coins.

NGC was the first independent third-party certification and grading service to certify a broad range of world coins. 

NGC grades most US coins, tokens and medals, in addition to coins from around the world.

Below is a Video from NGC; it goes into further detail explaining their Coin Grading Process

ANACS - American Numismatic Association Certification Service is America’s Oldest Grading Service, ANACS was founded in 1972.

ms70 anacs silver eagle

The company was created by the American Numismatic Association (ANA).

The ANA is a century old, non-profit educational association for collectors of coins, tokens, medals and paper money.

In the early 1970s, the ANA board of governors recognized that something significant needed to be done about the counterfeit and altered coins that were plaguing the coin community.

Their solution was ANACS, the American Numismatic Association Certification Service. ANACS certified its first coin as genuine, on June 15, 1972.

Starting out as the first third party grading service, ANACS graded coins with a given grade for each side of the coin, obverse and reverse.

ANACS also issued a photo certificate showing both sides of the coin with its grade. They would then leave specific comments about the graded coin for the customer.

In 1989 ANACS discontinued photo certificates and began encapsulating coins in tamper resistant plastic holders, realizing this brought the greatest investment value to their customers.

icg graded silver eagle

ICG - Independent Coin Graders is a third party grading company.

It guarantees that all coins submitted to its grading service will be handled and graded with the highest standards of professionalism for proper coin appraisal.

ICG provides an unbiased coin grading service. Coins are anonymously submitted to ICG through a third party receiving company.

To ensure impartiality ICG owners, graders and employees are prohibited from buying or selling coins themselves.

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