Grading Services

For the most part, the grading services do a decent job. Sure, they blow a few grades every now and then (after all, they’re only human…) and their lack of consistency can be infuriating. If I were the Commissioner of All Things Numismatic, what would be some of the things that I would make the services really improve on? 1. The line on AU55 and AU58 gold coins needs to be tighter. A coin in the higher AU grades needs to have a decent amount of natural mint luster present and not be riddled with marks. If a coin is very lustrous but very bagmarked, it shouldn’t be in an AU58 holder. If a coin has less than a third of its luster remaining, it certainly doesn’t deserve to be in a 58 holder.

The line on MS61 and MS62 coins should be tighter as well. Nearly every southern branch mint gold coin that I see in MS61 and MS62 holders has obvious wear. MS61 and MS62 used to be grades that meant a coin is free of wear. This needs to be the case once again.

2. Both services are maddingly inconsistent on their net grade policy. I have no problem with PCGS taking an AU58 coin that has been cleaned at one time and net grading it as an AU50. But this needs to be indicated on the holder. NGC has been a bit better with this but they tend to be inconsistent with this policy as well.

3. Both services need to reward submitters for keeping their coins original. The only way that people will be discouraged from cleaning or dipping nice original coins is if the services give such pieces high grades on their initial submission. I don’t know how many times I’ve had both services send me a subtle hint that the deeply toned, crusty coins I’ve just submitted could grade higher if they were lighter and more “commercial” in appearance. I’ve had to ruin some really nice coins because they wouldn’t work with this sort of original look.

4. The population reports are a disaster. Clean them up!! I don’t expect them to be perfect but I’d like them to be 75-85% accurate. Encourage submitters to redeem their grading inserts. Hire someone smart to go through submission reports and figure out which populations figures are greatly inflated by resubmissions. I contend that the grading services have been very lazy in this respect and that it would not take much effort for them to make their population figures far more accurate.

5. Stop encouraging submitters to destroy original Proof gold coins in order to get Ultra Cameo or Deep Cameo designations. We’ve gotten to the point where there are almost no original brilliant proof gold coins left. They’ve all been destroyed because the grading services have tacitly told submitters that their coins will be regarded as more valuable if they are bright and shiny and fully show contrast between the fields and the devices. By the time tastes revert back to originality, there will be no pieces left that haven’t been sent to NCS or dipped by submitters themselves.

If I had to address a complaint to each service on an individual basis, I would state the following:

To PCGS: Be more numismatic. With the exception of displaying Registry Sets at Long Beach shows, PCGS has done almost nothing to encourage numismatics. How about some original research? Or increasing the numbers of varieties recognized on holders?

To NGC: Change your holder. Let us be able to see the edges of the coins we own. Give the coins more room in their holders and make the background any color other than bright white which is hard to photo and not always easy on the eyes.