I was recently asked this question and I thought it might be something to share with all of you:
When you have a couple of minutes, hoping you can shed some light on the topic of grading as I begin to dive deeper and deeper into the coin collecting waters.
My main confusion has to do with letter or verbal grades of raw coins, vs. the Sheldon scale graded and NGC/PCGS slabbed coins. Specifically with regard to grades MS60-MS65, can you fill-in the missing unique mini acronyms after UNC so I have something that represents each of the MS grades accurately?
MS61 BU, UNC,
MS62 BU, UNC,
MS63 Choice Unc, Choice BU,
MS64 Choice Unc, Choice BU,
MS65 Gem Unc, Gem BU
What this comes down to is how to deal with dealer graded raw coins in those stapled square carded holders when the only descriptions are AU, UNC, and BU? Having clear and uniquely definitive, universally accepted, mini acronyms for all (6) of these grades would seem to be an ideal scenario. Can it be done?
If it comes down to having to settle for the same acronym for two or more numbered grades, what’s a prospective coin buyer supposed to do? Wouldn’t it be expected that the average informed buyer would declare the coin as being MS61 for example if both MS61 and 62 carried the same acronym BU? How is a collector supposed to determine reasonable price range of coins slab graded MS61 and MS62 using the grey sheet with the gap between MS60 – MS63?
SO HERE’S MY RESPONSE:
The Sheldon grading system when introduced was frowned upon by old time dealers and collectors. It was considered too exact and no coin could be graded easily that exactly. Over time it has become the accepted standard and for a novice or intermediate collector/dealer it is what is used. Unless you are an advanced collector/dealer that can grade coins precisely, my suggestion is stick to certified coins as the earlier used unc, BU , choice BU, Gem Bu system is not precise in today’s market. Really rare coins can have huge value swings based on grade. It is for that reason, unless you are experienced enough to grade coins yourself accurately, or you can trust the person you are dealing with to grade raw coins accurately, you should only buy certified coins that have been graded from preferably either PCGS or NGC.
Value wise, generally MS 61 graded coins are priced comparably to MS 60 coins and only are a small premium if the coin is truly rare. An MS62 is as well just a small premium over MS60 and should not be considered to be worth halfway between 60 and 63.
Many experienced collectors/dealers have made a livelihood finding under graded coins (both raw and certified) and buying them and certifying them at a higher grade, sometimes increasing their values tremendously. Only the experts can do this consistently and profitably. If your not good at this, you can loose a lot of money quickly.
There have been many “wanna a be” coin dealers that have come and gone over the years that thought this was an easy way to make money. I have seen many crash and burn.
Unless you are going to make it a full time profession and are talented enough to be successful, the best advice is to buy from reputable dealers and lean toward certified coins until you feel comfortable grading coins yourself. The more coins you look at the easier it will be to understand the fine subtleties of grading rare coins.
Hope this has been of help, Rob