Coin Appraisals and Where to Get Coins Appraised
“Appraisal” refers to an expert estimate as to the value of something. In the highly specialized world of numismatics, there are many dealers qualified to give you a ballpark estimate as to the value of your coin and a few dealers with the expertise to provide you with an authoritative appraisal of a given coin. There are also times when it would behoove you to bypass local dealers and seek the mastery of a grading service such as Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) or Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS).
Finding a Coin Appraiser
If you are an experienced collector, you likely already have a relationship with a local coin dealer you feel you can trust. If you are in that fortunate situation, simply ask your trusted coin dealer for an appraisal. A quick over-the-counter appraisal may even be a free, informal service the dealer provides to build goodwill. Otherwise, look for these signifiers that the coin dealer you find is qualified to provide an appraisal:
- He or she is known among their peers. Someone with no connections in the numismatics community does not have a reputation to protect and may not be interested in building one. See if that dealer is at the next show you attend or if their shop is open in six months.
- The dealer exhibits ethical behavior. If you witness a dealer behave dismissively to the proverbial “little old lady” approaching their counter with a jar of old coins, barely looking at them and offering to purchase the lot at face value, you might ask yourself if this is a person with whom you want to do business. They have just shown that they are looking to take advantage of inexperienced clients.
- They are a member of a professional organization such as Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) or American Numismatic Association. Full members of these organizations commit to fair business practices and have agreed to enter arbitration if there is a dispute over an item they have sold. This gives you recourse if a problem arises from your transaction.
A formal appraisal from a qualified dealer may require that you leave your coin or coins with them for up to a week, and will likely cost in the neighborhood of $50-$100. Remember that an appraisal is generally for replacement value, as in for insurance purposes, and is not necessarily the price you would realize in a private sale.
Going with a Third-Party Grading Service
If you have an especially rare or exceptional coin, you may wish to seek the unparalleled expertise of a third-party grading service. Graded coins have been subjected to a scrupulous, minute inspection that evaluates their condition in tiny increments. Generally speaking, there are five components that determine the grade of a coin: Strike, surface preservation, luster, coloration and eye appeal. Coins are meticulously scrutinized during the process of grading. What appears to be an insignificant flaw to a layman can greatly affect graded coin value. Even when done by experts at the top of their field, there is a factor of subjectivity to coin grading and experts may have slightly different opinions about the grade of a given coin. The best way to minimize subjectivity and maintain exacting standards is to use respected coin grading services such as NGC and PCGS. Certified coins assigned a measured grade by a reputable third-party grading service are referred to as “graded coins.”
There are two specific third-party grading services, NGC and PCGS, that enjoy a worldwide reputation for excellence. Each of these grading services offers exceptional accuracy and trustworthiness.
Professional Coin Grading Service
Thanks to a respected coin grading scale and a reputation for reliability, PCGS graded coins recognize high values in the marketplace. The company offers:
- The PCGS Price Guide as a comprehensive list of PCGS coin values for PCGS-graded coins
- PCGS certification with a money-back guarantee
- PCGS Photograde™ Online to approximate the grade of a coin
Numismatic Guaranty Corporation
NGC is the official grading service of the American Numismatic Association and the Professional Numismatists Guild, establishing NGC coin grading as an industry standard. Other distinctions include:
- The NGC Collectors Society, an online resource and community where members can discuss NGC coin values and NGC coin prices. Members of the NGC Collectors Society pay an annual fee so they can directly submit coins for NGC certification.
- NGC coin grading scale with a special star designation for coins with exceptional eye appeal, increasing NGC coin values
- NGC certification number that can be verified online along with NGC Price Guide Values
Many collectors may favor one or the other of these grading services based on personal tastes or relationships, but APMEX confidently deals with both NGC and PCGS. We respect their consistency and enthusiastically recommend both.
Whether you need an informal appraisal to decide if you want to keep or liquidate a coin, a formal appraisal for insurance purposes or a third-party grade for an exceptional coin, having the most knowledge possible about your coins is always the best way to continue to learn and grow as a numismatist.