Grade, the condition or state of wear of a coin, is one of the main determining factors of a coin's value. In the modern era a very small difference in grade could mean a very large difference in price.

For this reason we recommend you buy certified coins in holders called "slabs". Buying certified coins can provide a measure of security and lessen your chances of buying an over-graded, doctored or counterfeit coin. There are around a dozen coin certification services in the United States. Westminster Mint only recommends coins certified by the top 4 third party coin grading services PCGS, NGC, ICG and ANACS. These are all widely respected and nationally known services and are considered to be industry leaders.
 
Mint state coins are coins struck for circulation that never went into circulation. They are graded on a 10 point scale from Mint state 60 - mint state 70
 

MS70 - The perfect coin. Has very attractive sharp strike and original luster of the highest quality for the date and mint. No contact marks are visible under magnification. There are no noticeable hairlines, scuff marks, or defects. Eye appeal is attractive and outstanding.

MS69 - Has very attractive and full original luster for the date and mint, with no more than two small none detracting contact marks or flaws. No hairlines or scuff marks can be seen. Has exceptional eye appeal.

MS68 - Has attractive sharp strike and full original luster for the date and mint, with no more than four light scattered contact marks or flaws. No hairlines or scuff marks show. Has exceptional eye appeal.

MS67 - Has original luster and normal strike for date and mint. May have three or four very small contact marks and one more noticeable but not detracting mark. On comparable coins, one or two small single hairlines may show, or one or two minor scuff marks or flaws may be present. Eye appeal is above average.

MS66 - Has above average quality of surface and mint luster, with no more than three or four minor or noticeable contact marks. A few light hairlines may show under magnification, or there may be one or two light scuff marks showing. Eye appeal is above average and very pleasing for the date and mint.

MS65 - Shows an attractive high quality of luster and strike for the date and mint. May have a few small scattered contact marks, or two larger marks may be present. One or two small patches of hairlines may show. Noticeable light scuff marks may be seen on the high points of the design. Overall quality is above average and eye appeal is very pleasing.

MS64 - Has at least average luster for strike for the type. Several small contact marks in groups, as well as one or two moderately heavy marks may be present. One or two small patches of hairlines may show.Noticeable light scuff marks or defects might be seen within the design or in the field. Overall quality is attractive with pleasing eye appeal.

MS63 - Mint luster may be slightly impaired. Numerous small contact marks and a few scattered heavy marks may be seen. Small hairlines visible without magnification. Several detracting scuff marks or defects may be present throughout the design or in the fields. The general quality is about average, but overall the coin is rather attractive.

MS62 - An impaired or dull luster may be evident, clusters or small marks may be present throughout with a few large marks or nicks in prime focal areas. Hairlines may be very noticeable. Large unattractive scuff marks might be seen on major features. The strike, rim and planchet quality may be noticeably below average. Overall eye appeal is below average.

MS61 - Mint luster may be diminished or noticeably impaired, and the surfaces may have clusters of large and small contact marks throughout. Hairlines could be very noticeable. Scuff marks may show as unattractive patches on large areas or major features. Small rim nicks and striking or planchet defects may show, and the quality may be noticeably poor. Eye appeal is somewhat unattractive.

MS60 - Unattractive dull or washed-out mint luster may mark this coin. There may be large detracting contact marks, or damage spots, but no trace of circulation wear. There could be a heavy concentration of hairlines or unattractive large areas of scuff marks. Rim nicks may be present and eye appeal is very poor.


Introductory guide to collecting MS70 and PR70 coins


Coins certified 70 are the best coins on the market and are virtually irreplaceable. Coins certified MS70 or PR70 are the pinnacle of the modern issue collectible coin market.

“Coin grade or condition” is a term used within the coin business to indicate the condition, amount of wear or state of preservation of a coin. The grade of a coin is important because it is one of the three critical factors in determining value and future price potential. The other two factors are rarity and demand.

In the United States coins are graded based on the Sheldon numerical scale created in 1949 by Dr. William Sheldon that grades coins from 1 (barely identifiable) to 70 (absolute perfection). Only a tiny fraction of the coins produced each year have the full strike and flawless surfaces required to be considered perfect mint state 70 (MS70) or Proof 70 (PR70). It’s no surprise that coins graded in MS70 or PR70 are highly sought after among collectors. As a result, coins with the grade of 70 generally tend to appreciate in value more quickly than coins in lesser grades. For example a 1995 PCGS certified American silver eagle is valued at $40 in MS69 and $4,000 in MS70. The Proof version of the 1995 coin struck at WestPoint has a list price of $3,400 in PR69 while the perfect PR70 coin lists for $30,000. Many perfect 70 coins issued after 1982 can still be bought for under $200. Buying modern issue 1982-2013 coins in perfect MS70 or PR70 condition soon after they are released is an inexpensive way to collect perfect coins!

Four independent coin-grading firms have gained prominence in providing unbiased third party evaluation of coins for a fee. They are in alphabetical order ANACS, ICG, NGC and PCGS. These organizations are staffed with well-trained and highly skilled experts in the art and science of coin grading. When you buy an independently graded coin certified by one of these organizations you can buy with confidence. These are the only four coin grading services recognized by EBAY.
 

What you get with a certified coin

When you buy a certified coin you are getting a guarantee from an independent third party source, ANACS, ICG, NGC or PCGS that your coin is authentic and genuine, that it has not been altered, tampered with or cleaned. Certified coins are set in clear plastic holders called “slabs”. These slabs are sonically sealed and tamper evident and help protect and preserve the coin in its original pristine MS70 or PR70 condition. A description of the coin and its numerical grade are sealed into the holder; making it easier to place a value on the coin when you want to sell it. Most coin collections are passed down from generation to generation, often the people inheriting the collection know very little about the coins, the certified holders will allow them to safely handle the coins without damaging them. The numeric grade will help them easily identify each coin and find its true value.
 
Handling Coins

Certified coins are encapsulated in clear plastic and can be handled without the fear of damaging the surfaces with oils and other contaminants on one’s fingers. The acid or other naturally occurring chemicals on your fingertips can leave a residue on a coin’s surface that can’t be removed. Improper handling of coins can cause abrasions, decreasing the value of the coin by exposing fresh metal that can oxidize and corrode.

Your questions Answered
 
What does it cost to have a coin graded?

The current fee charged by ANACS, ICG, NGC and PCGS is $30 per coin. The price may be higher or lower depending on the time it takes to grade a coin and the price of the coin.
 
Can anyone send in a coin to be graded?

Coin grading is available to anyone who pays the grading fee plus shipping and handling. The chances of submitting one coin and it coming back in perfect MS70 or PR70 are small.

How does the grading process work?

Each coin is inspected under magnification and in optimum light by two coin graders who assign a grade to the coin. If both graders assign the same grade the coin moves forward for encapsulation into a slab. If the first two graders disagree and don’t assign the same grade to the coin it is passed along to a more senior expert who will decide the final grade of the coin.

Is there an extra charge or fee for grading a coin in perfect 70?

No. You pay one fee regardless of the result. Dealers can’t pay extra to get more coins graded in perfect 70. Remember the coin grading service makes money from grading fees it has no interest in the retail value of the coin.
 
Aren’t all coins perfect 70 when they are released from the mint?

Coins are produced on a commercial production line in vast quantities and very few have the full strike and flawless surfaces required to be considered a perfect coin. Depending on how the coins are stacked and packed by mint employees, some perfect coins coming off the production line can already be damaged before they leave the mint. We recently submitted four mint sealed 500-coin boxes of silver Canadian Maple Leafs we bought on the first day of release. None of these coins graded perfect 70 and only 516 coins graded MS69. Maple Leafs are known for their high quality and sharpness of strike but this batch had residue on the surfaces and the coins did not make the grade leaving us thousands of dollars in the hole on grading fees.

Can every coin be graded in perfect 70?

Most circulation strike mint state coins like pennies, nickels, dimes and presidential dollar coins don’t grade perfect MS70. The highest known grades for these coins are MS68 and MS69. Proof versions of these coins, which are made to a much higher quality, do grade PR70.

Are all grading services the same or is one better than the rest?

Having four major coin grading services, ANACS, ICG, NGC and PCGS serve the interests of the coin collecting community better than having only two. The industry is very competitive and each service wants to gain the most market share and best reputation. The truth is it would be hard for any company to be number one because of the spectrum of coins they grade - Ancient Greek and Roman coins, Shipwreck coins, mint error coins, Classic gold coins, foreign coins, pennies, nickels and dimes etc. people have their own preference for a particular service because they deem it the best or because most of the other coins in their collection are graded by a particular service. Westminster Mint is an authorized dealer for all four services and can fill orders in any holders you require.

Are the prices of all MS70 and PR70 coins the same?

The short answer is no. Depending on how few or how many coins have been certified perfect 70 by a grading service, known as the (certified population), there can be a big difference in price. Take the 1995 silver eagle as an example. The coin lists on the PCGS price guide for $50,000 in MS70 because only one 18 coins have been graded perfect MS70. Compare this to the NGC price guide that lists the same coin for $18,000. NGC has certified 360 coins in MS70..
 


What is numismatics?


Numismatics is the collection and study of coins, paper money, tokens and medals. These are the most widely collected and studied numismatic materials. Other items are stock certificates, checks and notes of financial obligations.


What is numismatic value?

There are three common ways to value a coin – by its face value, its intrinsic value and its numismatic value.

The face value is the dollar amount stated on the coin.

The intrinsic value is the price the precious metal content of the coin can be sold for on any given day.

The numismatic value is the: Date, rarity, condition, mint mark and provenance of the coin. Ultimately the numismatic collectible value is what you are willing to pay for the coin on any given day and what the seller is willing to accept.

A collector paid a record high price of  $86,654.70 on March 31 2013 to acquire a 1995 W American silver eagle Proof coin certified perfect PR70 Deep Cameo by Professional Coin Grading Service, (PCGS).

The face value of the coin is $1.00. The intrinsic value is one ounce of silver, worth $28.33 and the numismatic value, is $86,626.37.The last time a 1995 W American silver eagle was sold at auction was on March 15, 2010 for $40,000, silver was then trading for $17.20 an ounce.


How do numismatic coins differ from bullion coins?

Gold and silver bullion coins are issued by governments as an attractive convenient way to invest in gold and silver. Bullion coins sell for a small premium of 5% -$17% above the price of their gold or silver content on any given day. Premiums are dependent on the diameter and net weight of the coin. Large one- ounce gold coins have a lower premium than smaller 1/10 ounce coins. The future value of bullion coins is based solely on their gold or silver content on the day you want to sell them.

Numismatic coins are collectibles and their precious metals content, if any at all, is only a tiny factor in measuring the value of the coin. The numismatic value is the: Date, rarity, condition, mint mark and provenance of the coin. The future value of a numismatic coin is based on supply and demand. Dealer mark ups and premiums are substantially higher for collectible coins than bullion coins.

 


The data above is provided for illustrative purposes only; it shows how the top 10 best performing PCGS certified coins have performed over a one and five year period versus the price of gold and silver. Prices exclude dealer mark up and margin. These prices apply to PCGS certified coins only and not ANACS or NGC certified coins.

This information, compiled on June 7, 2013 is not intended to make any representation that numismatic coins perform better or worse than gold and silver bullion coins. Past performance is no guarantee of future success.



What coins do people collect?


What to collect is entirely up to you and your budget. You should have adequate cash reserves and disposable income before considering buying numismatic items. We recommend coins issued by major national mints because they have the largest audience. U.S. Mint and Royal Canadian Mint issues are an ideal place to begin.


What's the best way to get started?

Buy the book before you buy the coin. The Internet has also made buying and selling coins, paper money, tokens and medals easier than at any time in the past. The quantity and quality of information readily available in this electronic medium helps with building your collection. It gives you easy access to dealers nationwide and allows you to compare prices between dozens of different suppliers in a matter of minutes.  This will enable you to judge the fair market value or accepted price range for numismatic items.


How can I avoid buying over graded, doctored or counterfeit coins?

Use common sense; if an offer looks too good to be true then it probably is. You can reduce your risk by finding an established coin dealer who has been in business for a long time and who works from an established office or storefront location. Limit your purchases to certified coins graded by industry leading coin grading services such as ANACS, NGC and PCGS. Shop around and compare prices and ask about the dealers return policy.
 

What is your return policy?

Westminster Mint provides an unconditional 30-day money back guarantee on all collectible items (not gold and silver bullion).

The inspection period begins when the order is shipped to you. To qualify for a refund, just make sure the product is returned complete and in sellable condition. The refund amount will include the full purchase price and any collected taxes. Shipping and Handling charges are non-refundable. All returns must be shipped with a reputable shipper and be properly packaged and fully insured.
 
There is no charge for returning damaged or defective products. Please note seals, cases and certificates of authenticity contribute to the value of the product and must remain complete, intact and unbroken for you to qualify for a refund.


I notice coin grading services are offering many different labels on their holders Which is the best?

 
The grade on the holder is the most important factor. A coin certified perfect MS70 will always command a higher premium than the same coin certified in a lesser grade like MS69, no matter what identifying mark is stated on the labels. 

The coin market is not only driven by supply and demand, but also by the idea of the exceptional. Collectors believe in the power of firsts, exclusivity and limited editions. This lead to the advent of two types of labels – open to the public and closed to the public dealer proprietary labels.

The best known open to the public labels are PCGS First Strikes and NGC Early Releases. Collectors only have a short time window from the release date of a coin for it to qualify for certification with the First Strike or Early Releases designation. Dealer Proprietary labels are not open to the public and can only be submitted for certification by the authorized dealer. They also have short time requirements for certification.

Time sensitive dealer proprietary labels include ANACS First Day of Issue, First Release and Original strike coins. These labels also have the added exclusivity and prestige of being certified  limited editions. The importance of limited editions in the collector market can’t be overstated . Other popular dealer proprietary labels, without time restrictions for submission, are Bridge labels, Blue bridge labels, Canada labels, Country labels, Eagle labels and USRC labels.

Premium labels have aesthetically attractive holders that appeal to a wide cross-section of collectors and invite brand loyalty. We provide access to coins certified with all of these special labels  and others like Top 50 Modern coins and 100 Greatest U.S. Modern coins. However, we don’t own a proprietary label.     


What do the extra notations on certified coin holders mean?

In addition to the grade of a coin stated as Mint state (MS) on circulation strike coins and Proof (PR/PF) on Proof strikes your coins may have the additional notations?


Cameo (CA), Ultra Cameo (UC), Deep Cameo (DCAM)


These are terms used for Proof strike coins. In order for a coin to be considered a Cameo or Deep Cameo, both sides of the coin must meet a minimum benchmark for each designation. If only one side of coin attains this benchmark the coin is considered to be Cameo, if both sides of the coin attain the benchmark it is considered Deep Cameo.

"First Strike", "First Release" & “Early Releases” Designations
 
Coin dealers and grading services may use these terms in varying ways. Some base their use on the dates appearing on United States Mint product packaging or packing slips, or on the dates of product releases or ceremonial coin strike events. Consumers should carefully review the information below along with each dealer's or grading service's definition of "first strike", “first release" or “Early Releases” when considering a purchase of coins with these designations.
The United States Mint does not designate any coins or products as "first strikes" “first release” or "early releases," nor do they track the order in which the coins were minted. The mint strives to produce coins of consistently high quality throughout the course of production. This means that coins may be minted from new die sets at any point and at multiple times while production of a coin is ongoing, not just the first day or at the beginning of production.
 
United States Mint products are not individually numbered and they do not keep track of the order or date of minting of individual coins. Any dates on shipping boxes are strictly for quality control and accounting purposes at the United States Mint. The date on the box represents the date that the box was packed, verified and sealed, and the date of packaging does not necessarily correlate with the date of manufacture. To qualify for “first strikes”, “first release” or “early releases” status a coin must be submitted to an independent “third-party” coin grading service within the first 30-days of their release.


Proof like (PL), Deep Proof like (DPL) and Deep Mirror Proof like (DMPL)

These are terms used for circulation strike coins and measure the amount of clear reflectivity on both sides of the coin. If only one side of the coin has deeply mirrored surfaces it is called a Proof like, if both sides of the coin meet the benchmark then it is a Deep Proof like.

Star designation

This is a term applicable to NGC certified coins – It is reserved for coins that have extraordinary eye appeal within the grade and applies to both circulation strike and Proof strike coins.


+ Plus grade

This is a term used for coins considered to be at the high end of their assigned grade, approaching the quality requirements for the next grade. These coins have above-average eye appeal.




The chart above shows the disparity in prices between coins that have superior eye appeal within the same grade. When a coin is judged to have better eye appeal than another coin in the same grade, it is awarded a plus designation. Premium labels such as Early Releases, First Release and First strike designated coins can also have price disparities within the same grade. The collector has to determine  if the value, merit and cost of any coin is important enough to justify  paying a higher price. The collector also needs to take eye appeal into consideration when comparing prices between dealers.


FAQ Warranty

Westminster offers these items as collectibles to be enjoyed for their history, artistic beauty and often limited availability. Westminster Mint expresses no opinion on the soundness as an investment of coins, medal or other numismatic items. We are not investment advisers. Market price may fluctuate with market conditions, the condition of the item, content value, grade, demand and supply, and other things. Past performance is not a guarantee of future potential values. Rare coins, souvenirs, mementos, and sometimes medal, often cannot be sold quickly.