One could write a book on this subject, but given the limits of time and space, I’ll get to the point and offer what I consider some of the essential information a numismatist needs to know on this broad subject.
Grading is a third party service provided to gauge the relative quality of a coin. The scale used goes from 1-70 with 70 being a pristine specimen. The other consideration in the grading process is Cameo or deep cameo designation. For more on these please see our Cameo article here.
Because there will always be a degree of subjectivity in grading, that it is not a 100% objective science, coin grading is both art and science. Remember computer grading, tried by many services years ago? After much trial and error, the conclusion was computers could be no more accurate than human’s given the intangible of eye-appeal in the coin grading process.
1. There are no absolutes in numismatics regarding PCGS, NGC, and ANACS coins. Contrary to what some dealers might have a collector believe, it is not always preferable to choose a PCGS or NGC coin over the same grade ANACS coin. ANACS coins are not always a grade lower than their PCGS or NGC counterparts in terms of quality. (In this regard, the ANACS coins I carry are coins that I believe are good coins for the grade, accurately graded.)
2. Having made the previous point, collectors must also understand there is a degree of subjectivity in grading. Grading is not a 100% objective science. That is why all grading services offer the “re-grade” process. It is an unspoken admission that upon review and reconsideration, they may change the grade of a coin when given a second look. There are dealers and collectors who have re-submitted a coin 5, 10, 15 times for re-grade, before they finally received the grade they believed the coin deserved!
3. Because ANACS coins are not yet as widely accepted on the market as PCGS and NGC coins, there are often opportunities for collectors to acquire similar quality ANACS coins for less than their PCGS/NGC counterpart. There are corollaries to this phenomenon between PCGS and NGC. There are some series’ where PCGS coins sell at premiums over NGC coins of the same grade, and vice-versa.
4. Finally, most importantly, “Eye-appeal” is important not only for future resale potential, as eye-appealing coins are always easier to sell for a premium than coins lacking that quality, but also for future “re-grade potential”, for grading services’ tend to view eye-appealing coins more favorably for potential upgrade.