How to grade PCGS coins

An article posted online about how collectors interpret the grades independently assigned to coins raised a few interesting questions, here’s just one quote from it that I believe will be of interest to Australian collectors:

“If a rare or scarce … coin that is valued at above $500 is not PCGS … certified, some interested collectors may tend to figure that there must be something wrong with such a coin. While there is general agreement that most rare or scarce … coins should be certified before being sold to collectors, experts often disagree with the assigned numerical grades and have major concerns about the consistency of each grading service. Surely, experts who recommend PCGS … certified coins sometimes do not agree with or have doubts about some grades assigned by PCGS …”

I’ve amended the quoted text slightly, principally because this article was posted by an author in the United States, and refers to US coins, not Australian coins. The reason I find this interesting article is that it was written by someone that’s been active in the market where independent grading was invented, the market where independent grading has been a part of the numismatic landscape for close to 3 decades.

It could be argued that these questions reflect a mature understanding of the role that independent grading plays in “regulating” a numismatic market - an understanding that I think is yet to fully take hold here in Australia.

There are a few themes to the article:

1. Variability of sales prices for different coins that have the same numismatic grade;

2. “Gradeflation” (a bit of numismatic lingo that conflates the terms grade and inflation). To get an idea of what this term refers to, keep in mind that “In economics, inflation is a sustained increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.”

3. CAC and WINGS (two companies that formally endorse the independent grades assigned by PCGS or NGC), as well as

4. Coin doctoring.

I don’t see the fourth point listed above (slabbed coins that have wrongly been accepted for independent grading) as being a real issue at all in the market for Australian coins, however I do believe Australian collectors that are keen on only collecting independently-graded coins should at least be aware that the other three points are posed by at least some collectors in the United States.

This article isn’t the first and sure won’t be the last time these questions are raised, however I’m interested to hear if any Australian collectors have regard for them at the moment.

Have you seen any price variability for two or more coins with the same independent grade within a short period of time? Price variability should of course be expected over time, and even in a short period of time depending on the circumstances of buyers and sellers, however have you seen any price variability that can’t be explained by time or circumstance?

Even though independent grading has “only” been a significant factor in Australia for perhaps 2–4 years, have you seen any evidence of grading standards changing over that period of time? Even if only in certain series?

Do you have any concerns about coin doctoring at all?

Make no mistake, I see clearly that independent grading is a fundamental requirement for many Australian collectors, particularly those new to the market. I would however like to see a mature discussion about the value independent grading brings however.