Research PCGS Populations and Prices by NGC | 1/17/2017
Dear Fellow Numismatists:
In November I announced
that PCGS-certified coins would no longer be eligible for
inclusion in the popular NGC Registry. I received many positive
comments from those who have closely followed graded coin
populations and prices. Others asked me, “Why? What is the
difference between NGC and PCGS?”
Let me show you.
Over the last five years or so, I have noticed
a perplexing trend at PCGS. There has been a dramatic increase
in the grades assigned by PCGS for a wide range of coin
types and, consequently, I believe that this has caused
an extraordinary reduction in the value of many PCGS-certified
As an NGC grading finalizer for the last
30 years, I have worked to ensure the accuracy and consistency
of NGC’s grading. I have also closely observed the grading
standards employed by our competitor and I can say with
confidence that I believe that the grading standards PCGS
uses today are completely different from the standards it
used 10, 20 or 30 years ago.
It is my belief that the sudden change in
PCGS grading standards around five years ago is harmful
not just to collectors of PCGS-certified coins, but to the
NGC has always focused on the positive in
its marketing—we believe that our expert and impartial services
speak for themselves. What is happening at PCGS, however,
is so extreme in my opinion that I feel compelled to address
it personally. I have been a collector for virtually my
entire life and I care deeply about our hobby. I think it
would be irresponsible for me to remain silent about the
damage that I think is being done.
There are numerous examples of how the significant
change in PCGS-certified coin populations for many coins
has had what I believe is a devastating effect on the value
of those PCGS-certified coins.
In January 2012, for example, the PCGS Population
Report showed eight 1912-S Liberty Nickels graded PCGS MS
66, the highest grade then assigned by PCGS. Now, in January
2017, the PCGS Population Report shows 50 examples in PCGS
MS 66 and two in PCGS MS 66. The PCGS population in MS 66
increased from eight to 52 in less than five years—an increase
What happened to the value of a 1912-S Liberty
Nickel in PCGS MS 66? It plummeted. In January 2012, a PCGS
MS 66 sold at auction1 for $37,375. In January 2017, a PCGS
MS 66 sold at auction2 for $3,525. This is a staggering
loss of $33,850 (or 91%) of the coin’s value in five years.
How is it possible that eight 1912-S Liberty
Nickels were graded PCGS MS 66 in the company's first 25
years and 44 other examples were graded PCGS MS 66 in the
last five years? Imagine being the collector who bought
a PCGS MS 66 for $37,375 five years ago based on the belief
that it was one of only eight MS 66s and now seeing that
there are 52 MS 66s and some are trading for $3,525!
There are similar examples across all US
coin series, both vintage and modern. Below are some other
extreme cases, all of which have been footnoted with third-party
sources so that you can verify my research.
1939-S Washington Quarter, PCGS MS
1995-W Silver Eagle, PCGS PF 70 DCAM
1945-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar,
PCGS MS 67
1991 $5 Gold Eagle, PCGS MS 70
1918 Lincoln Cent, PCGS MS 67 RD
1969-D Lincoln Cent, PCGS MS 67 RD
1974-S Washington Quarter, PCGS PF
1986 Silver Eagle, PCGS MS 70
1976-S Silver Washington Quarter,
PCGS PF 70 DCAM
1953-S Washington-Carver Half Dollar,
PCGS MS 67
1910-S $10, PCGS MS 63
Let this sink in for a moment. Do you have
PCGS-certified coins in your collection? Have you checked
their populations and values recently?
Admittedly, these examples are some of the
most extreme. There are many more that show less dramatic
but I think still very obvious changes, and I believe that
these cases are just as concerning, if not more so, because
of their wide-reaching impact on the market.
These coins represent a cross section of
types and eras. I think that they are simply far too diverse
to be explained by a plethora of new hoards being discovered
or a sudden wave of high-grade crossovers.
I do not know why these PCGS-certified coin
populations have changed so dramatically in recent years,
however. All I know is that it has happened and that there
has been a profound reduction in value for many PCGS-certified
Interestingly, I just read an article in
Coin World over the weekend that describes a 1997 Lincoln
Cent in PCGS MS 68 that sold for a strong price of $763.75.
According to Coin World: "PCGS had graded 17 in this
grade with none finer when the coin was offered last autumn,
and the population has subsequently exploded, with the PCGS
Population Report recording 24 as of December 2016."
This is exactly what concerns me.
The PCGS Population Report and auction prices
realized are all public record, and the numbers do not lie.
I encourage everyone to do their own research and see the
facts for themselves before they buy any PCGS-certified
coins—or any coin for that matter, including NGC-certified
As a collector myself, there are some questions
I always ask before making any purchase:
Has the graded coin population changed
in the last six months, year, two years or five years?
If it has, can the change be explained by the discovery
of a hoard or an increase in submissions?
How has the price changed in the last six months, year,
two year or five years?
What is the price difference between this grade and a grade
Is this coin a good value?
I encourage everyone to ask these same questions.
An informed buyer is a smart buyer. And remember: buy the
coin, not the holder.
Grading standards evolve over time as we
study more coins and learn from our collective experiences,
but I believe that this evolution happens glacially, not
suddenly. I think that we, the third-party coin grading
services, have a tremendous responsibility to collectors
and dealers who have made buying and selling decisions based
on our grading. It is essential to them and to us that we
uphold our grading standards.
NGC is committed to doing the right thing
for the hobby. We will continue to maintain our grading
consistency as I and the rest of the NGC grading team have
done for the last 30 years. At the end of the day, this
is not about competition or profits for us, but protecting
our fellow collectors.