What Does PCGS MS64 Really Mean -Information For The New Collector

We get a lot of questions from people about what the title means on our coin listings. For those who don’t know who PCGS is or what MS64 (or similar) means then this short explanation should shed some light for you.

Third Party Graders. Everyone will grade a coin differently and grading a coin is open to interpretation and opinion. We happily send our high grade or high value coins over to the USA to be assessed by an impartial third party grading service that have no ‘agenda’ that a dealer may have when grading their own coins for sale. The two top ranked third party grading companies in the USA are PCGS (Professional Coin Grading Service) and NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation). PCGS have graded over 35 million coins and are experts in coins from every country. There is no similar grading service of this calibre in Australia. Australia’s professional coin grading service is PCGS.

Slabbing. Upon assigning the grade to the coin PCGS (or NGC) will place the coin into a slab which gives the buyer a few guarantees. One of the most important is that it has been determined to be a genuine coin and not a counterfeit eliminating the risk of purchasing a dud coin. The plastic slabs protect the coin from the elements and harm that can be caused by mishandling. It also gives the you, the buyer, the assurance that it hasn’t been cleaned or improperly handled prior to it being assessed and slabbed by PCGS. When buying coins off the internet or eBay PCGS slabbed coins certainly are a great place to start to assure you are getting a quality coin.

What about the numbers? There are a few things to note here, firstly the conversion of our own adjectival grading standard ie. Choice Uncirculated cannot always be transferred accurately to the Sheldon grading system ie. MS64 which is what PCGS grade to. It’s important to note the number and not the grade assigned by the seller. The Sheldon grading standard is a unit of measure from 1 to 70, 1 being poor and 70 being essentially perfect. An MS coin stands for mint state which is Uncirculated or higher. It’s important to familiarise yourself with the population report to see for example how many MS64 graded coins exist and if there are in fact any higher graded coins out there. See the PCGS website for more information.

Colour Codes. A copper coin will also be given a colour code of BN Brown, RB Red-Brown or RD Red with Red being the more desirable “as minted” condition and brown being over 95% toned. For example if we have a copper coin given the grade of PCGS MS64RB means Mint State (not circulated) 64 in the scale of 1 to 70 and red-brown from 5-95% original Mint red. In our opinion this would usually equate to a darker penny with some lustre still present in Choice Uncirculated grade.

Genuine, Details Slab, No Grades and Bodybags. If a coin has not been assigned a grade by PCGS and states “genuine” then it likely has been cleaned or has some other type of damage but is a genuine coin. The number on the holder will alert you to what the problem is via a code, for example 97 environmental damage.

Now that you know the numbers you can make your own decision on the features of that individual coin and can make up your own mind if that coin is a worthy addition to your collection!