Here's an in-depth guide on how to submit your coins to NGC in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.
Numismatic publications are full of headlines about seemingly low-value coins bringing amazing sums in ultra-condition. I have personally observed lines of people at rare coin conventions submitting handfuls of coins that are not worth the cost of the submission. How are collectors to understand that their Franklin Half Dollar is not worth $100,000 if they have the coin certified?
For many, submitting rare coins for grading can be daunting, especially for the uninitiated. Understanding the process can save time, money and frustration, and fortunately, there are dozens of options to choose from when submitting coins. This guide will help you understand the different options available to you and, hopefully, help you better understand the submission process.
Where to start
Some collectors submit coins for certification for the peace of mind of having an entire series authenticated and graded, and for the attractive display that comes with encapsulation. But for many others, submitting coins for certification is basically a mathematical equation. You need to determine if the coin will be more valuable if submitted for grading and authentication, and if the grading fees justify the cost. For example, it may not be profitable to grade common-date Morgan Silver Dollars in grades below MS 63. For the average collector, the added cost of the grading outweighs what the coins could be sold for uncertified on the current market.
I have, many times, mentioned the need for collectors to find a trustworthy dealer for advice. Most rare coin dealers have decades of experience they are willing to share with collectors. This is especially useful when using a coin dealer who is a nationally known expert in their collecting specialty. Established coin companies’ operations have years of experience sending coins for grading and certification. Many are willing to help you with the process of certification. We often assist clients who want to have their coins certified before they are sold.
Experts can help you screen coins that are being submitted for the following reasons:
Authentication has become crucial in recent years with the proliferation of counterfeit coins being offered online and in other venues. Several clients have come into our offices with dozens of coins for certification, just to find that every coin was counterfeit. If all of the coins had been submitted, thousands of dollars in grading fees would have been wasted. This week, an experienced collector brought in four Carson City Morgan Dollars he wanted me to send for grading. Sadly, they were recent Chinese fakes.
Coins must be screened to determine their value. Unless you have basic grading skills, this part of the process is nearly impossible without expert advice. Many collectors or individuals who have inherited coins look up the value on Google with extremely mixed results. Searching for a 1963-D Lincoln Cent can bring up auction results for nearly $1,000, but most aren’t worth that much money. In general, a coin should be worth $50 or more to consider being worth the cost of submission.
As mentioned above, it can be very confusing to determine which coins should be submitted for grading when there are so many giant auction records for seemingly common coins. We get calls frequently from the public about coins they think are extremely valuable because of a price they found on Google. The rise of set-registry collecting is recent years causes ultra-high-grade coins to bring seemingly crazy prices at auction. For example, a common 1930s Mercury Dime sold for over $300,000 a few years ago.
Prices like these make even a seasoned professional like me to want to submit every coin that might be considered Gem to the services. Unfortunately, it is not that easy. Making a superb “top pop” (finest graded) coin at NGC is very difficult regardless of the series or age of the coin. Many of the coins you see, such as the six-figure Franklin Half Dollars or Mercury Dime were the result of careful cherry picking, mass submissions, multi-submissions or a combination of all of the above. There are a lot of rare coin dealers who submit thousands of coins trying to make just a few of these mega-grade coins.
Unless you are an expert in the series that you are submitting, the chances of making a “top pop” coin are remote and the math of the grading expenses make the costs prohibitive. Understanding the basics of coin grading is essential to submitting coins successfully.
When trying to submit coins in the hopes of getting ultra-high grades, you should start small to verify the most likely outcome. Submit just a few to understand the grading standards. It’s nearly impossible to compare the photos of a high-grade coin to one you have raw. The 1963-D Lincoln Cent illustration here is a good example. Coins from a roll of 1963-D cents would look identical to the untrained eye.
Once you've determined the value of your coin, you must consider grading fees. Grading fees per individual coins start at $19 for modern coins and $23 for vintage coins. These fees do not include shipping to and from the grading company, which can add another $20 to $50 per submission. Plus, NGC charges a $10 handling fee per invoice. In summary, fees can be substantial for even the smallest submission.