One milestone being celebrated this year stands above all others in
terms of profound change to the U.S. coin market: launch of the
Professional Coin Grading Service on Feb. 3, 1986.
Inconsistency in grading and whether to use words or numbers to
describe the surface condition or “grade” of a coin dominated the
headlines and opinion columns of Coin World and other
publications in the first four years of the 1980s. During 1985 the
decibels seemed to grow louder almost weekly, with most of the ire
directed at ANACS.
ANACS — the then acknowledged leading third-party grading service
by volume of coins graded — was operated as a separate division of the
nonprofit American Numismatic Association, the largest coin collector organization.
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The chief complaints against ANACS were lack of grading consistency
and long turnaround time. Due to backlog, a three- to four-month wait
had become the norm. Also, switching of ANACS photo grading
certificates was eroding confidence in the market.
The Jan. 29, 1986, issue of Coin World reported in its news
columns that a new third-party grading service would be launched on
Feb. 3. Few remember the news story. What grabbed everyone’s attention
was a two-page advertisement proclaiming Professional Coin Grading
Service to be “the solution” to grading problems in the U.S. marketplace.
In big bold type the ad announced: “Seven of the world’s top rare
coin experts have pooled their knowledge to offer you the answer to
the grading question and three of the coin industry’s most reputable
coin firms have come together to offer you instant numismatic
liquidity and the ultimate grading guarantee!”
In addition to using a team of tested, expert graders, the new
grading service would offer a network of dealers to purchase
PCGS-graded coins sight-unseen at current bid; use About Uncirculated
grades of 53, 55, and 58 and all 11 Mint State grades; and, to ensure
that the grades could not be switched, sonically seal each coin in a
special inert clear hard plastic holder showing the grade of the coin.
Additionally, the PCGS guarantee broke new ground. PCGS would
guarantee both the authenticity and grade of a coin and would back its
guarantee with a cash-back policy as long the coin remained in its
original tamper evident holder.
PCGS has revolutionized the coin market, not only in the United
States, but worldwide.