Most rare U.S. coins in the $3000 and higher range are graded by NGC or PCGS. If you’re not an expert, it is it is very risky to buy $3000 or more coins that aren’t PCGS or NGC certified.
It’s important to find reputable honest dealers when shopping for gold or silver coins. Beginners especially should be wary of sellers offering deals that sound good to be true. Rare American coins sell at market levels and not below.
A gold coin priced at more than 10% over melt, and all silver coins over $500, should be PCGS, NGC, ICG or ANACS certified. I’ve gotten what I thought were MS 65 or better silver coins and sent them in for certification and the greatest majority of them came back “AU Details”.
While other factors besides coin grade should be taken into consideration, PCGS or NGC certified coins are much more desirable and generally much better values, than gold and silver coins costing over $500 that aren’t certified coin market.
If I buy raw coins, I pay far less than their apparent graded value. Then I take the chance of how they come back. It is safer on more expensive coins to let someone else take that chance. Then you know you’re buying a rare American coin of known quality.
For those of you buying coins valued at less than $250, the costs of certification will probably outweigh the benefits. It is really important to examine many coins, and ask experts your questions concerning them. Learn about the rare American coins you’re interested in, and what they should look like. Consult books or the internet.
Now, you might ask “what about the rare American coins costing between $250 and $500?” I guess that would be called the “grey area”. In that area, you have to make a judgment decision as to how you want to proceed with the coin purchase.
If you have the choice between a graded and a non-graded specimen, go with the graded one, as long as it’s done by one of the four companies listed above, with preference given to PCGS and NGC. Don’t buy coins graded by other grading companies. They are almost always over-graded.
With non-graded coins, I determine what the worst grade might be, and offer less than that. Very often, my offer isn’t accepted. Then I tell the seller, “have it graded and then we’ll talk more money”.
Study graded coins and try to figure out why they were given that grade. If you can’t tell, show an expert. With experience and effort, knowledge will be attained and grading skills developed. The more you know, the better you can navigate the rare American coin market.
Having said all that, China now produces counterfeit certified coins that really look original. With NGC, you can go to their website and type in the numbers under the bar code and the coin they graded will appear. With PCGS, you have to resubmit and pay to have them tell you if the coin is really theirs or not.
Which are better bargains, graded coins or raw? I suppose in the end, it depends on the circumstances, the amount of money at risk, the buyer’s ability to accurately judge the merits of the rare American coin in question, and even the seller’s experience in knowing what they’re selling.