Silver Coin Values
About silver coin values
Grading coins accurately is one of the most valuable skills a coin collector can learn. After rarity and demand, coin grade is the most critical factor assessing coin value.
Grading silver coins to find silver coin values
“Coin Grade” is an expression used within the coin hobby to indicate the condition, or amount of wear on a coin. The grade is important, because after rarity and demand, it is the most critical factor determining the coin value. Generally speaking, the higher the grade of a coin, the greater the coin value.
If you want to learn how to grade coins you should to acquire the “bible” of grading coins, “The Official American Numismatic Association Grading Standards of United States Coins”.
Historical overview on U.S. silver coin grading
Going back to the 1950s and before, coin grading was limited to a few adjectival terms, such as Good, Fine, Uncirculated, and Proof.
Varying distinctions of Uncirculated (today’s equivalent of MS-60, MS-63, etc.) and Proof were recognized in some advertisements and auction bills by employing modifying descriptors such as “Gem Uncirculated” or “Choice Proof”, for example. However, with no clear point of reference or consistency on how the modifying descriptors were invoked, most publishers resorted to listing values for only one “Uncirculated” grade and one “Proof” grade.
In the late 1970s, as silver coin values escalated dramatically, most notably for pristine, high quality specimens, varying distinctions of “Uncirculated” and “Proof” became evermore critical. Descriptors “Choice” and “Gem” were replaced by numerically assigned grades, utilizing the newly developed 70 point ANA scale, based on a numeric system introduced by Dr. William Sheldon in the 1940s. Uncirculated coins were differentiated as MS-60, MS-65, or MS-70. A few years later, grades MS-63 and MS-67 joined the fray. Although not applied consistently (a situation that gave the coin business a black eye), the practice of assigning a numerical grade to indicate quality was universal by the mid-1980s, and eventually brought some standardization to coin collecting that was absent as the hobby passed through its formative years.
In February 1986, the ANA changed its grading interpretations to match the tightening standards demanded by the marketplace. This meant that many coins correctly graded as MS-65 in the early 1980s became MS-63 or less, so as to be consistent with the newly revised interpretation. Conversely, a coin graded after 1986 as MS-63 was about equal in quality to an MS-65 before 1986. Thus, the Mint State prices published in numismatic periodicals prior to 1986 are not directly comparable to those published later. The Coin Value Tables of this website relied heavily on periodicals from before 1986, but we did not attempt to compensate for the revised grading standards of 1986; we reported what we found. One must take this into account when studying trends for an MS-65 coin from, say, 1980 to the present. On the other hand, because of the dearth of Mint State price estimates published prior to 1986, more than 98% of the Coin Value Table data is not affected by anything mentioned in this paragraph!
Throughout the 1990’s and into the new millennium, more grading subtleties were introduced within the framework of the grading system, such as the wider acceptance of “in-between” grades MS-62 or MS-64, or coin coloration, for example.
The 70 point coin grade scale
The American Numismatic Association’s 0-70 point numeric system is frequently invoked to assign coin grade. Please look it at that page: The American Numismatic Association’s 0-70 point numeric coin grade system.
Coin Grading Companies Change the Hobby
Complaints over inconsistent grading practices reached a crescendo by the mid 1980s. While one dealer might assign a coin a certain grade, another dealer might give the same coin a slightly higher or lower grade. In the numismatic profession, subtle grade differences can mean literally thousands of dollars in trading value. In 1986, PCGS began offering third party grading services, for a fee, to be joined the following year by NGC. Coins submitted to these coin grading companies were evaluated by a panel of experts. Each coin was then encapsulated in a tamper evident container and returned to the sender. By the late 1980s, the coin grading companies captured the trust of the coin industry, at last providing some much desired consistency in grading coins.
The impact of the coin grading companies was enormous. Encapsulated coins (known as “slabs” by insiders) became highly liquid commodities, being traded readily by confident buyers and sellers, often sight unseen. This activity won the attention of millions of first-time coin buyers and several Wall Street brokerage firms, pushing the slab market to dizzying heights by the spring of 1989.
Eventually, many slabbed coin prices plunged back towards reality as the coin grading companies began releasing their population reports. These reports indicated how many of what types and coin grades passed through their systems, thus revealing a more likely approximation of each coin’s true scarcity. Especially had hit were the common date coins, which even in very high mint state conditions were much more abundant that realized just a few years earlier. In the early 1990’s, the great run-up of the 1980’s crash landed to become nothing more than a memory. Around 1995, the market began a slow ascendancy, then picked up momentum at the very end of the 20th century, and carrying all the way up until today, in spite of a challenging economy.
The coin grading companies have forever changed the face of coin trading. Though not perfect, the concept of third party coin grading has proven to be a stabilizing effect and have earned a permanent role in the coin business.