Getting coins graded can be costly, especially if you have multiple pieces. If you own coins and want to get them graded but are on a tight budget, you might wonder how to get them graded for free.
The best way to grade your coins for free is to go to the Professional Coin Grading Services (PCGS) website and navigate to the Photograde section. From there, you can compare your coin to the options shown on-screen and check the approximate value on the price guide. The process is entirely free.
Do you want to learn more about getting coins graded for free? Read this article to learn about the 5 steps.
1. Go To the PCGS Website
Navigate to the PCGS website, which is one of the largest coin-grading companies in the world and has an excellent reputation among coin collectors and experts. The company employs professionals who examine each piece carefully to determine its worth.
While PCGS does offer paid coin grading services, it also offers a free self-grading service for those interested in learning more about the approximate value of their pieces.
Before moving to the next step, have your coins ready.
2. Navigate To the Photograde Page
On the homepage, scroll to the end and click “PCGS Photograde” under the “Resources” section.
Once you get to the web page, there will be a lot of information on the Photograde service and how it works, so you’ll want to read through it before getting started. Then move to the next step, which covers everything you need to know to start the coin grading process.
3. Select a Category and Follow the Instructions
Here’s how to use the Photograde service:
- Select a category: At the top of the page, you should see the different coin options (i.e., half cents and half dollars). Choose the one that matches the coin you want to grade.
- Select the coin type: Once you’ve chosen the category, you’ll need to choose the coin type. For example, if it’s a dollar coin, your options include Flowing Hair and Susan B. Anthony dollars.
- Examine your coin closely: You’ll need to choose an image that best represents your coin, so examine it closely so that you know precisely what it looks like. Pay attention to discoloration and scratches.
4. Choose the Image That Most Closely Represents Your Coin
After examining your coin closely, you should be able to choose the coin on the screen that best matches it. Take your time during this step to get the most accurate match possible. There’ll be many options to choose from, and each one will yield a different value.
Once you’ve matched your coin to the picture, take note of the reference number (i.e., VF35).
5. Check the PCGS Price Guide
Now that you have the reference number, it’s time to navigate to the PCGS price guide, which contains a detailed table of the different coins and their reference numbers. After choosing the coin type, read through the table until you find your reference number.
Once you’ve found that, you will see the piece’s current value.
If the price is relatively high and piques your interest, it’s a good idea to have your coin formally submitted for grading. Formal grading services won’t be free, but they will certify that the coin has a specific value, making it easier to sell if that’s what you want.
Pros of PCGS Free Photograde Service
Now that you know how to grade your coins for free using PCGS’s service, let’s look at the main pros of the process:
- It’s entirely free: The PCGS Photograde service is the best free grading service, so it’s certainly worth a try.
- Quick and easy: You don’t need to leave your house to use the service, and it’s super quick once you have the coin ready.
- There’s information on various US coins: The Photograde service will likely have images of your coin because they have such a large database.
- The results are accurate: Once you pay close attention to your coin and match it properly, the results will be accurate.
Cons of PCGS Free Photograde Service
Though there are many perks to using this service, it might not work for you if you have foreign coins, or your coin photos are difficult to read. If you want to get an official grade, this won’t give you what you want.
Here are more details about the cons of this service:
- It only works for US coins: Unfortunately, using the Photograde service isn’t possible if you have a non-US coin. In that instance, you may need to pay for a different service.
- It can be difficult comparing your coin to a photo: Sometimes, it’s difficult to match the coin to a photo, and if you match it incorrectly, the results won’t be correct.
- Your coin won’t be officially graded: Unfortunately, you can’t get an official grade when using the Photograde service. You’ll need to pay to have your coins formally graded.
Can You Get Coins Officially Graded for Free?
You can’t usually get coins officially graded for free.
You can use the PCGS free Photograde service, but it won’t “prove” anything. If you ever decide to sell the coin and want an official seal of the grade, you will need to pay to have it graded.
The PCGS service is a good first choice if you have no idea how much your coin is worth but don’t want to spend money immediately. Instead of instantly sending their coin for a paid grading service, coin collectors can do it themselves to get a rough idea.
Reasons Why You May Need to Pay to Grade Your Coins
You might be wondering why companies don’t offer free grading services. Below are the main reasons.
The Service Requires Expert Staff
Staff who examine the coins are experts and cannot work for free. The money needs to come from somewhere, which comes from the customers who submit their coins for grading. Otherwise, the staff would have to work voluntarily, which wouldn’t be feasible.
Grading Takes Time
Although grading isn’t the most lengthy process in the world, it still takes up enough time that it wouldn’t make sense to offer the service for free. If the grading services were free, all companies would go out of business immediately.
Not only does the grading take time, but equipment costs money, and they need to make that money back somehow.
Certain Seals Add Value to a Coin
When a coin gets officially graded, it receives a “seal” that certifies it. A coin with a PCGS seal will be seen as more valuable than a coin without a seal or a seal from a lesser-known company.
PCGS and other well-known entities (like NGC) know people are willing to pay for their quality services, which is why they must charge money for them. They are all businesses made to make profits.
Cheapest Coin Grading Company
If you’ve used the PCGS self-grading service and are now interested in a more “official” examination and certification, you might wonder what the cheapest option is. Of all the major reputable coin grading companies, ANACS is generally the most affordable.
Prices for US-minted coins start at just $14, which is a good deal if you expect the coin’s value to be more than this.
You can also go to shows and events to have coins graded, often for a reduced fee. Unlike PCGS and other services, ANACS doesn’t require people to have memberships if they want to have coins graded.
The main downside to having a coin graded by ANACS is that the seal isn’t as reputable.
So, you might be unable to sell it for as much as you would if it had a PCGS or NGC seal. Still, it’s a cheaper grading service, so it’s the best choice if you’re on a budget.
Does NGC Offer Free Coin Grading Services?
NGC does not offer free coin grading services. However, it’s slightly cheaper than PCGS, so it’s a decent choice if you’re on a slight budget and don’t want to use PCGS. PCGS is generally the most expensive because it’s the most reputable and sought-after grading company.
Consider Buying a Guide Book
Consider purchasing a book with detailed images if you’re highly interested in collecting coins and have a lot you want to grade. I recommend the “Official Red Book” (A Guide book of United States Coins 2023: The Official Red Book).
Although you’ll need to make the initial book purchase, you could save money in the long run. It’s also a fun activity if you’re looking for a new hobby.
Using a book works similarly to how the PCGS Photograding works, as you simply compare your coin to the images in the book.
While you’re here, don’t forget to check out my other article: What is RPM in Coin Collecting? Complete Explanation – It’s helpful, especially if you’re just getting started with coin collecting.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many free options for coin grading. However, PCGS offers a free self-service option, where coin collectors can compare their coins to the images on-screen.
You will need to pay for a service to have your coin officially graded and certified. Grading companies that offer such services include: