What Is a "PCGS Genuine" or "NGC Details" Coin?

NGC Details and PCGS Genuine Coin Holder
NGC Details and PCGS Genuine Coin Holder. Image Courtesy of: Heritage Auction Galleries, www.ha.com

PCGS Genuine

A "PCGS Genuine" coin is a coin that has been placed in a PCGS grading service holder (usually called a "slab",) without a grade attached to it. The coin has no grade because it is a "problem coin" of some sort, which can be identified by the code on the label in the PCGS holder. Coins designated as Genuine were formerly returned to the collector ungraded and non-holdered, in so-called body bags. Now, PCGS puts these coins into holders without a grade, just the designation that they are genuine along with a code explaining why the coin failed to grade.

Recently, PCGS has started to evaluate the surface condition of the coin as it relates to the amount of wear on it. Although they do not assign an official numerical grade to the coin, they will give an opinion as to how much circulation the coin has seen and assign an adjectival grade. For example, the coin illustrated in the photograph has the indication of "G Details." This means that a similar coin without the problem would grade as a Good coin.

The PCGS Genuine label, shown in the photo to the right, has three numeric codes on it. The first code is 35438. This part of the code tells us what kind of coin is in the holder, in this case, an 1793 Chain Reverse Large Cent. The second part of the code (following the period) tells you the grade the coin received on the 70-point coin grading scale. For coins that did not get a grade, this number will be in the range from 91 to 98. The number on the other side of the slash is the certificate number (or "cert") and is unique for each coin.

PCGS Genuine Problem Codes

When PCGS rejects a coin for full grading because it has problems (and therefore slabs it only as Genuine), the code will reveal the primary reason. The list below explains what the codes mean.

  • 91 Artificially Colored
  • 92 Cleaned
  • 93 Planchet (Coin Blank) Flaw
  • 94 Altered Surface
  • 95 Scratched or Rim Dented
  • 97 Environmentally Damaged
  • 98 Other Damage

PCGS will not encapsulate coins that are judged to have the following issues:

  • 90 Not Genuine
  • 99 Active PVC

Code 96 is reserved for items that are completely rejected for service, such as tokens and other non-coin items. PCGS also doesn't holder coins that have plugged holes. More information about the PCGS Genuine program is available on the PCGS Web site.

NGC Details

Third party grading company Numismatic Guarantee Corporation (NGC) provides a similar opinion known as a "Details Coin". As you can see by the example coin in the photograph, they would indicate the approximate grade an undamaged coin would have received along with the reason why the coin did not receive a numeric grade.

NGC Details Description

Instead of listing a numeric code to indicate the problem with the coin, NGC provides a short one or two word description. Examples include:

  • Added Mintmark 
  • Altered Date 
  • Altered Surface 
  • Artificial Toning 
  • Brushed 
  • Chopmarked 
  • Corrosion 
  • Damaged 
  • Graffiti 
  • Improperly Cleaned
  • Mutilated 
  • PVC Damage
  • Residue 
  • Scratches 
  • Whizzed 

The Body 

Remember, the "Genuine" and "Details" designation provided by PCGS and NGC respectively, only apply to coins that are not counterfeit coins and have not been altered in order to deceive the buyer. Coins that are submitted to the third party grading companies that are counterfeit coins will always be returned to the submitter in a body bag with an indication that it is their opinion that the coin is a counterfeit. Coins that have been deceptively altered, for examle a coin that has had a mint mark removed in order to make it more valuable (like a 1922 Lincoln cent) will also come back in a body bag.

Edited by: James Bucki