Collecting coins is a nuanced hobby. Counterfeits are a common problem and small details like the date and minting marks can mean a big difference in value. To protect buyers and sellers alike grading services were created to verify the type and value of coins. Not every coin goes through this grading process however, this is where the term raw coin comes from.
What is a Raw Coin?
A raw coin is a coin that isn't in a major grading service holder, such as those issued by NGC and PCGS.
Usually, once a coin has been graded it will be encapsulated in a plastic holder. This doesn't mean that all encased coins have been graded. Even though the coin might be in a plastic case of some type, it is still considered to be raw if it isn't graded and slabbed (encapsulated) by one of the leading grading services. All loose coins and coins in home collecting folders and albums are considered to be raw. A raw coin isn't necessarily less valuable than one that has been graded it just unverified. Collectors who are confident in their coin knowledge will be more confident purchasing raw coins.
Are Raw Coins Worth Buying?
While buying raw coins can be an inexpensive way to begin your collection it's definitely a case of buyer beware. When you buy expensive raw coins on the internet, you're taking a chance of being ripped off because it's harder to inspect the coins. When buying coins online it's best to only buy from sellers who have high ratings and clear close-up images of their coins.
It's best to keep in mind that if the price of a coin seems to good to be true it probably is. Doing as much research as you can on the coins you plan to purchase can help you figure out which coins are the real deal or not. It's good to remember that some counterfeit coins are hard for the untrained eye to spot.
Using a grading service will ensure you're paying a fair price for what you're purchasing.