What is the Difference Between Raw and Certified Coins?

Robert EsparzaJanuary 07, 2024

Whether you are a seasoned numismatist or a novice collector, you may have come across the terms "raw coins" and "certified coins". But what do these terms mean, and what sets them apart? 

What is a Raw Coin?

A raw coin refers to a coin that has not undergone any professional grading or certification process. These coins are typically obtained directly from circulation, coin dealers, trade, or even online auctions.


Why do Collectors buy Raw Coins?

Collectors enjoy the challenge of finding hidden treasures and uncovering the stories behind each piece. Raw coins also provide an opportunity for collectors to personally inspect and assess the coin's condition, eye appeal, and any potential defects. Raw coins are for the collector who enjoys holding these timeless, Historical pieces in their hands.


What is a Certified Coin?

On the other hand, certified coins are those that have been authenticated, graded, and encapsulated by a reputable third-party grading service. The main advantage of certified coins is the assurance of authenticity and a reputable opinion to guide investing and pricing. Third-party grading services employ expert professionals who carefully evaluate each coin, assigning it a grade based on factors such as wear, luster, and strike quality. This grading process provides some consistency and uniformity within the hobby, allowing collectors to have a measure of a coin's condition and rarity.


Why do Collectors buy Certified Coins?

Moreover, certified coins often come encapsulated in a tamper-evident holder, protecting them from damage and preserving their condition. This adds an extra layer of security when buying or selling coins, as the encapsulation prevents alteration, tampering, or unintended damage. Additionally, the encapsulated holder provides a concise display of crucial information, such as the coin's grade, attribution, and certification number, which aids in the verification and identification process.


Should I buy Raw or Certified Coins?

If you have the knowledge, experience, and expertise to accurately evaluate raw coins, they can be a worthy addition to your collection. Coin grading is extremely subjective, so as an investment, raw coins should be considered “risky”, even to the seasoned coin dealer! Coin dealers who have been trading rare coins for decades often comment on the changes in grading standards and trends over the years.

On the other hand, certified coins provide a higher level of assurance, especially for valuable or rare coins. They present a standardized grading system, which simplifies the buying and selling process. If you are a beginner or prefer a more straightforward approach to collecting, certified coins offer peace of mind and a widely accepted grading standard. This also provides clarity on a coin’s investment-worthiness, as investors seek out coins with both mintage rarity AND condition rarity. 

Where do I start?

As a new collector, where do you start? It is crucial to educate yourself about various coin types, denominations, key dates, and mint marks. Familiarize yourself with the grading process and study the market trends. Joining numismatic clubs, attending coin shows, and engaging with knowledgeable collectors and dealers can provide invaluable insights and mentorship. Start small, focus on your areas of interest, and gradually expand your collection as you gather experience, knowledge, and confidence.

Happy collecting!

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