Different results between the grading companies

8 posts in this topic

Hi everyone,


I would like to share with you a test I did.

I collect Portuguese Banknotes and there is one that was on ebay, graded Perfect 70 by ICG.

Because of the value of this note, I decided to answer a question I had.


What can be the difference of grading the same note in different company?


So I ordered it, scaned it (for you to be able to compare), cut the right edge of the protection, saved the label for me and sent the note still in the ICG holder, without touching it. I didn't wanted me manipulating the note influencing the test. And sent it for grading at PMG. Between the note ant the grading it cost me 130$ for the test.


And it went back as a PMG 66 EPQ...

I was not expecting such a difference!


Just to be clear I don't say that one grading company is better than the other. There is a thousand reasons that might explain the change in the grading. And at the end I'm not desapointed at all and will not send it for regrading, it was just a perfect banknote to do this test on.


I just wanted to share this test with you that I thought was interesting, and the only thing we can learn from this test might be this :

Try to always use the same grading company to keep your collection concistent.


Here is the note to illustrate this test. before in the ICG and as received today in the PMG :




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Don't know about ICG, but I trust PMG grading.


I've sent many notes to PMG to be graded, including ones perviously graded by CGA and PCGS. The PCGS ones came back mostly with the same grade or 1 point less except for 1 that went from 67 to 68 and 1 that has tiny pin holes that PCGS missed and came back with NET.


CGA is a different story. Thanks to eBay's policy of not recognizing CGA, I treat their notes as raw notes and pay accordingly. Grades that were said to be Gem or Superb Gem, I took as 63 and paid for that. That said I still ended up with a couple that were graded 66 and 67 by CGA and PMG send back as 58 because they had very faint folds that were smoothed over, the others were mostly 2 to 3 points lower.


Like you said try to always use the same grading company to keep your collection consistent. I chose PMG, but there is nothing wrong with PCGS except their holders.

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Usually, the difference between a 66 - 67 - 68 - 69 and 70 grade is centering. Notes without frames like this one would be difficult to discern centering. It is one of the faults of trying to adapt a system used to grade US paper money to the world market.

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I'm not sure what level of competence there is on non-PMG/PCGS currency grading, with the leading two there are some minor differences and though I am an authorized dealer with both I don't want to risk an "apparent" which I regard as lousy nomenclature. On the others are they using standing grading techniques and devices? How many graders are agreeing??

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To erase any doubt: ICG is a high quality operation based in Madrid, Spain.


As a European collector of long standing in IBNS, Mr Jaime Sanz (ICG' Director), is a well respected expert within the paper money collecting fraternity. Of course, based in Europe, and with fellow mainly Europe based experts, ICG is in a prime position to have the expertise to grade European notes.


While being satisfied with PMG grading in general, mainly due to an improvement in PMG administrative procedures as well as less PMG errors in attribution and grading, I think that competition is good for the hobby and the business. I would always use PMG for notes printed in the US or under US supervision. I would use ICG for "difficult to attribute'' notes, European printed notes, European colonial notes and sundry items.


International auction houses who are aware of their customers needs recognize grading services that are ethical in their business procedures. This is certainly the case with auction companies that recognize ICG.


This comment reflects my own experience as an IBNS Life Member - I have no association whatsoever with ICG. I am merely a satisfied client. I have not informed ICG that I was going to make this comment.

Edited by IndoHound
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Matarcat is right I think. All have their flaws. I know PMG is far from perfect but they have the best holders. PCGS holders are inferior by far. One professional told me he contacted Smithsonian and they told him paper should not be exposed to air as PCGS holders have the slit at the top. He contacted Smithsonian because PCGS claims air in contact with the note is good for the note. They told him of course they should not be exposed to air for long term preservation. He also claimed in the New York hurricane he knows collectors that the notes were ruined in PCGS holders during flooding and recoverable in PMG holders. As a rookie I bought mixed but have gradually been shedding all my PCGS notes. I have a very expensive PCGS but am terrified to send it in to PMG for a regrade because I know it will lose one level which will reduce the value by $1,000-2,000. I also agree the "Apparent" terminology is terrible. PMG is the most conservative but sometimes overly conservative. I sent in a CGA 64 and it came back PMG 45!! CGA should be treated as raw notes. A dirty secret, I will sell my PCGS notes at retail for the grade, that will grade lower at PMG and replace them with PMG. Ultimately you want notes that will hold their value the most while being attractive, big eye appeal notes. In 50 years, collectors will know PMG graded conservatively and thus will have more value. Just my theory. I did a test not unlike yours. I sent in 5 absolute perfect notes in sequence and they came back all EPQ but from 58 to 66!! I was wondering how in the hell did they have such a large spread in 5 brand new notes almost stuck together. Just by separating them to place in individual holders I created an AU!! I laughed when they returned.

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I can't wait until they develop a machine that will scientifically and consistently grade notes. We have the technology now that 100% of every aspect of note grading/measuring can be duplicated and assigned a value by a machine. This would eliminate all the inconsistent subjective grading and errors.

I want notes graded accurately and scientifically, not opinions of those that could be biased one way or another.

It is impossible for humans to have an unbiased opinion on anything. Human minds don't work that way and thank God they don't. 

Bring on the robots!!

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ICG did not use the same scale as US companies. It’s 60 was an AU-UNC grade, then they had 63, equivalent to anything between 58-62 by US companies, and 66 which ICG themselves labeled as choice unc, hence 63 . The next grade was 68 for near or true gems, equivalent to 64-66 and the «perfect unc» 70 that was supposed to be 67 and above. PMG crossgraded it at 66, too bad. Jaime did not use epq, PPQ etc designations either.

The problems that Jaime faced started with his cooperation with PCGS Currency, who wanted a foothold in Europe to reduce PCGS gold Shield’s operations ,which worked for quite some time, until Bradford for no apparent reason broke his contract with CU ,in December 2018, even though he could renew for another decade, and decided to create Legacy, leaving Jaime in the red. Jaime is primarily a hobbyist, his profession is a radiologist if I am not mistaken and he was furious that his collaboration with Jason Bradford destroyed his company. 

As a European customer of PCGS Currency, and buyer of ICG notes at times, I feel very bad about this situation.






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