First let me start by saying that none of this applies to the high end of the market. The PCGS
CAC combo is king there and basically everything else sells at a discount to that combination. This also isn't a thread to tell everyone to run out and buy every ICG coin they see, but I did want to shed light on them as I see a lot of comments on multiple forums of people saying they won't even look at ICG coins and some if not many of those same posters like ANACS.
There's nothing wrong if someone wants to only buy PCGS
coins, or PCGS/NGC, or CAC coins ect. I'm not trying to change anyone's mind who has made that choice.
What a lot of people don't know is that about a decade ago ICG and ANACS were sold to new ownership groups and to make a long story short they ended up trading a lot of the graders. Several ICG graders went to ANACS and some of the ANACS ones ended up at ICG. A little longer down the line ICG ended up winning a lawsuit against them as they used their information to win the TV contracts away from ICG which of course lowered their exposure.
Since then ICG has kind of flown under the radar as they mostly stick to the South East when it comes to having a show presence along with a couple of the major shows. In my opinion that is one of the biggest reasons why they get looked down on as most people just aren't familiar with them or have never interacted with them which is one of the reasons why I wanted to make this thread to share my opinions.
As far as holders go I would put ICG basically on par with NGCs. PCGS
is the optically superior holder of everyone at the moment but the optics on the ICG holder are good and they don't seem to get beat up as easily as NGC
or ANACS (who in my opinion has by far the worst holder of the top 4). The holder itself is a good sturdy plastic with good clarity that holds up well over time.
Some of you may have noticed that more ICG slabs have been entering the market which is a trend I expect to continue as they are reporting a record year. There are several obvious reasons to this such as cost, speed of service, free conservation, and last but certainly not least grading ability.
As far as cost their charges are very reasonable especially for the 50-300 dollar coins where you would be paying $20 each for at the big 2. The specials they run a couple times a year for the $15 dollar a coin 5 day service is probably the best special in grading that any of them do. Their turn around times a VERY fast. I've had 5 day orders back in my possession on the 5th day on more than one occasion. A lot of their speedier service levels often run ahead of schedule sometimes significantly instead of having to wait a month or more. PCGS
obviously do a lot more coins a year than ICG so it makes sense they take longer, but it's not always worth waiting a month and paying more for those 100-200ish dollar coins.
For conservation ICG is almost always my choice. PCGS
and NCS do very good work, but they take a while and it isn't cheap. At this time conservation for ICG is free unless you send in a boat load of coins and in those cases any charge is very minimal per coin. The guy who does conservation for them was one of the founders of NCS the conservation arm of NGC
. They do a quality job with conservation and it's fast and free which are two things we all love.
As for grading every company has their own slightly different standards. Professional graders grade to the company standards not their own, some of their graders have worked at other TPGs in the past and could do so again today if they wanted. Their standards in my opinion are pretty similar to NGC
and I would say basically on par with them. Like everyone else they will net grade minor things and give details grades when they feel it is warranted. What will and won't get a details grade varies a little company to company but they're on par with the others. Somethings they details grade would straight grade at a different service while somethings they straight grade may details at a different one, just like everyone else.
Many of you have probably read that their coins are all over graded or they grade easier ect, they really don't. Plenty of what they grade would grade the same elsewhere and you can even find things that would upgrade just like with everyone else. I wouldn't send them five figure coins as that would be leaving to much money on the table for my liking, but the three figure coins most people collect I wouldn't hesitate if I liked it.
Now some of you may be saying but their coins sell at a discount to PCGS
and they do and many of them are priced to reflect that, but if that is an issue many NGC
coins also sell at a discount as do ANACS so that isn't something unique to ICG. What that means for a buyer is that you can find and acquire good coins cheaper especially in the 300 and under economy submission range as more people are using ICG for those coins instead of paying the higher fees and waiting longer. The big discrepancies in price by company are seen mostly in higher values anyway.
Like CAC you can also talk to the actual graders at ICG if you call. You can also request a short note about why things graded the way they do and sometimes they will even include one on their own. They also will put a lot more varieties on a slab including VAMs even if the submitter was unaware and didn't necessarily request it. For varieties they do basically all of them. They also grade almost anything (ancients excluded) and you can even have your counterfeits put in an educational slab clearly identifying it as one if you're worried it could sneak out or just want to.
Their grading is fully competent and I personally rate it superior to ANACS. The vast majority of us don't have the ability to accumulate enough to get costs down with bulk submissions at PCGS/NGC and many coins such as generic date/grade Morgans/Peace Dollars sell for about the same in any holder and areas like this are where I love ICG. You don't really lose value in those areas and may even gain it with a VAM
you didn't know you had while getting everything back cheaper and quicker.
Like many of you I disliked ICG several years ago, but have since used them quite a few times and can't say I've had any complaints about them or any real surprise grades. I also strongly prefer their error service over PCGS/NGC as it's much cheaper and much quicker with major high value errors excluded. Many others have been figuring out these things as well which is why you are seeing them more.
This isn't a knock against PCGS/NGC by any means and I still do strongly prefer PCGS
on many things, but there are some areas where it makes more sense to use ICG and just wanted to correct a lot of the misconceptions I see posted about them.
As a side note if you ever get grade estimates from them at a show your coins will generally grade better than they estimate at the show. Part of it is the show lighting is rarely very good, but it's mostly because they want you happy. What I mean by that is that they are overly critical in their estimates intentionally downplaying the grade a little bit so they don't over promise and leave you disappointment when you get the grades. Some of you may have experienced the opposite with ANACS since they just have a rep there that may or may not be able to grade very well. Part of why ICG doesn't do more shows is that they always have a grader there and being a smaller company they don't have as many to spare and financially they don't do show grading which is how PCGS/NGC justify bringing their graders to a show. So don't be surprised if you get better grades than they estimated at the show.