Whether you’re a brand new numismatic or a seasoned collector or bank notes, chances are you’ve heard of PMG’s currency grading service in the past, or purchased a banknote that had a PMG grading associated with it. PMG, or “Paper Money Guaranty”, is one of the world’s leading currency grading and appraisal services. The firm uses a 70-point numerical scale, derived from the internationally recognized Sheldon grading scale, to assign quality scores to bank notes which communicate their paper quality, condition, pedigree and registration to prospective purchasers. In this resource article, we’ll unpack PMG’s 70-point scale as well as examine the designations and definitions it uses when evaluating bills.
By the end, you’ll know exactly what to expect when purchasing bills with a specific designation, and you’ll learn how you can submit your own bills to PMG for grading.
Important Definitions used by PMG Grading
- Handling – Handling refers to any indication that the note has been disturbed in circulation. Usually teller counting marks, crinkles in the notes and any minor bends count as handling – actual folds are a more serious issue.
- Original – Original just means that the paper quality has not changed from when the note was issued, except for normal changes with circulation.
- Pedigree – PMG will accept documentation in the authentication process to verify the pedigree of notes with significant past owners, or to certify the ownership of a specific note by a specific party in case of theft. Pedigrees typically do not add value to notes, but some collectors like to keep records of their collections and where the notes originated.
- Registration – This term refers to the alignment of face and back printing – this is uniform for most bills in a series, but is still reviewed in case misprints occur.
Quality Designations Offered at PMG
Exceptional Paper Quality – The exceptional paper quality designation, also known as EPQ, is given to notes that graders believe to be totally original, that is, without any physical, chemical or material processing that would give the illusion of a higher quality note. Many collectors do not wish to purchase notes that have been altered to improve their appearance – the EPQ designation certifies that the paper is original and has not been modified to improve its look. Notes must qualify for EPQ to earn a grading of 65 or higher.
PMG Star Designation – The star designation is assigned to notes with exceptional visual appeal for their assigned grade. This characteristic is highly subjective, but in general, the note must display high quality embossing, vibrant ink colour and perfect paper quality to be considered. Therefore, only notes that qualify for EPQ can be assessed for the PMG Star Designation.
Understanding the PMG 70-Point Scale
The 70-point scale is used by PMG to grade bank notes. A note that earns the highest grade of 70 must qualify for the PMG Star Designation and have no visible evidence of handling at 5x magnification. Notes that grade between 65 and 69 are typically uncirculated notes with above-average margins, registration and centering, and minimal handling. Notes graded between 50 and 65 are typically uncirculated but may have one or more folds and several signs of handling on them. Flaws in margins and centering are common at this grading level, but the notes are generally in good condition despite showing signs of handling. Gradings from 50 to 20 are given on a continuum based on the number of folds, evidence of circulation, visual defects or distractions, and the presence of any soiling or staining on the notes. Grades below 20 are awarded to notes with too many folds, rounded corners, margin splits, rips, holes, and high evidence of circulation.
Submitting Your Bank Note for Grading with PMG
PMG offers a variety of grading services at various price points – you can check their website for specifics. There are currently three ways to submit bank note to PMG for grading:
- Submit your notes through a PMG authorized dealer – the PMG website contains functionality for searching for a dealer near you that will help your package your notes, determine their insurance value, and send them off for grading.
- Join the PMG Collectors Society – This paid membership allows you to submit your notes to PMG directly, along with the other members of the Certified Collectibles Group, including the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.
- Obtain a PMG submitter number – this will enable you to submit bank notes directly to PMG, although you must be an active member of the American Numismatic Association to obtain the number.
PMG offers an incredible service that not only certifies the prized items in your collection, it vouches for their condition and makes it easier than ever to buy and sell bank notes. The next time you’re browsing Banknote World’s Collection of graded notes, you’ll have a complete understanding of what those grades mean and how to choose the best new addition to your growing collection.