Dave Rickey Says: Get the Red Out – PCGS Red Holders vs. PMG


One the core elements of the paper money hobby is note grading standards, and the attempt to regulate them across various 3rd party grading services. If your note is worth more than $1,000, chances are, it is “slabbed” (meaning graded and given a jacket) by one of the major paper money grading services. If it isn’t, you might consider doing so if you plan to sell the note in the near future.

Without a doubt, the two leading grading services are PMG (Paper Money Guarantee) and PCGS (Professional Currency Grading Service). CGA (Currency Grading and Authentication) used to be a top service up until a change occurred in management which resulted in some fallout in the hobby due to inconsistent grading practices. CGA has worked hard to recover its reputation. Notes graded by the new team at CGA are now denoted with a star next to the grade number on the obverse of the note.

A common issue many currency enthusiasts debate is the accuracy of the PMG and PCGS grading services; and whether or not a note would be graded and commented exactly the same by both services. Dave and Brenda Rickey of DBRCurrency.com – owners of the famous “Rickey Collection” that graced Lyn Knight’s currency auction platform in October 2005 – performed an interesting study in which they compared notes graded by PCGS and PMG.

Rickey had several notes in red PCGS holders, usually reserved for problematic notes. He writes that he doesn’t like the red holders as a matter of presentation and aesthetics. He also had several other notes with regular PCGS holders. The notes were valued anywhere between $64-$85,000 USD. Rickey cut the tops of each PCGS jacket off and sent the notes off to PMG for grading.

Upon return, Rickey noted some interesting differences between PMG’s final grade and comments (if any) for each note compared to what grade and comments PCGS gave. For the full analysis, see Rickey’s 2007 “Get the Red Out” Article – Click Here. Rickey presents a couple charts and statistical comparisons across all notes submitted in his article. Median grade between the two services was identical, however the average grade differed, with PMG being slightly more generous. In sum total, Rickey ultimately concluded that red-holdered PCGS notes received better grades and less negative comments when graded by PMG.

Though most hobbyists don’t have the money or time to re-slab all of their notes, Rickey’s study is an interesting look at what grades one set of notes received from PCGS; and what grades the same set received from PMG. Grading can make a big difference in note value, especially for rarer notes in high grades when original paper quality is considered.

Most of the notes at PaperMoneyAuction.com are slabbed. Some dealers offer raw notes. As always, ask for a detailed scan of the front and back of the note before making an offer. Our dealers are highly reputable and have impeccable reputations in the paper money field, which means their grade estimations on raw notes are generally accurate. Even so, make sure you know what you’re buying before you open your check book. Minor imperfections like rounded corners, counting marks, or ink smears might not be as acceptable to you as they might be to others. This is what makes each collector’s collection unique and special.