THE NGC STAR DESIGNATION
The NGC Star Designation identifies coins with exceptional eye appeal or characteristics that distinguish them from other coins of the same technical grade. This does not mean that they just miss the next grade, but it can mean that they verge on the next designation. For example, an untoned PF 65 Cameo coin is not necessarily close to the PF 66 grade, but may be close to an Ultra Cameo designation.
No innovation in third-party grading has ignited the spirits and delighted the fancy of rare coin collectors quite like the NGC Star Designation. This coveted designation, indicated by a symbol immediately following the grade, identifies coins that are superior in eye appeal to more typical coins of the same grade, and is unique to NGC. While there are many features that may lead to a coin receiving a star, there is one thing that always holds true: every star designated coin is something special to see.
Although it was introduced only a few years ago, already there are collectors who specialize in star designated coins, and even describe their collections by the number of star designated coins they contain. Many of these coins can be found residing in collections on the NGC Registry, where a coin with a Star Designation receives a 25% point premium to recognize its attributes. Collectors and dealers alike appreciate the way that stars inform buyers and sellers about a coin’s special appearance, assuring that they receive their due attention.
One important thing to remember is that NGC defines its star designated coins as those that have exceptional eye appeal. The coins themselves could fall anywhere within the grades to which they are assigned. For example, an MS 64 graded coin could be at the lower end, mid-range or higher end of that grade. A star designated coin should not be deemed what some refer to as a “PQ,” or Premium Quality coin. Many numismatists colloquially describe a PQ coin as one that just misses the next grade, but that coin may or may not have exceptional eye appeal. NGC does not designate in any way where a particular coin may lie within its grade.
It is also of note that Star Designations are applied only with the unanimous consent of NGC’s graders. If there is a single objection to a particular coin receiving a Star Designation upon quality control inspection, it loses the star.
Recognizing a Star
Mint State Star designated coins can be either untoned (also referred to as “white” for some issues) or toned. In order for an untoned coin to qualify it must have full vibrant luster, be free of any obvious planchet irregularities, and display no bothersome spots or blemishes. Making the determination on a toned coin is bit more complex. Because Star Designations require unanimous consent, in order for a toned coin to receive a Star Designation it must first be considered attractively toned by all graders who inspect it. As with untoned coins, it must have full luster that is unimpeded by the toning. It must also be free of any obvious planchet irregularities and any distracting spots or blemishes. The toning color can be of a single color or multicolored but cannot have any areas that are dark brown approaching black.
In applying Star Designations to proof coins, all of the above criteria for toned coins still hold. Untoned coins, however, must meet one of the additional criteria outlined below:
- Display cameo or ultra cameo contrast on the obverse only.
- Display cameo contrast on both the obverse and reverse falling just short of NGC’s minimum standard for cameo designation may receive a star. (Coins that display only a subtle contrast will not receive a star or a cameo designation.)
- Qualify for the cameo designation and, in addition, have an ultra cameo obverse.
- Qualify for the ultra cameo designation and, in addition, exhibit exceptionally intense contrast between devices and fields on both the obverse and reverse that exceeds by a generous margin that of the normal ultra cameo standard.
Eligible Coin Types
All United States regular coin series are eligible for the NGC Star. Additionally, US Mint pattern coins are eligible for a star, but mint errors are not.
There are a few exceptions in which NGC will not provide a Star Designation. It is applied only to US coinage. As the ultimate grade, any coin graded MS 70 or PF 70 will not be eligible for the star.
Submitting Your Coins for a Star
The NGC Star Designation is applied to qualifying coins by NGC in its normal course of grading uncertified US coins. No additional fee is required to receive the star. Coins already certified by NGC can be resubmitted and reviewed for Star Designation using the Designation Review Service, the fee for which is $10.
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