There are seemingly endless acronyms and abbreviations in the field of numismatics, but one of the most commonly used is “PQ.” What does this term mean, and why is it used so frequently? PQ stands for Premium Quality, and it generally refers to coins that are above average in terms of grade and/or appearance. It’s not an official grading term, but a quick shorthand way of recognizing coins that are superior in some way.
Even though coins are already graded using a precise numerical scale from 1 to 70, many numismatists believe there are even more shades of grey in between grades. Two coins may both carry the same grade, but one might be high-end that almost qualified for the next grade – while another might be low-end and just barely make the existing grade. Collectors and dealers believe that these two coins, while graded the same, should be worth different amounts.
This is especially true for coins with large spreads, i.e. value differences between grades. If a coin is worth $500 in MS64 and $2000 in MS65, a belief exists that high-end MS64s should carry some kind of premium. An extremely high-end MS64, numismatists believe, should be worth $750-$1000. To help designate these near-misses and higher-end coins, collectors and dealers started using the PQ moniker.
PQ coins trade for a premium for two reasons. The first is that collectors view them as a good value compared to the next grade up. Using the $500-$2000 example from before, many collectors would rather pay $750 for a high-end MS64 versus $2000 for an MS65 that only looks slightly better. Why pay more than double for a coin that might only look 5% better?
Numismatists will also pay a premium for PQ coins that, in their estimation, stand a chance of upgrading if resubmitted. While coin grading is quite precise and consistent, some coins are extremely borderline and on the cusp of qualifying for the next grade. If a coin is on the fence, dealers and collectors might try resubmitting the coin again to PCGS or NGC in the hopes of getting a higher grade. This is another reason why PQ coins will sell for more – they have the potential to upgrade and be profitable for the lucky submitter.
Some coins have no hope of upgrading but are still marked “PQ” due to their superior eye appeal, color and/or luster. They may not be on the upper end of the grade in terms of technical quality, but they’re simply more attractive than the average specimen. An example would be a coin that has the luster of an MS65 but the surface quality of an MS64. Ultimately this coin is probably limited to the MS64 grade, but collectors believe coins like this should be worth more due to its superior eye appeal. Such a coin would be referred to as PQ.