What's the best grade to buy for a given coin? The answer is not one
size fits all, unfortunately.
For example, take the 1935 Old Spanish Trail commemorative half
dollar. It has a small mintage of 10,008 pieces and it’s an expensive
coin in all grades. However, when one considers that a relatively
unattractive example costs nearly $1,000, a Mint State 64
representative at the $1,200 level seems reasonable.
At a 2013 auction, one graded Numismatic Guaranty Corp. Uncirculated
Details, Improperly Cleaned, brought $940. That same week, two
handsome MS-64 examples sold at auction for $1,116.25. The difference
between a so-so coin that may be hard to sell and a nice coin seems
relatively modest in this case.
The jump to MS-66 is, again, rather small, with attractive examples
selling at auction at the $1,450 level and oddly toned ones selling
cheaply at the $1,200 level.
This commemorative provides a useful case study on when it makes
sense to pay a little extra for something nicer, especially when
buying an issue that is inherently expensive due to a low mintage.