The Joys of Collecting column from the March 7, 2016, Monthly issue of Coin World:
In many instances, the traditional About Uncirculated of a quarter century ago is today’s Mint State 60 to MS-62.
Certification services are not following the Official ANA Grading Standards for U.S. Coins, for many issues, or even Photograde, for that matter.
Is the solution to toss the old standards out of the window and adopt new, looser ones?
Financially, as I have mentioned, this is a win-win situation for most people involved. If a given coin certified by a given service can be flexible, and on second or third or fourth viewing it can graduate to a higher number, this doubles, triples, or quadruples the grading service profits.
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Back in 1980, for an Indian Head cent to be graded Fine 12, all letters of LIBERTY had to be readable. If a dealer sold an Indian Head cent with all letters worn away except two or three, he or she would be criticized for flagrantly overgrading. Today, the certifying services do this, and no one seems to care.
Another “win” is that coins that have low eye appeal, poor strike, or are just plain ugly would have been virtually unsalable in 1980, except at a deep discount. Today an ugly coin certified as MS-65 will find more buyers than a beautiful coin certified as MS-63.
To be a sophisticated coin buyer it pays, or used to pay, to “know the territory.” As examples, nearly all 1926-D Indian Head 5-cent coins are flatly struck on the reverse. On the head there is little fur. Above the bison’s shoulder there is little fur either.
At the Denver Mint in 1926 the dies were spaced too far apart, and the details in the deepest recesses did not strike up. Probably not one in 10 is sharp. However, the grading services make no mention of this, and with some patience you can find a sharp example, a rarity, but pay nothing extra! That is a win-win for you, and in a logical way. In contrast, the earlier-mentioned win-win situations are pointed out tongue-in-cheek.