When it comes to the adjectives used to describe problem coins, an
altered surface can be particularly tough to spot, and such pieces can
be awarded a “No Grade” label. As Professional Coin Grading Service
explains, “This No Grade covers anything added to the surface of the
coin to either ‘improve’ its appearance or to cover marks. Surface
alteration methods include adding: dental wax, putty, lacquer, nose
grease, etc.” Altered surfaces are a form of coin “doctoring” designed
to make a coin look better and can make rarities more affordable for
collectors willing to live with a problem coin.
1886 Coronet $20 double eagle, Proof Genuine,
Uncirculated Details, Altered Surfaces
Coronet type Brilliant Proof U.S. gold coins are among the most
likely candidates for an Altered Surfaces designation since the
reflective fields lend themselves to hairline scratches and provide
opportunities for “improvement.”
This 1886 Coronet double eagle is graded PCGS Proof Genuine,
Uncirculated Details, Altered Surfaces. “Uncirculated Details” refers
to the fact that it has no wear, not that it is a Mint State coin.
In 1886 the Philadelphia Mint struck 1,000 double eagles for
circulation and 106 Proof pieces, of which perhaps 20 to 25 Proof
coins remain today.
COIN VALUES: How much is your 1886 Coronet double eagle worth?
In describing possible signs of alteration, Heritage observes “areas
of skillful enhancement possibly include polishing in the upper
obverse fields and manipulation of the reverse lettering (which
appears bright as opposed to the frosted look of other devices
including the eagle, portrait, and obverse stars).” This work was done
to minimize the impact of hairlines, and the coin sold for a
relatively affordable (for the issue at least) $18,800 at Heritage’s
June 9 Long Beach auction.
There is more to this Market Analysis! Keep reading about
recently sold altered coins:
1857-S Coronet $20 buffed to remove contact marks
earns 'altered' label
Cleaned 1892-S Morgan dollar realizes $16,450,
well below price of unaltered one
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