The Joys of Collecting column from the Oct. 31, 2016, weekly issue
of Coin World:
Today, coin buyers can be divided into two categories: (1) informed
and aware of the nuances of the marketplace and (2) uninformed and
don’t care — the labels on holders are all they need.
I believe we all know or agree that no expert or group of experts
can consistently tell the difference between, say, Mint State 66 and
MS-67, or MS-64+ and MS-66. For this reason the same coin graded by
the same service on two different occasions can have two different grades.
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When seeking an expensive coin, look for a Professional Coin Grading
Service or Numismatic Guaranty Corp. certified example, as these
services guarantee authenticity. I am not aware if other services do,
but if so, consider them as well.
Also, treat grades as being approximate. They are not precise or
scientific. In that way you can look at coins in the general range you
desire and can ignore ones graded much lower or higher, saving time.
Say that you want a gem 1926-D Indian Head 5-cent coin, 1882-CC Morgan dollar, 1908 Saint-Gaudens, No Motto $20 gold double
eagle, or 1923-S Monroe Doctrine Centennial half dollar.
Examine images of coins certified from MS-64 to MS-66. Consider the
prices asked. Consider the eye appeal and striking sharpness. You will
find that some MS-64 coins are nicer than those marked MS-65 or MS-66.
You will also find that nearly all 1882-CC dollars are very
attractive, but that many 1923-S Monroe half dollars are anything but!
You will also see that most 1926-D Jefferson 5-cent coins are weakly
struck, and can ignore them.
Pick a nice coin, with decent sharpness of strike, and at a price
that seems to be a good buy, again remembering that the highest number
is often different from the highest quality or the best value.
What you are doing is exactly what the sophisticated buyers of years
ago did to build great collections before numbers.
When selecting a special coin for myself or a discriminating client,
I take my time and carefully select an excellent combination of high
quality and good value. I have a lot of fun chasing such things. Works
Postscript: In some specialties, such as counterstamped cents, early
tokens, and medals, numbers are sometimes used, but play a minor part
in comparison to overall characteristics.