EAC Board votes to sponsor grading guide for copper coins

Book to include EAC grading guidelines for half cents, large cents
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Published : 05/16/13
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The Early American Coppers Board on May 4 voted to sponsor a project to produce an EAC grading guide for copper Colonial coins, half cents and large cents.

The vote was held during the May 1 to 5 EAC convention in Newark, Ohio, at the Cherry Valley Lodge.

Project editor Bob Fagaly announced the board’s decision the afternoon of May 4 in a membership presentation at the convention. Fagaly also announced that the authors of the book agreed that their shares of any profits from sales of the book would be donated back to the EAC.

The book, Guide for Grading Early U.S. Copper Coins, will cover Early American copper coins from 1760 to 1793, and federal half cents and large cents of 1793 to 1857.

In an article published in the January issue of Penny-Wise, the EAC journal, Fagaly wrote, “It is the stated goal of the grading guide committee to produce a set of guidelines that generally conform to EAC standards for grading.” The book, therefore, is designed to explain to users how copper coins graded to EAC standards are supposed to look, and how those standards differ from standards used elsewhere in the marketplace.

It is widely known in the copper coin community and broader marketplace that coins graded by EAC standards will often receive different grades than assigned by commercial third-party grading standards, and that the EAC grades are often more conservative. Auction catalogs for major collections of early copper coins will often list for each coin both a third-party grading service’s grade and an EAC grade.

Fagaly said that the committee that is producing the book hopes to have it ready for publication by the end of 2013. The 8.5-inch by 11-inch book will be hardcover, several hundred pages in length and printed in full color on high-quality stock. A print run of 1,000 copies is being considered. In response to a question from the audience, Fagaly said an e-book edition might be considered later, but not until a print edition is sold out.

A special edition of the book would also be produced for project participants and others, with additional copies reserved for sale at future EAC auctions as a fundraising device.

During the May 4 presentation to the EAC membership, Fagaly asked attendees what they would be willing to pay for the book, with a price range of $100 to $125 receiving greater support (through a show of hands) than a higher price. Less support was seen among attendees for a price of more than $125.

One member in attendance asked whether it would be possible for the book to be published in multiple volumes (for example, binding the Colonial, half cent and large cent guide sections as separate works) to make it easier to carry the guide around at conventions. Committee members indicated that pursuing such a course could considerably increase the cost of printing the books.

Contents of book

Fagaly and fellow committee members Ray Williams and Dennis Fuoss described the contents of the book.

After a chapter dealing with the history of the EAC and introduction to grading, the second chapter will jump into the intricacies of grading. The chapter will feature a discussion of EAC grading guidelines, including technical grading, market grading and net grading; grading as practiced by the organization versus grading by the rest of the coin market; and sections about Mint State grading, color, cleaning and condition.

The third chapter will deal with authentication, and discussions of counterfeits and possibly electrotypes.

The fourth chapter will address half cent grading, by series: 1793 Liberty Cap, 1794 Liberty Cap, 1795 to 1797 Liberty Cap, Draped Bust, Classic Head and Braided Hair.

Chapter five will cover the grading of large cents, by series as with the previous chapter: Chain, Wreath, Liberty Cap (the various heads), both types of Draped Bust design, Classic Head, Coronet and Braided Hair.

The sixth, Colonial chapter, will cover Fugio cents and coppers issued by New Jersey, Connecticut, and Vermont (both Landscape and Bust types), and Massachusetts half cents and cents.

An additional chapter will cover pricing (both EAC and commercial).

The book will end with the authors’ conclusions and feature appendixes on die varieties for the series covered.

In additional to discussing the details of the book, the committee members asked for help in obtaining certain images. Both Heritage Auctions and Ira & Larry Goldberg Coins & Collectibles have granted the authors permission to use images from their auction archives, but the project members are lacking certain images, especially of lower grade common-date pieces, which often are not plated in auction catalogs.

In addition to Fagaly, Williams and Fuoss, Bill Eckberg, Tom Deck, Kirk Thomas, Bob Grellman, Harry Salyards and Shawn Yancy are serving on the grading guidelines committee.

Ellsworth Die State Collection

For distribution at the EAC convention, Heritage Auctions, Dallas, produced a bound “2013 Exhibition Checklist,” which offered a preview of Heritage’s upcoming sales of the Col. Steve Ellsworth Die State Collection. Ellsworth, a well-known specialist in early copper coinage, has consigned duplicates from his collection, according to Heritage consignment director Samuel Foose, “with many important die states and rare varieties,” according to the checklist.

The first Heritage auction, of Early Date large cents of 1793 to 1814, is set for September in conjunction with the Long Beach Coin, Stamp & Sports Collectible Expo in Long Beach, Calif. The Middle Date and Large Date cents will be offered during the firm’s February 2014 Long Beach sale.

Examples from the consignment were placed on exhibit at the show, and potential bidders were offered opportunities to view the coins.

The coins on exhibit in the display cases were in holders of third-party grading services, but as the introduction to the checklist by Mark Borckardt and Foose notes, “EAC grades and certified grades are subject to change as the individual coins have only received a cursory examination by the Heritage numismatists.”

A “die state” marks a specific, identifiable stage during a die marriage’s life. As dies are used to strike coinage, regular die wear and coining mishaps (die clashing, die cracks) can alter the die’s surfaces, which specialists can use to chart a die’s lifespan. Some specialists in die varieties often take the next step, and seek examples of the various die states for each die variety.

The checklist released in conjunction with the EAC convention bears no illustrations except those on the front and back covers. The checklist instead features a description of each coin (date, die variety and provenance), plus comments from Ellsworth. For example, for the first 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain cent listed in the checklist, Ellsworth commented: “Fine 12. Smooth olive brown and steel with minor rim bruises and circulation marks. All details sharp.”

For details about the upcoming auction, contact Borckardt at 214-409-1345 and Foose at 214-409-1227.

Other EAC activity

The EAC show in Newark featured a small bourse of fewer than 70 tables, though the dealers present included most of the specialists in early copper coinage.

Although early copper coinage (Colonials, half cents, large cents) was the primary focus of the bourse, some dealers also offered Conder, Hard Times and Civil War tokens, some silver coinage, early American and U.S. medals, numismatic literature, and more.

Collectors could be seen examining the dealers’ offerings; one collector did not collect early copper coinage, but was eagerly going through a dealer’s offering of assorted large cents at prices of $20, $15 and $10, looking for something that grabbed his attention.

Lots for the EAC convention auction, scheduled for the evening of May 4, were available for examination by potential bidders.

Four tables contained noncompetitive exhibits. Brad Karoleff displayed “Early Silver Literature,” while Jack Conour offered “Die States of 1816 Cents.”

Maybe the most interesting exhibit was Jerry Stubblefield’s multicase display of large cents that had been altered for utilitarian and other purposes. The exhibitor displayed virtually complete date sets of holed large cents and counterstamped large cents, plus cents that had been used as buttons, wire strippers, gears, pie crimpers, cutters and more.

A number of educational presentations were held throughout the show.

May 4 presentations included Jack Robinson on “Ask Anything You Ever Wanted to Know About CQR,” focusing on his specialty price guide, Copper Quotes by Robinson. Audience members asked a number of questions about Robinson’s highly specialized price guide for copper coinage.

Darwin Palmer on the same afternoon discussed the collecting of New Jersey coppers. He outlined how, when he was about to start collecting in the series, he developed guidelines on collecting the copper coinage of the state of New Jersey based on rarity. At one point, he established that collecting an extensive collection that included pieces of the highest rarity could require a financial outlay approaching $1 million.

Educational programs concluded on May 4 with Ellsworth’s two-hour presentation, “Refuse to be a Victim.” In addition to being a coppers specialist, Ellsworth is regarded as knowledgeable in security for coin collectors and dealers. ■

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