Certified coins by Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic
Guaranty Corp. and a couple of other firms are front row center.
Today, the majority of buyers rely on “slabbed” coins when they buy.
Other considerations such as eye appeal or dismal lack thereof, sharp
strike or weak strike, are not considered.
Consider these illustrations. Say an 1809 copper cent lists in A
Guide Book of United States Coins for $1,400 in Very Fine 20. If one
as ugly as a toad (believe me, many large copper cents have little eye
appeal) but certified as VF-20 were offered for sale, even
illustrated, for $1,000, buyers would flock in droves! If a coin with
the same certification is sharply struck on a glossy light brown
planchet, and has stunning eye appeal, again illustrated, but is
offered at $2,200, no one would touch it! Actually, I would.
When I started in business in the 1950s, I always had a sharp eye
for quality. Back then an ugly coin would have few buyers, and I
stayed away from them. Low-quality coins were shunned by others as
well. Probably 90 percent of the customers back then were
sophisticated. They had to be, as there were no grading standards or
services, no authentication services, and no listings of current
market prices. The annual Guide Book was “it” for valuations, plus an
awareness of advertised and auction prices.
Today, there is a very strong market in coins that have low eye
appeal, are weakly struck, or otherwise would have found few buyers 50
or 60 years ago.
Also, if Harvey Stack, Lester Merkin, Arthur Conn, I or some other
dealer sold, say, an 1849 Coronet gold dollar as “Choice
Uncirculated,” back then it would often be the case that a buyer would
take it to Joe, who ran a neighborhood coin shop, and be told, “That
coin is overgraded” or “It has been cleaned,” even if that was not so,
and “Send it back!”
Joe, of course, wanted the collector to buy from him, not from me
or some other dealer.
Today, certified coins solve the problem. Few people care what Joe
in his coin shop, or Harvey Stack or I think about a certified coin.
It might as well have been imprinted by God! Just about any certified
coin is marketable, and if offered at a discount from “bid” (not well
defined in most instances), buyers will flock in droves with
checkbooks in hand!
Next week: Another “blessing” by which countless millions of
dollars in coins are sold for high prices, that would not be if they
were not certified.
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries
and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached
at his private email, email@example.com,
or at Q. David Bowers LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.