Does the highest grade number yield the best coin?
Recently in communications with Bill Fivaz and a few other authors
who have written books for Whitman Publishing LLC we discussed the
numerical grading system. This is not a new subject, of course, and I
have probably focused on it 101 times in my columns since they started
in 1961. The Official American Numismatic Association Grading System,
based on William H. Sheldon’s 1949 system, holds that a coin with a 1
grade, or Basal State, worn nearly smooth, is at the bottom of the
ladder. At the top is Mint State 70, or perfection.
Today, nearly all modern U.S. Mint commemorative coins, Proof coins,
and other coins sold at a premium are graded 69 or 70. In contrast, no
American coins dated prior to the 20th century have ever been graded
MS-70, and for Colonial coins the highest grades are often Good 4 to
Very Fine 30.
This concept is lost on many newcomers, who think that a modern
MS-70 coin is something special, when in reality they are as common as
Going beyond that, the numerical grade deals only with the amount of
wear or handling a coin has received. I am at present working on the
manuscript for A Guide Book of Liberty Seated Silver Coins, to
be delivered to Whitman this summer. In the gathering of 1,148 images
so far, with some left to go, I was reminded that numerical grade
often has little to do with numismatic desirability.
To verify this go on the Internet and check out the coin images on
various auction and other websites. Often, indeed very often, an MS-63
coin will be more attractive and sharper struck than an MS-65 coin!
Two other factors than the grade number can be equally important, in
my opinion: (1) strike and (2) eye appeal.
A familiar example of a weakly struck coin is the 1926-D Indian Head
5-cent coin. Ninety percent or more are weak on the reverse, with
details fuzzy. Today, a certified MS-65 coin can be weak and, to me,
not worth buying, and an MS-63 can be sharp and a treasure!
See the accompanying illustrations.
More from CoinWorld.com:
federal judge rules against government in 1974-D aluminum cent case
investigators uncover scheme to defraud U.S. Mint with counterfeit
surfing yields discovery of finest known Sheldon 96 1796 Draped
who asked President Obama why more women aren't on U.S. coins and
notes gets response
Jefferson 'nickel' struck on steel planchet among popular wartime errors
Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by
up for our free eNewsletters
liking us on Facebook
us on Twitter
. We're also on