The Joys of Collecting column from the Feb. 20, 2017, Weekly issue
of Coin World:
Last week I started my Wish List for 2017 with No. 1: Fix the coin
grading system. Today there is no definition of standards. A coin
graded Mint State 64 a year ago might be graded MS-65 by the same
third-party service today. Who knows if your MS-65+ Barber half dollar
is ugly or beautiful, or if an MS-63 example is nicer?
One idea is to create images of certain coins, as each has its own
“fingerprint” — or arrangement of tiny marks, etc. Perhaps
fingerprinting technology (of which I know nothing) now in place would
help. In that way a given 1794 Liberty Cap cent of the rare Sheldon 48
variety could be imaged in a database as Very Fine 20, or whatever. Of
course there would have to be a vetting committee.
Connect with Coin World:
Sign up for
our free eNewsletter
Follow us on Twitter
This might be practical for rarities such as an S-48 cent, but
hopeless for commemorative half dollars, or whatever.
As I recently mentioned in this column, I am building a collection
of Vermont copper coins of the 1785 to 1788 years. Grades marked on
holders have hardly any meaning at all (to verify, check for yourself
online). I am studying each coin on its own merits. Of course, this is
what I used to do as a leading dealer starting in the 1950s when there
were no grading standards. Perhaps, the more things change the more
they are the same.
Fix No. 2: Truth in advertising is a huge problem. There is no
faster, surer way to kill the enthusiasm of a new collector than by
selling him or her coins at multiples of the aftermarket value.
Newspapers, television, and telemarketers offer coins that have hardly
any resale market. Many consumers do not realize that for most modern
Mint products sold at a premium, MS- or Proof 69 or -70 is the rule,
not the exception! They are very common. Indeed, most such coins would
be rarities in lower grades such as -65 or -66.
Neither the American
Numismatic Association nor the Professional
Numismatists Guild will take any active interest in this (based
upon my inquiries). They will, however, react to specific complaints.
The problem is that once someone pays $500 for a coin with a resale
value of $100, and complains about it, they are already lost to the
hobby. Gone forever.
The answer is the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be
treated yourself. Dealers: Describe and price coins to newcomers in
the same way you would to a relative.