US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for September 3, 2018

Are we as collectors too obsessive about expecting every coin in every set to grade Proof 70 or Mint State 70?

Original images courtesy of PCGS.

Have we as collectors gotten too picky when it comes to the grades of the coins we buy from the U.S. Mint? Are we obsessive about expecting every coin in every set to grade Proof 70 or Mint State 70? And why do we get so upset over, shudder, Proof 69?

Contributor Donald Thies’ letter in the Letters to the Editor page of the September 17 issue of Coin World is fairly typical of what we have been seeing at online forums and in our email inbox, as recipients of the 2018-S San Francisco Mint Silver Proof set send their sets to third-party grading services for slabbing. As Paul Gilkes reports this week, the Proof 70 grade is proving elusive for many of the coins in the set, with the Proof 69 grade dominant.

So what is wrong with getting a Proof 69 coin from the Mint? The differences between a Proof 69 coin and one grading Proof 70 are infinitesimal. For a coin to gain the Proof 70 grade, the Professional Coin Grading Service standards are: “Fully struck and lustrous, free of visual marks under 5X magnification.” For Proof 69, the standards are: “Virtually fully struck with minuscule imperfections visible upon close inspection.” Few of us would be able to spot the differences.

Remember, too, that a coin’s grade is subjective, and a numerical standard implies mathematical precision in grading that is not realistic.

And then there are the often-huge price differences between coins grading Proof 69 and 70, and even between Proof 70 coins from different grading services.

This demand for “perfection” and anguish when it is not achieved does recognize that the Mint does a pretty good job of striking high-quality coins these days. However, some of the expectations that we collectively have are unrealistic, and may not be in the hobby’s best interest.

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