US Coins

August auctions offer diversity in EF-45 grade

The Extremely Fine 45 grade can sit frustratingly short of the About Uncirculated grade. Just a touch too much wear or diminished luster can keep a coin in the “EF” or “XF” grade, and August’s auctions offered some examples that show the diverse looks of coins in this grade.

Professional Coin Grading Service writes that in a coin graded EF-45, “High points of design show wear. A bit of luster may still be visible in protected areas.” Numismatic Guaranty Corp. diagnoses “complete details with minor wear on some of the high points.”

A textbook example of the grade is seen in an 1880 Shield 5-cent coin graded EF-45 by PCGS with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker indicating quality within the grade that sold for $9,300 on Aug. 17 at Heritage. It’s well-known for its low mintage of just 16,000 circulation strikes, and the Proof strikes produced that year are often mistaken for circulation issues.

Heritage wrote of the coin, “Fifteen points of wear preclude the possibility of a circulated proof,” noting, “The surfaces are gunmetal-gray, looking just as it did 100+ years ago when it was pulled from circulation.”

A loss in detail is seen on the horizontal lines of the shield and the surrounding leaves, as is an absence of luster.

Consulting an “old school” grading guide like Photograde helps clarify what traditionally has defined the grade within a series. A 1972 edition said that for an Extremely Fine coin, “The leaves will stand out in bold relief with most of the center lines showing,” though providing the caveat, “The horizontal lines in the shield may be incomplete because of striking even on higher grades and should not affect the grading.” Current market-based grading standards are less forgiving on weak horizontal shield lines.

The 1921-D Walking Liberty half dollar is a key date in the series and the same auction saw an NGC EF-45 example realize $4,800. Heritage called it one of the most attractive circulated examples of the issue, commenting, “Light wear accompanies a pleasing, uniform stone-gray patina that gives this coin a traditional ‘old silver’ appearance.” While luster is seen in the most protected areas like deep within the folds of Liberty’s flowing skirt, wear across the eagle’s breast and on Liberty’s striding leg and chest keeps it from a higher grade.

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