US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for July 27, 2020: New challenges for grading services

Images illustrate the contrast between the colorized reverse of this Proof 2020-S clad Basketball Hall of Fame half dollar and its non-colorized obverse.

Original images courtesy of the United States Mint

Grading services face new challenges in learning to grade the U.S. Mint’s colorized Basketball Hall of Fame commemorative coins — a challenge they cannot address until they have the first coins in hand.

Grading firms like Numismatic Guaranty Corp., Professional Coin Grading Service and ANACS routinely grade world coins bearing colorized surfaces, so they have experience and expertise already.

However, these will be the first U.S. colorized coins and no numismatists have had an opportunity to examine examples in person, so much remains unknown.

Importantly, Mint officials will not identify the private firm that is colorizing the coins, nor will it reveal what techniques are being used to apply the color to the basketball, the rim of the hoop, and the net on the half dollar and dollar. That places all of us in the dark.

One thing is certain. The quality of the colorization will be important to the grade.

An official at Numismatic Guaranty Corp. tells us that the colorization will be a crucial detail in determining the final grade and it will be “evaluated like any other element of the coin’s design.”

ANACS specifically notes, “The uncolored part of the coin is graded normally and defects in the colored part will detract.”

Another factor is the stability of the colorized elements and the possibly of future deterioration (flaking, fading). I suspect that grading guarantees offered by the services will have to factor in the possibility of post-grading changes to the colorized elements.

I am sure we will be revisiting this topic in the future.
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