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50 Years of Numismatic Collecting Experience - Grading Changes, Thoughts & Perspectives

StuartStuart Posts: 9,761 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited May 13, 2019 10:39AM in Testing Forum

50 Years of Numismatic Collecting Experience - Grading Changes, Thoughts & Perspectives

As one of the “Old Timers” who began collecting 50 years ago, prior to TPGS Certified Numerically Graded plastic slabs, here’s my perspective.

There are different goals, objectives and priorities between Collectors enjoying Numismatics as a Hobby/Pastime & Dealers maximizing profit as a Business. Some of those goals are aligned & some aren’t.

When I first started collecting Type Coins & PL/DMPL Morgan Dollars back in the early 1970’s there were only 3 Descriptive grading categories of Mint Sate Coins (UNC/BU, Choice BU & Gem BU) and one Almost Uncirculated (AU) category.

Then Numeric Grading was introduced as an additional descriptor for the 3 above-mentioned grades: MS-60 = UNC/BU, MS-63 = Choice BU & MS-65 = Gem BU. Back then the adjective Brilliant indicated Unspotted & Untoned Superior Eye Appeal & Valuation than “Tarnished” or Toned coins.

As an example the US Govt GSA CC Morgan Dollar Sales beginning in 1970 included 2 descriptive quality categories on their plastic govt issued slabs - One Premium Group marked Uncirculated and a Lesser Quality Group including “Tarnished”, Toned, or other problematic coins without the word Uncirculated on the govt slab. — Back then Brilliant White coins were preferred and valued more than Toned coins.

TPGS Certified Grading was introduced to standardize wildly varying grading standards and to promote Investing in Coins. I suggest the following excellent Scott Travers Oct 1997 Article posted on PCGS’ web site for reference. https://www.pcgs.com/news/wall-streets-move-to-rare-coins

Since the introduction of the TPGS’s in the late 1980’s numismatics has experienced huge price increases and price fluctuations in some of the higher graded coins, focusing much Business attention to them as a vehicle to potentially make large profits certifying Choice to Gem examples, and then Cracking and/or Upgrading Certified coins perceived to be conservatively or undergraded.

Just as the Wall Street Financial marketplace profits from equity price volatility and resulting stock share & bond, etc volume increases, many participants in the Rare Coin Marketplace (Dealers & Collectors) can profit from both Coin Price Volatility & Evolving (Changing) Grading Standards.

As a collector, I prefer to focus my attention on affordable Highly Eye-Appealing, Well-Struck, Lustrous Examples (some Toned & Brilliant) that appeal to me. If they appear undergraded I see that as a buying opportunity - not to crack and flip them for quick profit, but to add them to my collection.

I'd much rather have a fully-struck lustrous ”Gem” AU-58 depicting more of the coin's design, than a weakly struck technically Mint State coin exhibiting less detail (Ref: 1892-CC Morgan Dollar Image below).

Finally, Registry Sets have very significantly affected Numismatics, it can be argued for better or to its detriment. IMO the primary reason that an MS-70 or Proof 70 DCAM Modern coin sells for huge multiples over it’s MS-69 counterpart is based on increased collector demand to compete in Registry Sets. That’s fine if the collector wishes to spend the multiples of money on marginally incremental technical grading - however, that’s not why I collect coins. But to each his own, and if that’s how others enjoy their collecting, similar to competing in Fantasy Football that’s totally up to them.

Thanks for reading this long thread. I’m looking forward to others’ thoughts and comments on the points that I’ve raised. :)

1892-CC PCGS AU-58 Morgan Dollar

Photos courtesy of Mike Printz - Harlan Berk Numismatics


Collect 18th & 19th Century US Type Coins, Silver Dollars, $20 Gold Double Eagles and World Crowns & Talers with High Eye Appeal

"Luck is what happens when Preparation meets Opportunity"
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