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Let's discuss buffalo nickel grading

hchcoinhchcoin Posts: 4,825 ✭✭✭✭✭

When I was younger, a full horn, full date was needed for a VF. A fine generally had a partial horn and sometimes a partial or very flat/worn date. I remember buying buffalo nickels out of a bucket and the dealer would look at the date, the braid, Liberty and the horn. Anything with a full horn, full date was a VF at a minimum unless it had major problems. To get to XF, everything had to be sharp with only light wear on the high points. A VF never had a partial horn, that was always a fine or lower no matter how nice the rest of the coin was.

So is this the standard today or is a partial horn acceptable for a VF coin?

Here is an example from eBay (not mine) where the seller calls this 1927 a VF+ partial horn.

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    1630Boston1630Boston Posts: 13,772 ✭✭✭✭✭

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    1630Boston1630Boston Posts: 13,772 ✭✭✭✭✭

    They are tough for me to grade

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    1630Boston1630Boston Posts: 13,772 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 13, 2019 11:06AM

    This is a VF20 from PCGS Photograde
    https://www.pcgs.com/photograde#/Buffalo/Grades

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    hchcoinhchcoin Posts: 4,825 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Perfect example. I guess I am about 40 years behind on my grading of buffalo nickels. So is a partial horn a VF now? How much of the horn has to be present? Does the horn even matter anymore?

    What do you think @Insider2

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    Insider2Insider2 Posts: 14,452 ✭✭✭✭✭

    LOL, Why me? I know, it's because I always shoot my mouth off.

    I'll be the first dummy to take the "bait." So my opinion follows and many of you will not like it or agree! I cannot change anything anyway. :p The coin in the OP is correctly graded as a VF. The horn is only one thing to use. I suggest you don't get hung up on one part of a design. Just know that the folks who do will disagree with your grade.

    The Buffalo nickel series is one of the most difficult to master. Remember this is all my opinion! There are several main reasons for this:

    One has to do with the hardness of the alloy and the number of coins that never had complete details due to several factors.

    Another reason is the deep relief design itself. Take out your grading guide and look at the amount of design remaining on the image of a G-4 nickel and a G-4 Barber dime (as an extreme example)!

    The simple fact is this:: UNFORTUNATELY my favorite two grading guides NEED TO BE refined! In my experience, a large number of coins imaged are lower than their actual condition of preservation from when they left the die even when we eliminate the inaccuracies due to strike, The reverse is also true.

    Hopefully, one day, a group of very knowledgeable folks will take a particular coin series and image the stages of change within a grade. One image of a Good-6 2c Piece (especially if it is absolutely wrong) is not enough. A better solution: This is a G-4 low and a G-4 high. Both will still be graded only as G-4 but collectors will have a better idea of each grade.

    We've come a long way baby; but there is more that can be done.

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    hchcoinhchcoin Posts: 4,825 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Insider2 said:
    LOL, Why me? I know, it's because I always shoot my mouth off.

    I'll be the first dummy to take the "bait." So my opinion follows and many of you will not like it or agree! I cannot change anything anyway. :p The coin in the OP is correctly graded as a VF. The horn is only one thing to use. I suggest you don't get hung up on one part of a design. Just know that the folks who do will disagree with your grade.

    The Buffalo nickel series is one of the most difficult to master. Remember this is all my opinion! There are several main reasons for this:

    One has to do with the hardness of the alloy and the number of coins that never had complete details due to several factors.

    Another reason is the deep relief design itself. Take out your grading guide and look at the amount of design remaining on the image of a G-4 nickel and a G-4 Barber dime (as an extreme example)!

    The simple fact is this:: UNFORTUNATELY my favorite two grading guides NEED TO BE refined! In my experience, a large number of coins imaged are lower than their actual condition of preservation from when they left the die even when we eliminate the inaccuracies due to strike, The reverse is also true.

    Hopefully, one day, a group of very knowledgeable folks will take a particular coin series and image the stages of change within a grade. One image of a Good-6 2c Piece (especially if it is absolutely wrong) is not enough. A better solution: This is a G-4 low and a G-4 high. Both will still be graded only as G-4 but collectors will have a better idea of each grade.

    We've come a long way baby; but there is more that can be done.

    It's not like you do this for a living or anything ;)

    O.k. - to get the coveted VF grade today, what am I looking for? 3/4 or 1/2 horn, partial or full date, strong liberty, 1/2 braid detail????? Any pointers so I can identify a VF in 2 seconds or less like I used to be able to?

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    Insider2Insider2 Posts: 14,452 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 13, 2019 1:05PM

    Grading has "evolved" from the "full-horn-days." The answer to your question is in a modern grading guide for VF:
    "...and the horn flat. IDEALLY the tip of the horn should show,.." Each coin date is different and that ugly word "VALUE" screws everything up. If you are going to pay the price of a VF 11926-S, it better have a full horn.

    Original luster and surfaces are my friends. :) I've seen very many fully Uncirculated, "gem" Buffalo nickels with almost NO HEAD!

    As for pointers: Study coins graded by one of the top two TPGS.

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    Insider2Insider2 Posts: 14,452 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Let's see some FLAT gem Buffalo nickel.

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    EbeneezerEbeneezer Posts: 264 ✭✭✭

    Concur with 1630Boston. Coin World's Making the Grade also depicts the same VF20.

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    koynekwestkoynekwest Posts: 10,048 ✭✭✭✭✭

    In my opinion, the horn should never have been used in grading since so many Buffs never had a full, or even 2/3 of a horn, in the first place. Similar to the Standing Liberty Quarter, the DATE (and maybe the obverse rim on the 5c) should have been used in the grades of Good thru Fine. I tend to use the older Photograde, which these days would be exremely conservative.

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    MasonGMasonG Posts: 6,268 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @hchcoin said:
    O.k. - to get the coveted VF grade today, what am I looking for? 3/4 or 1/2 horn, partial or full date, strong liberty, 1/2 braid detail?????

    Any or all of the above. You have to consider overall wear, taking into consideration that some coins are struck more fully than others.

    @hchcoin said:
    Any pointers so I can identify a VF in 2 seconds or less like I used to be able to?

    Using one specific feature like the horn? Sorry- no.

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    HallcoHallco Posts: 3,623 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 13, 2019 6:01PM

    @koynekwest said:
    In my opinion, the horn should never have been used in grading since so many Buffs never had a full, or even 2/3 of a horn, in the first place. Similar to the Standing Liberty Quarter, the DATE (and maybe the obverse rim on the 5c) should have been used in the grades of Good thru Fine. I tend to use the older Photograde, which these days would be extremely conservative.

    This is how I learned to grade also. @koynekwest (unknown to him until maybe when he reads this), was a HUGE influence on my selections when I attempted to put a set of "Fine" Buffaloes together many, many years ago. The only coin set I have ever tried to complete. I was extremely picky and ultimately changed directions. There are certain dates that don't even have a full horn residing in Gem holders.

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    koynekwestkoynekwest Posts: 10,048 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @MasonG said:

    @hchcoin said:
    O.k. - to get the coveted VF grade today, what am I looking for? 3/4 or 1/2 horn, partial or full date, strong liberty, 1/2 braid detail?????

    Any or all of the above. You have to consider overall wear, taking into consideration that some coins are struck more fully than others.

    @hchcoin said:
    Any pointers so I can identify a VF in 2 seconds or less like I used to be able to?

    Using one specific feature like the horn? Sorry- no.

    The use of worn out dies that lack a lot of detail is a bigger problem than strike deficiency alone. Many of the Branch Mint dies from the late 'teens until the mid '30s are especially prone to this.

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    MasonGMasonG Posts: 6,268 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @koynekwest said:
    The use of worn out dies that lack a lot of detail is a bigger problem than strike deficiency alone. Many of the Branch Mint dies from the late 'teens until the mid '30s are especially prone to this.

    No argument there. When I mentioned fullness of strike, I intended to account for this. Apologies for not being clearer.

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    Walkerguy21DWalkerguy21D Posts: 11,147 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Also coins where the obverse die was replaced but the reverse worn die wasn’t.....so the coin looks XF or AU on the obverse but Fine or VF on the reverse.
    I always judge both sides when trying to decide what ‘my’ grade is on a circ buffalo.

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    hchcoinhchcoin Posts: 4,825 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Is there a good reference book that talks about the strike for each date and mint mark?

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    HallcoHallco Posts: 3,623 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @hchcoin said:
    Is there a good reference book that talks about the strike for each date and mint mark?

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    hchcoinhchcoin Posts: 4,825 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thank you @Hallco

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    koynekwestkoynekwest Posts: 10,048 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Sometimes both come into play-a weak strike AND a worn die. That makes for a very unsatisfactory coin.

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    FullHornFullHorn Posts: 1,128 ✭✭✭✭✭

    An old pic of a PCGS ms63 with a full horn :)

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    1630Boston1630Boston Posts: 13,772 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Very nice @FullHorn
    You Know Your Buffs :D
    Boston MDCXXX

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    rickoricko Posts: 98,724 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Once again, back to grading opinions.... as stated by @Insider2, there are many factors to consider... Focus on one feature will likely result in a distortion of the overall condition... ergo, we have opinions and not standards. Consideration must be given to strike, wear, PMD, luster, details etc.. Cheers, RickO

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    DDRDDR Posts: 1,560 ✭✭✭✭✭

    In the early 90s I put together a complete set of Buffalo Nickels, all raw, all VF, and all with full horns. I paid VF prices for each coin, so the dealers saw them as VF as well. I was picky and paid full retail. Several years ago, I sent the keys and semi-keys off to PCGS to get graded prior to selling the collection. All except one (the 26-S) came back from PCGS as XF or AU. So, over the years there has been a shift, I think, in how these coins are graded.

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    KkathylKkathyl Posts: 3,762 ✭✭✭✭✭







    Best place to buy !
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    KkathylKkathyl Posts: 3,762 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 14, 2019 9:19AM

    @Insider2 would you agree this Type 1913 is FV35

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    Insider2Insider2 Posts: 14,452 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Yes, but needs conservation to "pop." Leave it as is for now. Wink.

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    crazyhounddogcrazyhounddog Posts: 13,805 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Kkathyl said:
    @Insider2 would you agree this Type 1913 is FV35

    Not sure about how insider2 would grade that Buff. But I’d grade it uncirculated 😊 probably a 62.

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    DIMEMANDIMEMAN Posts: 22,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I defer to @crazyhounddog ......he is the Buffalo man!

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    hchcoinhchcoin Posts: 4,825 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @DDR said:
    In the early 90s I put together a complete set of Buffalo Nickels, all raw, all VF, and all with full horns. I paid VF prices for each coin, so the dealers saw them as VF as well. I was picky and paid full retail. Several years ago, I sent the keys and semi-keys off to PCGS to get graded prior to selling the collection. All except one (the 26-S) came back from PCGS as XF or AU. So, over the years there has been a shift, I think, in how these coins are graded.

    This is exactly what I have experienced as well.

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    DIMEMANDIMEMAN Posts: 22,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @hchcoin said:

    @DDR said:
    In the early 90s I put together a complete set of Buffalo Nickels, all raw, all VF, and all with full horns. I paid VF prices for each coin, so the dealers saw them as VF as well. I was picky and paid full retail. Several years ago, I sent the keys and semi-keys off to PCGS to get graded prior to selling the collection. All except one (the 26-S) came back from PCGS as XF or AU. So, over the years there has been a shift, I think, in how these coins are graded.

    This is exactly what I have experienced as well.

    Do you have pics?

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    OnWithTheHuntOnWithTheHunt Posts: 1,175 ✭✭✭✭✭

    All I know is this means every coin in my 70-piece set should grade XF or better except the 16/16 and 18/7-D.

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    hchcoinhchcoin Posts: 4,825 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @DIMEMAN said:

    @hchcoin said:

    @DDR said:
    In the early 90s I put together a complete set of Buffalo Nickels, all raw, all VF, and all with full horns. I paid VF prices for each coin, so the dealers saw them as VF as well. I was picky and paid full retail. Several years ago, I sent the keys and semi-keys off to PCGS to get graded prior to selling the collection. All except one (the 26-S) came back from PCGS as XF or AU. So, over the years there has been a shift, I think, in how these coins are graded.

    This is exactly what I have experienced as well.

    Do you have pics?

    Sold my set a few years ago unfortunately. Honestly, I was shocked at the price when I sold them. I was expecting less but I think that was because I was expecting F and VF money and got paid VF and XF money because I was still grading using the standards from the 70's and 80's.

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    amwldcoinamwldcoin Posts: 11,269 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Your joking...Right???

    @crazyhounddog said:

    @Kkathyl said:
    @Insider2 would you agree this Type 1913 is FV35

    Not sure about how insider2 would grade that Buff. But I’d grade it uncirculated 😊 probably a 62.

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    OnastoneOnastone Posts: 3,780 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Whoa, the Buffalo had a horn?
    This one is just plain worn out, nothing to see here, picked this up in change from some store. But I do love the design. It's on my list to buy a graded one someday, with a horn!!!

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    Insider2Insider2 Posts: 14,452 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 14, 2019 4:42PM

    @crazyhounddog said:

    @Kkathyl said:
    @Insider2 would you agree this Type 1913 is FV35

    Not sure about how insider2 would grade that Buff. But I’d grade it uncirculated 😊 probably a 62.

    That coin needs conservation and it will be at least an XF. It is not MS.

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    CameonutCameonut Posts: 7,257 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is why I only own 2 buffalos. One a proof and the other a mint state 38 d/s.

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    olympicsosolympicsos Posts: 694 ✭✭✭✭

    But the Buffalo Nickel is the best executed of the renaissance designs because Fraser had the most control over the process. Not so much for the other artists, especially Bela Pratt and the Saint himself.

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    BuffaloIronTailBuffaloIronTail Posts: 7,408 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Yep. Fraser had a lot of control. He got to do everything he wanted to do to design the coin.

    It was AFTER the original design got modified when it got carved up by Barber.

    To be fair, Fraser knew and grudgingly agreed to the modification, but Barber went bonkers and smoothed the entire field after the exurge was cut.

    Pete

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