Some philosophy on coin grades
Sketching out a few thoughts from the other day.
I acknowledge that these are not all novel conceptions, but rather my attempt to synthesize what others have discussed into formal terms for discussion.
EDIT: a far more efficient way to communicate some ideas...
The idea that I am trying to hit upon is that we can think of each "grade" as being broken into two parts:
1. the objective quality (e.g. how much wear)
2. the subjective quality (e.g. hits, luster, eye appeal, strike)
Then following that, I simply choose to break it down to a scale from 0 to 10 because it maps well to the already existing MS60 to MS70 grades.
- MS tells me the objective quality -- the coin has no wear (again, with caveats).
- 60 to 70 tells me the subjective quality -- how many hits, hairlines, etc.
Thus I am proposing that we can re-map this into 60.00, 60.01, 60.02,...60.10 in lieu of 60, 61, 62,...,70.
Going back to circulated grades, it stands to reason that those coins, too, can be evaluated on those two criteria.
Hence 58.00, 58.01,...58.10.
Circulated grades are fascinating for a number of reasons. Definitionally, they seem to embody more nuance than uncirculated grades. For those of you familiar with data science, you will be familiar with the concept that the "distance" metric for two features can be vastly different. In more common terminology, you cannot compare apples with oranges. As a continuation from this line of thought, I will argue below why the "distance" between a 55 and 58 is greater than 62 and 63 (and not just numerically).
My conclusions (please debate)
1. I think a more interesting (read: accurate) way to think of uncirculated grades is as belonging to a single grade category, let's call it "60".
2. A totally reasonable counterpoint is that we should not express the uncirculated grades and make them less differentiable, but then I contend that it'd be correct to (at least mentally) expand the range of circulated grades to match that of uncirculated coins.
3. Obviously this is unlikely to shift TPG grading (anytime soon), but a worthwhile topic to discuss.
On MS grades:
1. Range from 60 to 70
2. Philosophically, they have the same amount of wear: definitionally, zero. For the sake of this discussion, we will ignore that there are caveats depending on series (e.g. bust coinage that have an acceptable amount of "friction" and can still be "uncirculated")
3. MS grades are separated by the number of hits, luster, eye appeal, that the coin has.
On circulated grades:
1. Range from 1 to 58
2. Philosophically, the amount of wear determines the grade of the coin. Of course, there are caveats where grading services will net grade a coin based on a light wipe, or an excessive number of hits, but if we are talking purely from a pedagogical stance, a 50 should have more wear than a 53, should have more wear than a 55, and so on.
3. Within a single circulated grade there can be said to be a range of "grades", where they are separated by number of hits, luster (when applicable), eye appeal, that the coin has.
For example, let's consider the grade AU58.
I stipulate that there is a 58.0, 58.01, 58.02,...,58.10, which maps into the same notions as expressed in the 60-70 range.
Thus it is theoretically possible to find a "perfect" 58.10 coin -- functionally, a 70 with the slightest bit of wear.
This notion is well-encapsulated in the colloquial discussions surrounding coins described as "perfect XF45", albeit that phrase does not well concretize the whole idea as I am trying to express above.
In other words, one can think of all uncirculated coins as belonging to a singular grade, call it MS60, and all other grades in the uncirculated range that currently exists would simply be mapped as above.
60.0, 60.01, 60.02,...,60.10.
Another aspect to consider is with respect to CAC stickers. I don't know the full detail of their process, but the goal is to sticker coins in the "A" grade range. Let's say that constitutes the top 25% of coins in a particular grade range.
Then given that definition, a CAC sticker on an AU58 should theoretically constitute a 58.075 or better.
Versus a CAC sticker on a 63, as mapped to my definition above, would constitute a 60.0375 to 60.04. (one could argue this range actually goes up to 60.0474 seeing as a "gold CAC" would be a coin that is next grade up + in top 25%, but that is too much nuance for this first pass).
As a closing statement, I am simply arguing that there exists
1. A differentiation of a certain grade: MS60
2. Based on certain criteria: (hits, luster, eye appeal)
That does not (explicitly) exist for circulated grades, yet it could and perhaps should
Anyway, this is already far too long of a post, and while I have more thoughts on this topic I will yield the floor for others to discuss.
If you read up until this point, I applaud you.