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Thoughts on cabinet friction

P0CKETCHANGEP0CKETCHANGE Posts: 2,259 ✭✭✭✭✭

“Cabinet Friction” is a numismatic grey area. It has different definitions depending on who you ask, and well-respected folks in our hobby have even questioned its very existence. JA said recently that CACG is running an experiment where a BU Walking Liberty has been in the jeans pocket of one of the graders for months, and its “still BU”.

IMO, cabinet friction is when a coin displays minor abrasion (wear? rub?) on the high points, while the fields are generally pristine and would otherwise indicate a mint state coin. In other words, a coin that has wear but that shows no other signs of circulating. It’s postulated that this happened as a result of storage in (now archaic) felt-lined coin collection cabinets.

My large cent type coin is an example of this phenomenon—some clear darkening of the high points, primarily on the obverse, with almost entirely mark-free fields with no circulation hairlines or dings.



This coin is in an MS63 holder, which many would consider “market graded”, and others (including JA) would simply consider over graded. I’m a bit of a purist and generally eschew market graded coins, and I’d prefer this coin to be in a 58+ holder (ideally with a CAC sticker) while in my collection, but would rather have it in the 63 holder if I was selling it.

What are your thoughts on cabinet friction? Please add photos if you have any coins that fall into this category.

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    DeplorableDanDeplorableDan Posts: 2,543 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Great idea for a thread, looking forward to learning more about this. JA’s experiment made me wonder.

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    291fifth291fifth Posts: 23,942 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Cabinet friction is wear. It is just another example in coin collecting of an attempt to raise a coin's grade (and price) with linguistic gymnastics.

    All glory is fleeting.
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    FrazFraz Posts: 1,859 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Similar to album toning?

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    PerryHallPerryHall Posts: 45,436 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Are you sure that dark cheek area is actual wear rather than the cheek area being in contact with the inside surfaces of a 2X2 kraft paper envelope for several decades? These envelopes were a common means of storage and they were high in sulfur.

    Worry is the interest you pay on a debt you may not owe.

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    P0CKETCHANGEP0CKETCHANGE Posts: 2,259 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @291fifth said:
    Cabinet friction is wear. It is just another example in coin collecting of an attempt to raise a coin's grade (and price) with linguistic gymnastics.

    There is a distinction IMO, which comes down to the state of the fields in determining if the coin circulated. Whether that distinction is meaningful or not is up to interpretation, of course.

    @PerryHall said:
    Are you sure that dark cheek area is actual wear rather than the cheek area being in contact with the inside surfaces of a 2X2 kraft paper envelope for several decades? These envelopes were a common means of storage and they were high in sulfur.

    I’m absolutely not sure of it, nor could I be sure the coin was ever stored in an envelope as you stated. It appears to me to be light rub, especially given the discoloration is just on the high points. I’ll look at the coin again in-hand when I can.

    Nothing is as expensive as free money.

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    FlatwoodsFlatwoods Posts: 4,122 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have always regarded them as 58's. Just the way I think.
    It is wear.
    Your statement about someone carrying a coin in a jeans pocket for a few months and still being BU surprises me somewhat.
    I carry coins daily and have for years. I suppose if you sat at a desk as opposed to walking all day it would make a difference.
    Coins with an old patina are also more susceptible. I have purchased many medals with wonderful, old patina, only to have them shipped in a paper envelope. Just a few days of shipping in a paper envelope will rub the high points making them shiny and very noticeable.

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    P0CKETCHANGEP0CKETCHANGE Posts: 2,259 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @PerryHall said:
    Are you sure that dark cheek area is actual wear rather than the cheek area being in contact with the inside surfaces of a 2X2 kraft paper envelope for several decades? These envelopes were a common means of storage and they were high in sulfur.

    Just pulled the coin out and inspected it in-hand. Admittedly, I don’t know how to distinguish envelope contact from light wear (or if there even is a difference).

    To me, it looks like light rub as those areas have a slight sheen to them, and seem to match up almost exactly to the areas on this AU58 graded example that I found on CoinFacts (I know it’s a different variety, but it was the best comparative example). However, the fields on the AU58 seem to indicate circulation.

    My MS63 coin:

    CoinFacts AU58 coin:

    Nothing is as expensive as free money.

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    Walkerguy21DWalkerguy21D Posts: 11,150 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I see actual wear on the 58 coin, most noticeable to me on the leaves.

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    Walkerguy21DWalkerguy21D Posts: 11,150 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Compare the CoinFacts example to these:




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    P0CKETCHANGEP0CKETCHANGE Posts: 2,259 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Walkerguy21D I may not have explained my point as clearly as I intended. I agree that the CoinFacts 58 has wear, and given the state of the fields, did indeed circulate. The difference I'm highlighting is that my 63 has very similar indications of wear, but given the state of the fields, does not appear to have circulated—hence, "cabinet friction".

    Nothing is as expensive as free money.

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    DisneyFanDisneyFan Posts: 1,710 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This might be a PF58 example of cabinet friction caused by a coin lying on it's back in a coin cabinet.. The coin is a green CAC. The obverse doesn't appear to have any wear and the fields appears to be clean. The reverse appears to have wear on the feathers with the fields appearing clean.

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    pcgscacgoldpcgscacgold Posts: 2,638 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Interesting topic. I don't think there will be agreement on it. For me, if a coin has not circulated it is MS. What looks like wear can be soft strike, cabinet friction, etc.

    I am patiently waiting to see the CACG coins hit the market. There are a number of currently graded MS62/63 coins that were rejected by JA and CAC that will end up in 58/58+ CACG holders. Those will be beautiful coins and nice ones to own.

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    NeophyteNumismatistNeophyteNumismatist Posts: 892 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 28, 2023 10:16AM

    IMO cabinet friction is rub, and rub is wear. Personally, I would net grade coins that exhibit signs of cabinet friction to AU or below. This is an area where I disagree with commercial grading, and fall more in line with EAC grading standards.

    I would not confuse the point as to whether the coins actually circulated. An uncirculated coin that is carried in your pocket will lose details, and will be considered a "circulated" piece. While cabinets will (generally) cause far less wear than the "pocket piece", it is still wear that is caused by the collector.

    This is all very controversial, and others are entitled to think differently. This is just the way I judge coins (especially, as I am acquiring them for my own collection). That said, I do have some coins with cabinet friction, and I definitely enjoy them... I just refer to them as AU. AU coins are still great coins!

    I am a newer collector (started April 2020), and I primarily focus on U.S. Half Cents and Type Coins. Early copper is my favorite.

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    jacrispiesjacrispies Posts: 717 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 28, 2023 10:13AM

    I thought cabinet friction was purely mechanical damage. In an instance such as swiping a coin across a table, there will be light scratches on the high points with no darkening or chemical reaction to make the high points darker in color. That is what I thought cabinet friction was.

    Now this darkening on the high points I am thinking that it is wear. Any type of surface removal of the metal should be designated as wear. I see many bust halves with this dark "cabinet friction" on the high points graded as a 62, as the TPG net graded instead of considering it to be an AU-58. There are also many choice AU-58s that only have a bit of wear/cabinet friction on the cheek, and the fields are pristine.

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    logger7logger7 Posts: 8,084 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I agree with the sharp assessment. If a coin has not circulated which is known to those paid to discern what that means then it should not get an AU grade.

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    Walkerguy21DWalkerguy21D Posts: 11,150 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @P0CKETCHANGE said:
    @Walkerguy21D I may not have explained my point as clearly as I intended. I agree that the CoinFacts 58 has wear, and given the state of the fields, did indeed circulate. The difference I'm highlighting is that my 63 has very similar indications of wear, but given the state of the fields, does not appear to have circulated—hence, "cabinet friction".

    Thanks; frankly, I'm not sure how they grade large cents....every one of the group I posted are in 58 holders.
    I see no wear whatsoever. They are stronger than pretty much any of the coins posted in CF as AU58. I think they're looking for mint frost, period. Which arguably can be enhanced on copper with a treatment of MS70, which it looks like some of the CF examples in the lower MS grades probably had done to them.

    If I have a point, I guess that in general if it's in a MS PCGS holder, it's going to be a pretty solid coin that never saw actual circulation. And if a coin has slight highpoint rub or a color change from being in and out of envelopes dozens of times, so be it. Purists that want to buy these as AU's are probably going to be out of luck. Sure the EAC guys will call them AU-something, but they'll be pricing them like 63's.

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    I was always suprised by how many coins are described as having cabinet friction on the Obverse, which would mean the collector stored them in his cabinet Obverse side down. Did collectors in the days of fancy coin cabinets really store their coins Obverse side down? When they opened the drawer to show off their collections, your first view was of the Reverse?

    I really think that the term Cabinet Friction is used to try and convince others that a really nice AU58 is a Mint State coin, or at least deserves Mint State money. That also why I see many tougher date MS62 slabbed coins that look just like common date coins that are in AU58 slabs.

    I agree with others in this thread that Cabinet Friction is simply light wear and technically should make that coin at least AU.

    Member of LSCC, EAC, Fly-In Club, BCCS
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    VasantiVasanti Posts: 448 ✭✭✭✭

    Wear is wear, whether it came from an album sliding window, a cabinet or someone’s pocket is utterly irrelevant.

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    AtcarrollAtcarroll Posts: 343 ✭✭✭

    I call BS on the assertion that a BU walking liberty is "still BU" after a couple months in someones pocket. I put an unc details Morgan with a very large patch of hairlines in my pocket, and after one month it was low AU at best. After two months i think it may grade XF45 on a good day. I know a half dollar is a smaller, lighter coin than a dollar, but I'm just not buying the still BU story.

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