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Learning to grade coins

Morgan13Morgan13 Posts: 722 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited January 14, 2024 9:41AM in U.S. Coin Forum

For some people it comes easy or should I say naturally. Older guys like myself who are kind of new to the hobby might find it more difficult as a newbie. Eyesight's not what it was but I have glasses and a loupe.
I was hoping it could be like an online seminar thread on how to grade.
I have a few questions to kick things off.
When you handle a coin and start your grading what is your pattern?
Do you look at luster first?
How does one deduct dings, marks, luster breaks or rubs.
I'd love to spend a few days in a grading room but since I know that's not going to happen maybe we can establish an approach to grading.
I can take a guess at a grade but it's not technical. It's usually based on familiarity with seeing other coins of a similar grade from memory.
I know what a circulated coin looks like but when you get into AU and above I think it gets tricky.
I really hope to learn more.

Student of numismatics and collector of Morgan dollars

Comments

  • rsei0120rsei0120 Posts: 124 ✭✭

    PCGS has grading on their website to look at, Main I like the American Numismatic Grading Standards for US Coins, it shows and explains a lot, then you have Red Book, hope those help,

  • rsei0120rsei0120 Posts: 124 ✭✭

    Greysheet.com gives you the value that most dealers go by

  • ifthevamzarockinifthevamzarockin Posts: 8,498 ✭✭✭✭✭

    It takes time, you don't learn how to grade coins overnight.
    You need to look at thousands of graded coins and learn to see why they got the grade they did.

  • Morgan13Morgan13 Posts: 722 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I was thinking more along the lines of this as an example-
    I'm at a coin show, I find a coin to look at. What's the best approach to zeroing in on a grade?

    Student of numismatics and collector of Morgan dollars

  • Morgan13Morgan13 Posts: 722 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @ifthevamzarockin said:
    It takes time, you don't learn how to grade coins overnight.
    You need to look at thousands of graded coins and learn to see why they got the grade they did.

    I believe you are 100% correct.
    I just wonder how the pro's handle a coin to determine a grade. Where their eyes and mind starts and finish when looking at a coin. It's said buy the coin and not the holder.
    I love this hobby and will take any tips to improve my skills that I can.
    Maybe even spot upgrades in slabs.
    I am sure that it's memory reflex for the pro's.
    I am at a disadvantage because I won't handle thousands of coins.

    Student of numismatics and collector of Morgan dollars

  • ifthevamzarockinifthevamzarockin Posts: 8,498 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I think part of the problem you are having is you are trying to learn to grade coins from photos. ;)
    No one can properly grade a coin from a photo.
    I understand you may not be able to go to a coin show and look at every coin there and I also understand you can't buy thousands of coins to learn how to grade.

    One thing that might help you is to get a box of pennies or quarters and look through them and try to estimate grade on the better ones. ;)

    That is the only way you can look at thousands of coins in a cost effective manner.

  • pursuitoflibertypursuitofliberty Posts: 6,508 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 14, 2024 10:42AM

    I think the hardest part is seeing enough coins in hand. And images are much different than in hand.

    I usually look at the whole coin under a desk lamp, without any other aid. I even pull my glasses off as I am nearsighted.

    Then, rotating closely under the light from angles that include almost straight on to almost at 90°, I am looking for quality of luster, strike and surface quality (marks and hairlines (or scruffy's and whispy's)), as well as major marks and potential surface issues. Maybe 7 to 10 seconds per side. Methodical rotation scanning, moving my focus from devices to rim in what amounts probably sectional by fifths per side.

    At that point, if I know the series and the general grade range of what those coins look like (say I feel comfortable at VF30 to MS65) I will have a very close grade range. Maybe the coin is a VF/EF (30/35/40) mid AU (53/5), or a lower MS (61/2/3).

    Now I may look closer with a glass, which follows a similar process but slower, with less of an angle to the light, and with more concentration on marks and potential issues.

    Finally, one last look at both sides without aid trying to reassess overall eye appeal and feel, and my opinion will be made. I do not overthink it too much. If I don't know the grade or series well, I have to consult references, but I also have a really good feel from those couple of minutes if I was focused on the coin.


    “We are only their care-takers,” he posed, “if we take good care of them, then centuries from now they may still be here … ”

    Todd - BHNC #242
  • Morgan13Morgan13 Posts: 722 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @MFeld and @pursuitofliberty thats definetly what I needed to read. I see your pattern or method for examining a coin. The lighting, how to view the coin and main focal points. When to use a loupe or glass.
    Great way to start out learning the basics.
    If there is more I know I for one will study this information until it's burned into memory.
    Thank you
    I enjoy the GTG we do on here but when at a show it's no longer a game. It's exchanging money for coins. I'd like to think I have a grasp on what I'm doing.
    Only fools rush in. Been there done that.

    Student of numismatics and collector of Morgan dollars

  • MFeldMFeld Posts: 11,736 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Morgan13 said:
    @MFeld and @pursuitofliberty thats definetly what I needed to read. I see your pattern or method for examining a coin. The lighting, how to view the coin and main focal points. When to use a loupe or glass.
    Great way to start out learning the basics.
    If there is more I know I for one will study this information until it's burned into memory.
    Thank you
    I enjoy the GTG we do on here but when at a show it's no longer a game. It's exchanging money for coins. I'd like to think I have a grasp on what I'm doing.
    Only fools rush in. Been there done that.

    There are many members here who can provide helpful advice.
    Beyond the actual examination of coins, to me, the best way to learn to be a proficient grader, is with the help of one or more mentors. They need to be knowledgeable and willing and able to teach. Many people have the former but not the latter and vice versa. Another option is to attend a grading class.
    It’s also vital to examine large quantities of coins of different qualities in order to get the necessary perspective.

    Mark Feld* of Heritage Auctions*Unless otherwise noted, my posts here represent my personal opinions.

  • Morgan13Morgan13 Posts: 722 ✭✭✭✭✭

    The basics are a good place to start.
    Handling lots of coins will come in time for me.
    I need to learn the A,B and C of coins. I'd prefer to purchase A or B slabbed or raw coins when possible.

    Student of numismatics and collector of Morgan dollars

  • PizzamanPizzaman Posts: 212 ✭✭✭
    edited January 14, 2024 11:17AM

    @Morgan13 said:
    I'm at a coin show, I find a coin to look at. What's the best approach to zeroing in on a grade?

    You have to know first how to spot circulation wear. When there's no circulation wear, you're in MS, and making the technical call on luster and contact marks. Some would argue strike. That's more a market than technical criteria, as is toning. And it's all market, these days. Or, as PCGS has it, "the grade at which a particular coin generally is traded in the marketplace."

  • 124Spider124Spider Posts: 798 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 14, 2024 5:56PM

    While I certainly agree that learning to grade the coins that you're interested in buying (series and grades; for instance, I don't care about very high-grade mint state coins, since I don't buy them, so I don't bother to try to learn to differentiate between an MS65 and an MS66) is important and useful, I also feel that many (most?) people seriously over-rate their own ability to grade coins, especially based only on photos.

    I buy almost all my coins (and all my expensive coins) from internet vendors, based only on their photos and their reputation (and the slab the coin sits in). I think I'm pretty good at grading the coins that I collect, but I'm reminded every time there's a "GTG" thread here that none of is is anywhere near perfect, based on photos.

    And this is why I don't buy raw coins based on photos.

  • davewesendavewesen Posts: 5,680 ✭✭✭✭✭

    there are some youtube videos that show some good stuff

    a PCGS Grading Mint State Morgans video ->https://youtube.com/watch?v=nNxbgpWKaVw

    ANA has grading courses - 2 days or 4 days with lots of coins and experinced teachers

  • coastaljerseyguycoastaljerseyguy Posts: 1,209 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Lot of good guidance above but similar to what @124Spider said, start by learning how to grade 1 or 2 series that interest you and then what grades you would be collecting. After 20 years collecting, I think I can grade some series that I never collected a little better than average based on stuff posted here and elsewhere. But other series I know nothing but a SWAG. Its too much to try & learn everything in the beginning and most likely you will fail or regret some purchases. If you will be collecting circulated WLH's, focus on the grading from AG - AU, and how to tell AU from MS. Don't worry if you can't tell and MS 63 from 65 at first, it will come in time.

  • jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 31,311 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Morgan13 said:
    I was thinking more along the lines of this as an example-
    I'm at a coin show, I find a coin to look at. What's the best approach to zeroing in on a grade?

    It's too late. You need to know how to grade before you go to the coin show. And then, after that, you need to learn to grade at the coin show where the lighting may not be ideal.

    If you have any uncertainty, stick to certified coins until you have a better eye.

  • Married2CoinsMarried2Coins Posts: 142 ✭✭✭

    For now, don' buy any "raw" coins. While you are at the show, look ar as many already graded coins of the type you wish to collect. Especially examine the 65 and better untoned coins. Then, when you learn about originality from these grades, you will recognize it on lower graded slabs. One big mistake I made (aside from buying raw coins as a beginner) was thinking I knew originality. It turned out that many of my most attractive coins were cleaned, .

    One type of slab coin to avoid as a beginner are the ones that you think are way undergraded. THEY ARE NOT! If you see a coin that looks like a gem MS-67 with a 63 0r 64 grade on the label it is hairlined. I learned that the hard way$.

  • Great advice from people that have been in the trenches. I agree, a non-magnified in hand inspection is invaluable. For me when I want to purchase a coin at a show, I seek out a light source similar to what I'm familiar with. I'll ask the dealer if I can examine the coin under that light source. My process is as follows:
    Non magnified inspection...yes, or no?
    4 power inspection around obverse & reverse rims.
    Break the obverse & reverse into quadrants.
    10 power for varieties etc.
    And the most important...I'll seek the advice of dealers who make a living grading coins.

  • gumby1234gumby1234 Posts: 5,366 ✭✭✭✭✭

    You have quite a few certified Morgan dollars in various grades. Studying those would be a good start. Try to see the difference between your 62 and 63 grades and your 64 and 65 grades etcetera. Once you can see the differences between them you are on your way to learning how to grade them.

    Successful BST with ad4400, Kccoin, lablover, pointfivezero, koynekwest, jwitten, coin22lover, HalfDimeDude, erwindoc, jyzskowsi, COINS MAKE CENTS, AlanSki, BryceM

  • Morgan13Morgan13 Posts: 722 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @gumby1234 said:
    You have quite a few certified Morgan dollars in various grades. Studying those would be a good start. Try to see the difference between your 62 and 63 grades and your 64 and 65 grades etcetera. Once you can see the differences between them you are on your way to learning how to grade them.

    That is something I do. However, it's good to hear from all the people offering advice. This thread is not meant for me alone. Many other people might get something out of it as well.

    Student of numismatics and collector of Morgan dollars

  • retirednowretirednow Posts: 443 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Several above suggestions were for line help ... the PCGS resource library is a very good start. They have 3 series of videos Coin Grading 101, 102 & 103 that I had found useful and will go back to watch once in a while

    https://www.pcgs.com/education

    many other sites including an older one by James Halperin, Co-founder of Heritage Coin Galleries https://www.coingrading.com/

    have fun learning ... I am still amused by TPG regrading - when the same coins migrate though different grading states. Gee - I have one that was in an old ANACS holder as Net 60 PF "Cleaned recolored" piece back in several auctions in the 90's .. then it pops up 20 years later aa a PCGS PF62BN holder and now with a CAC sticker! go figure !

  • Clackamas1Clackamas1 Posts: 701 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I agree with what others have said. If you want to get into into it buy a $25BU box of Lincolns from the bank. I gave one to my sons friend (it was little rare one but I have 50 of them) broke open some rolls, gave him one of my special GE reveal light bulbs and low and behold he did fantastic. He is 17 so his eyes are not mine. When I was making coins 25 years ago I had 20/10 vision. Now 20/30. Use eye correction if you can for 20/20 at least, IMO.

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