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Mint Luster Definition & Progressive Surface Reflectivity Descriptive Terms with Photos
I define Luster as the result of how reflected light interacts, and is affected or scattered by, the texture or grain of the coin’s metallic surface.
Mint Luster specifically refers to the original luster state that a coin possesses when it leaves the mint, prior to metal wear, scratches and other post mint circulation phenomena.
Coin metallic surface texture is created and affected by a combination of the planchet preparation and the minting process wear state of the die surface, which is impacted by a combination of Initial New Die State, Die Wear via friction from metal flow through striking of thousands of coins, and Die Polishing or Lapping to enhance the Eye Appeal of struck coins as the dies begin to show signs of wear.
The dies may originally have Mirrored Highly Reflective Surfaces (Proof, DMPL or PL), or Frosty Surfaces as are typical on many Business Strike Coins. They may also have Textures and Reflectivity Strength in between the above-mentioned End Members due to wear during the minting process.
I classify luster into the following nomenclatural categories from Left to Right as dies progressively wear via the minting process:
[Deeply Mirrored (Proof) => Deep Mirrored Prooflike (DMPL) => Prooflike (PL) => Semi-Prooflike => Glossy => Satiny => Frosty => Matte (Proof)]
Below are a few interesting examples from my collection provided for luster discussion purposes. Some exhibit more than one type of luster on a single coin, due to their Cameo Contrast (Frosty Devices with Mirrored Fields).
I’m interested in hearing comments, thoughts & observations about this from fellow forum members.0May 13, 2019 2:13PM
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 Numismatics0May 13, 2019 2:12PM