Too often numismatic writers give the impression that they always win in online auctions, but all of them will fail on occasion, including me. That is what this post is about. Perhaps my examples here might inform you about issues that often result in cleaned or damaged coins after they are sent in for holdering.
Sometimes, in my view, the holdering company gets it wrong, as I wrote about earlier in the article, “Resubmitting or Living with Grades.”
More often I fail in winning coins because of poor photography, or sharp photography that doesn’t give me a clear view of the surface when tilted toward the light.
I know how to grade exceptionally well, meaning if I saw the coin at a show or shop, I could tell whether it was damaged, cleaned, or tooled.
But photos don’t usually give you those angles and lighting. You also cannot examine coins with a magnifier. When you expand certain photos, they lose their digital sharpness, as auctions often do not post large-file jpegs of lots.
I’m going to start with one that the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) got wrong. The reason I know that is these end coins came out of this roll.
Here are the end coins, marvelously toned.
PCGS said “Environmental Damage.”
I can see how the decision was made, because the grader didn’t see the roll, and you can’t send a photo of that thinking it will do any good.
Oh, well. I sold them raw at a loss.
Usually, I have luck with SEGS-slabbed coins, so I bid to win this 1912-D nickel:
The photo makes the coin look toned; but when you held it under good lighting, you could see it was cleaned and retoned. Chalk up another loss.
These next two coins came back cleaned, and they were. I knew it as soon as I saw them and tilted them under good lighting. But I sent them to PCGS anyway because of the quarterly special with free TrueView photos and Secure holdering. The 1913-S is a key date, and the Lafayette dollar commands a good price in Uncirculated condition, which this might have been, judging from the photo.
A word about sending questionable or borderline coins to PCGS, especially if the coin is rare or Uncirculated. Choose the “details” option specifying the reason (“cleaned,” in this case) rather than the numeric option (“92”=cleaned).
I failed to do that in the Lafayette dollar. So “Uncirculated” was missing on the label, and that cost me again when I consigned it on eBay. I’ll remember next time.
I failed yet again with another Lafayette dollar, as this came back as stained. I disagree. I think it’s toning. But it’s a judgment call, and PCGS wins.
Finally, here’s another example that came back cleaned with a gunmetal tone that usually happens when a coin is dipped and put in an album.
Sometimes it’s album toning. Sometimes it’s dipped with album toning. You can’t tell without a magnifier.
Often I have shared my auction wins in this column, based on my grading. I hope you benefited from my “fails.”
Keep in mind, every “fail” is still a “win” if you learn from the experience.
Any fails you would like to share?