Some believe that when a top-tier grading company such as PCGS, NGC, ANACS or ICG slabs a coin, it is the last word on the grade. However, after a numismatist gains sufficient expertise, he or she can spot an under-graded coin, or what is perceived to be one.
In this article we are discussing crack-outs, not crossovers, or resubmissions. NGC only considers crossovers from PCGS, a policy I have criticized repeatedly here, especially when the coins are slabbed by ANACS and ICG. If you want to learn about choosing candidates for crossover and resubmission, click here.
The crack-out game is risky and expensive, too; but it happens all the time with experienced numismatists, and NOT because (as many of veterans claim) grading standards were tougher, etc., decades ago — yes, generally, they were, and also more inconsistent — but because grading really is subjective to a degree. That means a half-point or point in the top-tier companies.
The risk and expense arise when a hobbyist believes he or she has the skill to discern an MS-64 or 64+ from an MS-65 or higher. Or a Certified Acceptance Corporation-stickered coin that might bring even higher premiums if cracked out and resubmitted.
These expert numismatists know that bad things can happen and weigh that into the risk and expense:
- Crack-out hazards. Never crack open a coin if you do not know how to do it, and if you do, don protective eye-wear. There also is a chance that, depending on what crack-out method you use, you could damage the coin in the process. Do not use this article to be inspired to try your hand on it!
- Unseen flaws. Sometimes coins are graded with these overlooked flaws: over-dipping, stripping luster; altered surfaces; wheel marks, from counting machines; and other details that can render the coin ungradeable.
- Factor slabbing fees. When you add the holdering cost to that of your purchased coin, the upgrade may not be worth the expense. Before picking candidates, check the difference in retail prices. Also, a cracked-out previously graded coin can be returned by a top-tier company with one of the flaws mentioned in #2, even if you believe that is not the case. (PCGS tends to spot altered surfaces; NGC, wheel marks.) Now you have double the slabbing fee if you decide to resubmit the coin so you can use it in your set registry or sell it online in an attempt to break even.
Here are candidates I cracked out and sent to PCGS, my preferred grader for Morgan dollars:
This is a very close call. It is a low-end 65 but, in my view, a 65 and not 64+. Also, a 1888 in MS-64+ is worth about $100 retail. At MS-65, $250. I paid $85 for this.
The 1883-CC in an old ANA (pre-ANACS) holder is classically under-graded. These holders are hard to find, but many can be upgraded or crossed over to PCGS. This retails at MS-64 for about $250. At MS-65, $550. I paid $240 for this.
The 1884-CC at NGC MS-64 retails for about $250. At MS-65, $560. I paid $360 for this, way more than I should have, because someone else on Proxibid wanted the lot and I lapsed into a bidding war. (I should have known better.) Now I have to get an upgrade to break even!
At any rate, this coin is so under-graded that it actually stands a chance to go to MS-65+. Take a closer look:
In choosing crack-out candidates, you have to know these aspects of grading: luster, eye-appeal, strike (for the year), high points on devices (indicating wear), and absence of grade-eroding details such as cleaning, alterations, environmental damage, bag marks, rim bumps pin scratches, PVC discoloration, corrosion, smoothing, rubs, artificial toning, and other conditions.
These three coins above have been sent in recently and haven’t yet been graded by PCGS. I’ll let you know the results when all three grades come in. I may score 1 out of 3, 2 out of 3, or all 3.
What is your opinion of the coins’ grades? Do you think they have a chance? Have you tried this yourself?
Share your experience in the comments!