What is a lower-tier holder? I define that according to eBay rules about approved grading companies, i.e., PCGS, NGC, ANACS, and ICG. These companies have detailed databases listing certification values and also are considered by the numismatic community to be top-tier because of grading consistency.
I agree with eBay on coins in lesser-tier holders being treated as raw. These include several generations of PCI-holdered coins as well as those slabbed by Numistrust, Hallmark Grading Service, National Numismatic Certification, Precise Grading Authenticators, and others listed increasingly as lots in online auctions by Proxibid, HiBid, Liveauctioneers, and other venues.
Top auction houses such as Great Collections do not allow these lesser-holdered coins on their site, for good reason: They may use the Shelton 1-70 scale but often overlook scratches, damage, cleaning, artificial coloring, and other flaws that would earn a details grade at the major slabbing companies.
To be honest, I seldom bid on any of these off brands. When I do, I ignore what is on the label.
Increasingly, online auctioneers often use PCGS/NGC sight-unseen values for coins in these lesser holders. These coins sometimes are so flawed, they qualify only as silver melt.
Later PCI holders often overlook flaws and artificial coloring, as in this example:
The PCGS retail value for an MS64 1922-S Peace Dollar is $300. This coin has cleaning marks, pin scratches and artificial toning, rendering it silver melt–again, in my view. But the opening bid on HiBid on this coin was $180.
And bidders will pay that price and more. I am aghast at what people are paying for flawed coins. The lack of numismatic knowledge is keen these days.
Here are other examples with the holder grade and my grading analysis of each coin.
NUMISTRUST, 1978-S, MS67
This is a premium coin, but certainly not MS-67, which retails for $10,000. The bag marks to the left of the nose and near the “m” in “Unum” in the right field — not to mention a few more marks on the cheek — would probably earn a grade at MS-64, worth $260, or $9,740 below the estimate here. It’s worth a bid of $200, taking into account the added cost of a 15% buyer’s fee plus mailing.
PRECISE GRADING AUTHENTICATORS, 1926-S MS-63+
The above coin by Precise Grading Authenticators is, in my view, hardly precise. It has scratches beside the forehead and lacks luster and eye appeal, because it seems overly dipped. The opening bid was $140. Again, in my view, this coin is worth no more than $50, although the retail price at MS-63+ is $225. I wouldn’t bid on this lot, but if I did, my bid would be a mere $35.
HALLMARK COIN GRADING SERVICE, 1883-O, MS-66
This coin is hardly MS-66. It is a common 1883-O Morgan, with a mintage of 8,725,000, which, at MS-66, would be worth $425. I say this is MS-60 with bag marks and an obvious pin scratch running down the cheek. In my view, this is silver melt.
NATIONAL NUMISMATIC CERTIFICATION, 1891-O, MS-64 DMPL
This is hardly 1891-O MS-64 DMPL, worth $7,750 retail. To qualify as deep mirror Prooflike, both sides of the coin must show a mirrored image at least six inches away. This coin probably is Prooflike, if that, with harsh cleaning and bagmarks. In my view, a $50 coin at best.
PCI, GREEN LABEL, 1903 MS-65
I am bidding on this coin because green-and-yellow-labeled PCI-holdered coins typically note flaws and are a point or two below what the label states, according to high-tier consistency standards. Moreover, coins in older PCI slabs usually have good toning. So I usually pay more than current auction prices in as much as toning is desired in the marketplace.
This coin is not MS-65, though. I bid on it as if MS-63+, and the + here is mainly for the toning. The retail price of a gem 1903 Morgan is $360. At MS-63+, it is $200. But CoinFacts auction prices list a coin in this condition as $97. So I will consider the 15% buyer’s fee and mailing and bid a mere $67.50 for the coin.
That’s the bid of a professional who knows the value of a coin. The lesson here is to develop grading skills and pay no attention to the claims of labels on lesser-tier holders. Treat them as raw coins. And as I often state in my columns, if you can’t grade, go with coins slabbed by PCGS, NGC, ANACS, and ICG. You’ll probably pay more, but you will win a decent coin.
While I do feel bad for hobbyists paying high prices for substandard coins, I also appreciate that this is the consequence of a lack of numismatic knowledge. Read about coins before you bid. You’ll learn about strike and condition and oh so much more.
If you are interested in Morgan dollars, for instance, check out A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars by Q. David Bowers, 6th Edition.
This is one of my favorite books because it has detailed information on each year of the Morgan series, from 1978-1904 and 1921. Build your library, and you build your acumen.
Joe J.S. says
Agree with everything you mentioned, well said. Only thing I’d emphasize and add is of course to study/read before purchase and perhaps study hundreds if not thousands of graded coins online to see the disparities among companies.
Justin Herrera says
I agree with you on the fact that some people are not all that educated in the coin collecting game and probably spend way more than what the coins actually worth, but for people like me, sometimes it’s not about how pretty it is or the rich amount of that coin. It’s about finding that coin yourself,seeing it and holding it in your hand and enjoying the beauty and the defects of a rare and special coin that is no longer in production. So yes , If I found a coin in auction that I really like and has some flaws like the ones you described in your article, I would purchase it. Of course for a price that is fair. And later on down the road see if I can find that coin in a MS-65 or a grade close to that for a fair price. I enjoyed reading your article.
I mostly agree, with respect to exceptions. I have seen coins in “upper tier(as you call it) that were grossly misgraded. I have personally seen coins sent to these “upper tier” grading services multiple times, and the same coin get a different grade each time it was returned. Many times it appeared the grade of the coin (grade from grading services) was somewhat dependant on the individual/company requesting the grade. I strongly recommend anyone that wants to collect coins learn to grade, as that is an initial difference between a true numismatist and an investor. Numismatist/collectors do it for pleasure, while investors do it merely for profit. Look at the history of “Grading Services” whereas initially these services just verified authenticity, but when collectors started seeing suggested “grades” on return packages the grading services were born. Remember, grade is also dependant on “eye appeal”, and what appeals to me may not be so appealing to others. Also it is human to err, and if one is having a very good day or a very bad day, it may reflect on a coin grade…professional graders are human after all. Also grading standards have gradually become more defined over the past 40-50 years, and coins graded by the same service 40 years ago may grade differently today. Decide early on, are you a collector (or) an investor.
Freddy Rodriguez says
I am new at this coin collecting, now sports cards I can tell you all the grading company so for example Payton Manning rookie card or auto PSA 10 or Beckett 10 at this grade easy over 500 but same card and it’s a GMA 10 it will be under 400 so basically paying for name of the company does this also apply in the coin grading…so I would like to get some of my coins graded but I rather use a company like GMA bracket … which company I should go with thank
Larry Hall says
It can’t surprise you people don’t care and bid and by them. First, since they don’t have to learn how, or trust that they could know, it’s totally arbitrary. May as well be the space bar on the TV, that measures volume. No numeric legend, or lines of amount. No universal concept of accord.
. Grading made everyone fine with being a idigit! Okay to not know anything about their coins. Some say, it’s up to the grader, mood ect.. their view. The amount of sheer blunders by ngc and PCGS, astounds me. Completely wrong labels, different years, not calling it PL when is deep cam, with same order contractions. I’ve seen a never opened touched proof set, get opened, untouched into direct required slips, and see the five coin set, return, with details, cleaned on this one, not proof recognized on the quarter, when it was more cameo than the half that got deep cam, that wasn’t even a cam. All with different numbers, minus the cleaned detail or the penny that got MS 65. You wait more than you pay, and forever is inflation sensitive. If they mess it up, call it 26s when it’s a 21 d buffalo.. they will cover the cost of shipping.. nice! So, don’t trust each other, can’t help it to bye insight on line like it’s a video game, like life isn’t real anymore. Never underestimate how helpless people will become, if they don’t have to do anything for themselves. Why decide what the weather is, the station will tell me to wear a coat. Why know the way and streets, what west means or where it is. Siri tells me when to turn, not me! How to get to work, it does, so I don’t have to. I used to know, sure, but, I haven’t cared to really pay that close of attention… Sorry it’s so, wish you could forget it’s just screwed!
Frank Padilla says
I was just wondering on my coins and if there where worht anything and I would take pictures and see if yall could help me out