Regular viewers of “Coingrader Capsule” know how to distinguish cameo and deep cameo on Franklin and Kennedy Half Dollars, based on a popular prior post that explained the standards.
To summarize: Frost is requisite in Cameo and Deep/Ultra Cameo designations. The obverse and reverse must possess frosted devices that create a white/black contrast in the right lighting. In general, a coin that exhibits Deep Cameo attributes on one side and Cameo attributes on the other side is considered only a Cameo. A coin that exhibits Cameo or Deep Cameo on one side, often the obverse, without any frosting or trace on the other side, does not earn any distinction besides proof and a grade (unless the holdering company designates Cameo/Obverse or Cameo/Reverse, etc.).
In this column we are discussing older green and yellow/gold PCI-holdered coins, rather than the new PCI company. The reason concerns the purported popularity of those older holders that sometimes come close to current PCGS and NGC standards. Hobbyists often purchase them at great discount in the hopes of theirs crossing over to PCGS or as cracked-out raw coins to NGC (which only considers PCGS coins for crossovers).
Those green and yellow/gold PCI coins are popular on eBay sometimes in auctions mode and others in “Buy It Now/Best Offer” listings.
For background, PCI stands for Photo Certification Institute, the old name of the company founded in 1989 and known for providing photos on its encapsulations. Here’s an example from the website Allcertifiedcoins.com.
Here’s an example of a green PCI holder:
Here’s an example of a yellow (or gold) PCI holder:
Experienced numismatists and hobbyists who know how to grade often search out older PCI-holdered coins because, as said previously, on occasion they grade accurately. But viewers of this column also should know that those PCI grades came with no guarantees and that many sellers in online auctions may charge PCGS or NGC retail prices for coins in those holders. My advice? Look for green and yellow/gold PCI coins that have no reserves.
As an experiment, I recently purchased three PCI SMS MS69 Kennedy Deep Cameo Halves coins from eBay for $46, (1967); $20.50, (1966); and $20.50, (1965). Here they are:
Here are PCGS values for each coin at Deep Cameo: (1967, $8,500 at MS68 [none higher]); (1966, $10,000 at MS68 [none higher]); and (1965, $6,000 at MS67 [none higher]).
Those eBay photos are not clear enough for an exact presumed grade; but the 1965 seemed to have a bit of frost whereas the 1966 and 1967 appeared to have none. Here’s a photo of the reverse of the 1965:
Again, the eagle seemed to stand out more than the reverses of the other two coins.
When I received the coins, my hunches were correct. I sent them to PCGS, and here are the grades:
Thus, the $46 1967 coin was worth $23 at PCGS retail; the $20.50 1966 coin, $20; and the $20.50 1965 coin, $600.
Here’s how the coin looks in a PCGS holder:
The ability to grade and to know devices are key in snaring such a $600 coin for $20.50.
Now take a look at this coin below offered on eBay for considerably more than $1,000. Make no mistake: Sellers can ask for whatever price they choose. But hobbyists, like any other consumer, need to know what to look for. Here’s a primer:
For starters, PCGS hasn’t graded an SMS MS69 Cameo; the highest was MS68, retailing for $1,450. (Only 13 have graded that high.) Moreover, recent auction prices for SMS MS68 Cameo average between $1,100-$1,200, according to CoinFacts. There is a fair chance this is actually Cameo (the obverse more than the reverse). But even if so, odds are this is going to grade at PCGS at SMS MS66 or 67, or $70 to $160 retail and $50 to $120 auction. So my bid on such a coin would be $20-$35, provided the seller answered the question about what appears to be a pin scratch between the “L” of “Liberty” and the chin to nose of the profile. If it is a pin scratch, the coin is sliver melt (in my view), or $2.23 at this writing.
All this goes to show how risky purchasing coins can be online without numismatic knowledge. It also shows how profitable it can be with that knowledge.
That’s the lesson of this post.