Anyone who has submitted to one of the two major grading services has felt the letdown of lower than anticipated grades, perhaps wondering how the rival service might have evaluated the same coins–especially when those coins seem to possess deep mirrors.
Coin Update News decided to test that, first by purchasing from a reputable dealer five coins designated as having deep-mirror surfaces, sending them to PCGS and then cracking open those holders for resubmission to NGC.
Before disclosing the results, we will provide pictures and background information about the submission.
These five coins were purchased from a long-time Proxibid auctioneer whose company, Silver Trades, not only provides multiple photos of each coin but lengthy descriptions, often with a buyback guarantee if PCGS or NGC deem a coin ungradeable for any reason.
Here’s how Silver Trades described the five coins in its catalog:
- 1880-s Morgan Dollar. Grades Gem Uncirculated ms65++ DMPL PQ, In Addition to being a Striking DMPL this example also has Beautiful Light Pastel Rim Toning. Virtually no bag marks of significance. The fields are near mark free deep mirrors. A spectacular coin.
- 1881-s DMPL Morgan Dollar. $1 Grades ms65 DMPL, Nice Deeply Mirrored Morgan. While the Devices are not heavily frosted the Mirrored Fields are Very Deep. I will offer my personal buy back guarantee, that this coin is all original that this coin is all original and will not come back Ungradeable by any major grading service.
- 1883-cc Morgan Dollar. Grades Choice Uncirculated ms64 DMPL. A Beautiful Deep Mirror Proof Like Carson City Morgan Dollar. All Original with Great Eye Appeal. I will offer my personal buy back guarantee, that this coin is all original and will not come back Ungradeable by any major grading service.
- 1884-cc Morgan Dollar. Grades Choice Uncirculated ms64 DMPL. Wonderful Deep Mirror Proof Like Example with Great Frosted Devices and Beautiful Mirrored Fields. A very Clean Coin with great eye appeal. I will offer my personal buy back guarantee, that this is original and will not come back Ungradeable by any major grading service.
- 1885-o Morgan Dollar. Grades Choice Uncirculated ms64 DMPL. Wonderful Deep Mirror Proof Like Example with Great Frosted Devices and Beautiful Mirrored Fields. A very Clean Coin with great eye appeal. I will offer my personal buy back guarantee, that this coin is all original and will not come back Ungradeable by any major grading service.
Here are pictures of the coins as displayed in the Silver Trades catalog (click any image to enlarge).
When I received the coins, I felt the catalog descriptions were accurate for the most part, but that getting deep-mirror designations from PCGS or NGC was going to be difficult.
Generally, a semi-prooflike coin should reflect your finger at a distance of 1-2 inches; prooflike, 2-4 inches; and deep mirror prooflike (or “DMPL”), 4-plus inches.
The “DMPL” designation also has other requirements. Devices should be frosted with uniform reflectivity at 4-plus inches–on both sides of the coin. In other words, if a section of either obverse or reverse is duller without deep reflectivity, an otherwise “DMPL” coin could test prooflike or worse (no prooflike designation whatsoever).
On each of the coins, I noticed a small patch of duller than “DMPL” reflectivity.
But the coins were beautiful in their own right. Their cost was close to $1600 for all five, which would have been a bargain if they graded as described in the Silver Trades catalog. Deep-mirrored coins for these dates would be worth collectively between $2700-$3000.
The coins were sent in at the “Regular” submission rate, meaning that each was valued at $300 or more. Here is how PCGS graded them: 1880-S, MS64; 1881-S, MS63; 1883-CC, MS63; 1884-CC, MS63; and 1885-O, MS63PL.
Not one graded “DMPL.”
Coins were cracked out of their PCGS holders and sent at the same fee level to NGC. Here is how NGC graded the same coins: 1880-S, MS65; 1881-S, MS63; 1883-CC, MS63; 1884-CC, MS63; and 1885-O, MS63.
What was gained with the 1880-S coin at NGC was lost in the 1885-O coin, meaning both services essentially graded the set of coins similarly. Their collective worth was about $800.
This is the gamble we take purchasing raw coins online, even from the most knowledgeable auction companies, like Silver Trades, which unlike many houses offers buyback guarantees on select coins like these.
Many hobbyists claim that grading is a subjective exercise, and it is to a degree, as this exercise documents–a degree of one point in the 1880-S and one less “prooflike” label in the 1885-O.
On occasion, one of the two major companies get a grade wrong. But their reputations are earned through consistency, and grades here by both companies fall into that category.
On a personal level, I feel that these coins are worth more than $800. They failed in large part because I could not see the small duller patches undermining reflectivity and thereby depriving them of “DMPL” and even “prooflike” designations.
I would not have made the same mistake purchasing them at a coin shop and inspecting them first-hand with a loop. That said, I also would likely have paid close to $1600 if I purchased these premium-quality coins at a coin show without the knowledge of what qualifies as “semi-prooflike,” “prooflike,” and “deep mirror prooflike.”
In the end, that’s what this post is about. Make sure the coins have frosted devices with no duller patch of reflectivity. You’ll also need uniform reflectivity of 4-6 inches before having a shot at the coveted “deep mirror” designation.
You may not be able to do this with an online purchase. So take your chances, or only purchase prooflike and deep-mirrored coins already holdered by PCGS and NGC.
Gary Cooper says
This is only a quasi-pseudo science concocted to support the delusion that it equates to the adjectival mumbo jumbo that the grading services want to charge their high premiums.
Grading is an ART and is therefor SUBJECTIVE. (Meaning: it is a hopefully informed opinion, AT BEST) As such, an purported “scientific method” cannot quantify what is actually an AESTHETIC.
Aesthetics and taste do, and always will, vary in the eye of the beholder.
There are some various nuances but frankly NGC and PCGS are very similar.
Nuances are NGC for the sender is better on PROOFS; and NGC is better for the sender on
Any coin worth more then a grand will be expected by the buyer to be slabbed for many reasons starting with trust.
Michael Bugeja says
I appreciate both comments by Gary and Steve. Thank you for taking the time to share your valid viewpoints with our readers.
Gary Cooper says
If I wrote your article, I probably would have titled it “Smoke and Mirrors at PCGS and NGC”.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Michael Bugeja says
I love it, Gary. “Smoke and Mirrors” it should have been!
wow! I found this article extremely informative. I have been collecting for only the last ten years, and have a few Morgans that my dad gave me (GSA’s). I never really knew what attributes qualified a coin to be a DMPL, so this was helpful. I have also read a lot of opinions about the grading services, and this article gave me unbiased insight. Thank you, Michael!
Michael Bugeja says
Thank you so much for your kind comments. Your dad must be a wonderful person to pass down GSAs and his admiration for the hobby. Have a great holiday!
Amazing…..I purchased 3 coins from the same auction house and summited them to IGC.EVERY one came back at least 2 grades lower than the item describtion
Michael Bugeja says
Thanks for sharing your viewpoint. We appreciate your comment.
Great article and great series of articles here!!!
As far as Silver Trades, you don’t know how lucky you were to have all 5 grade. No surprise that none of them were DMPL even though he says they are. I have purchased some of “his” ms-65 coins, and they came back at 58, or even ungradable. The tungsten dark lighting hides all the hairline cleaning marks. Not even once, and I mean never, did a single coin come back at or higher than the grades offered. Then try and use the buyback. Most of them are offered by voice only during the auction, only to have NO proof at all after you get whacked at PCGS or NGC.
Also, both graders are on some kind of no DMPL crusade these days. I sent in 4-5 of them cracked out of old holders that were very conservative. Not a one came back with even PL.
Again, great series of articles here. I am glad I discovered this.
Michael Bugeja says
Thank you for your comment! I haven’t had one come back at the same offered grade, either. I agree about the photographs and the DMPL crusade, too. Sigh. I appreciate your reading my column.
Hank Balsa says
I wonder, with the sonic cleaning devices out there and the ability of really good smithy’s to clean things if the system can be fooled now or in the future? I also think it is interesting how the different worlds of collecting value almost opposite things–for example, in furniture, “patina”, scratches, mars and even carved initials are valued in an antique of historical relevance, whereas in coins, such would be considered a no-no. Just some observations and thoughts. thanks.
Chris Titley says
It’s rare eye witnesses agree.
In this day and age, I am surprised these coins sent in for submission couldn’t be analyzed by machines. After all, machines make these coins. Why couldn’t machines grade these coins?
That would be subjective as well I suppose. You could calibrate them and certify with accuracy against known specimens and go from their. I would think machines would be much more accurate.