It’s ironic in our hobby that the preferred method of preserving rare coins is the one that causes them the most damage.
What’s worse is that sellers on eBay, Proxibid, and Hibid typically do not state that coins have pin scratches, as this one has. I won it in a Bauer Auction with a bid of $440, or a realized price of $497.
The coin was beautiful, except for a pin scratch down Washington’s face that the photo did not catch, because the coin was photographed at a tilt (more on that later). Neither was the flaw mentioned in the description.
This is the third time that I have bid in different auctions on the 1900 Lafayette Commemorative Dollar. All had scratches. I will not longer bid again on this coin unless it is in a PCGS or NGC holder.
And while that observation is not associated with the topic at hand, I can tell you that in a future column I may be writing about not bidding anymore on raw coins online unless you can return the coin or the auctioneer is trusted to describe these flaws in addition to providing sharp photos.
I’m an expert grader, but I get duped as much as win flawless raw coins in online auctions. My theory is that the remaining raw coins online have some sort of flaw, especially cleaning. Others have been sent in for grading. More on that in the future.
Back to pin scratches. I will present several here, all without the flaw being noted in online auctions.
This one is fairly obvious, although the coin has a deep mirror and that helps show the flaw.
Pin Scratch: Altered Attempt
This scratch is pretty serious, as an attempt was made to conceal it.
Someone saw the pin scratch (to the left of Lady Liberty’s chin) and altered the scratch (amateur attempt). But the photo doesn’t immediately reveal that unless you are an experienced buyer.
Pin Scratch: Tilted Photo
When coins are held slightly at a tilt, the scratch is not obvious. Thankfully, this auctioneer provided another close-up, showing the scratch from the “E” over the profile. This photo goes to show that you should not bid on any coin held at a tilt, which conceals flaws.
Pin Scratch: Gold
Because gold reflects light especially well, scratches are often concealed if coins are not photographed close-up:
Now view the close-up, which this auctioneer provided:
Pin Scratch: Lesser Holders
Lesser-tier holding companies often do not note scratches on their labels. Here’s an example:
Pin Scratches: Top-Tier Holders
You can also find pin scratches that graders missed in top-holdering companies. Here are two. First, in an ANACS holder, has a scratch from the “E” to the nose. This likely will not cross over to PCGS or NGC.
That is not to say that NGC occasionally has missed a scratch. This one also looks like an altered attempt to the left of Lady Liberty’s nose.
Here’s a close-up of the flaw:
To guard against pin scratches, open flips carefully when they contain staples. Do not use a staple remover as they cause as many scratches as pulling apart flips without knowing how to do that.
Squeeze the flip to show an opening, as this picture illustrates:
Put a cloth under the flip to prevent damage as you carefully pry open the flip and gently pull it apart, holding the coin upright. When the top staples release, gently pull the coin from the flip.
Okay, now it’s your turn. How many coins have you damaged pulling apart flips? How many coins have you won online that had a scratch the auctioneer or seller failed to disclose?
Share your stories (without necessarily blaming anyone, including yourself) in the comment section below.