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.