In mid-March, I wrote about submitting PCI-slabbed coins to PCGS and predicting grades by arguably the most rigorous of holdering companies. I wrote that I had been submitting to PCGS for more than fifteen years and had good knowledge of their grading standards. One prediction was wrong, though: I sent my PCI coins to PCGS in mid-February, promising to report on the findings, “which may be late April or even May, because of continued delays at the company.” I got the grades in late June.
PCI, which stands for “Photo Certified Institute,” has gone through several transitions and ownerships. The older green-label holders represent its most rigorous grading period, followed by yellow-label holders. Later PCI holders are inconsistent and overgraded, in my opinion. I don’t bid on any of those slabbed coins.
Here’s an example of a green-label PCI Morgan dollar. I didn’t submit the coin but posted it here to show the color of the PCI label. PCI pegs this Morgan at MS-65. I would bid on it at MS-64 because of minor bag marks on the cheek.
Let’s see the results of the coins I did submit and how well they fared.
1880-S MS-64 PCI — My Prediction: MS-64 PL or Details
In the earlier article I wrote this about the 1880-S Morgan:
This 1880-S has light rainbow pastels with orange toning elsewhere. Orange is a dangerous color because several kinds of coin doctoring (heating, chemical, etc.) produce orange, purple, and blue. Those are usually dead giveaways for artificial color. But I think this will slab because there are rainbow colors on the reverse (washed out in the photo because of the Prooflike reflection). So it just might slab.
My prediction was good: MS-64.
1881-S MS-65 PL — My Prediction: MS-64 PL or Details
In March, I wrote:
I have the same feeling about this sister coin. It states 90% white, but now that is about 60% because of the toning. It may grade higher than MS-64, but I’m anticipating a possible ‘Details’ grade because the rainbow toning pattern probably doesn’t exist in PCGS databanks (and there is orange, too). But in this case, and the coin above, despite what PCGS may say about the color, the toning is natural.
My prediction (and PCI’s for that matter) was conservative, as the coin graded MS-65:
1959 PR-67 Cameo — My Prediction: PR-65 or Details
Earlier, I predicted:
Now we go to a beautiful typical Proof PCI target toning example. I’m counting on the pattern being in the PCGS databanks. Despite what coin doctors believe about their prowess, nothing tones as lovely and natural as PCI holders over time. Nevertheless, a grader can state, “no way; too wild,” and slab ‘Questionable Color.’ That just doesn’t make sense. Coin doctoring is so obvious when they try to target-tone. The circles are not perfect or bleed into each other.
Also, I am not too fond of the obverse. It has some rainbow toning at the bottom but also speckled blue dot toning on the neck. That may affect eye appeal.
My prediction again was conservative, as the coin graded PR-67.
The lesson here involving any holdered coin is to evaluate the coin, not the holder. You need to know how to grade before you bid or buy, and that’s where it gets dicey. But if you are bidding on or buying lesser-tier holdered coins, be especially skeptical. I have had good luck with older PCI- and SEGS-holdered coins.
In 2013, in Coin Update, I did the same experiment, submitting five SEGS Morgans, again with good results. You can read about that by clicking here.