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Buy the coin not the slab - where will it end???

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Hi all


Where will coin grading end?


Terminoligies and phrases just to get a higher selling price???


It is difficult to imagine that there will be yet finer distinctions in grading in the future, yet it's already happening. Series-specific strike distinctions such as FSB (Fully Split Bands) and FBL (Full Bell Lines) and FH (Full Head) open and closed doors, steps and no steps and so forth are creating condition rarities out of coins formerly thought of as common.



In addition, both PCGS and NGC introduced "Plus" grading in 2010, whereby coins graded between XF45 and MS68 can receive a '+' (for example, MS63+) if they are at the high end of their assigned grade.



The depth of mirrors on proof coinage has led to terms of distinction such as Cameo, Deep Cameo, Ultra Cameo and so forth. Also, uncirculated coins are sometimes deemed Proof-like and Deep Mirror Proof-like.



People are bidding up coins based upon their population rarity (several grading services publish population reports letting collectors know how many times they've granted a particular grade to a particular coin), and these other fine distinctions, and clever marketing by both the grading services and numismatic firms. Ultimately, some of these schemes will prove popular over time, and others will turn out to be market bubbles. It's impossible to say which will stand the test of time in the eyes of collectors and investors.



With all of these factors to consider, and the distinction between grades being so fine in many cases, it becomes more and more difficult for the me to keep up, what about the average collector/investor??? The general public is even less likely to understand this explosion of grades and the subsequent valuations. Nevertheless, there are many good books and web sites that can assist in determining the approximate grade and value of a coin.



Forget about all the ways the market will fool buyers in spednig their hard earned income on. Buy the coin, at the end of the day it is the coin numismatics collect.




After doing my ANA Grading courses, visiting ANA for Summer Seminars and studying coin grading I have noticed differences in grading. This is why I believe it is an art and NOT a science.



When Graders grade items, such as coins, it is assumed that they carefully examine and visually recognize all of the technical and non-technical (subjective) detailed features on the item under consideration before arriving at a grade.


Depending upon the series; the number of technical detailed features to consider on a coin may range from 10 – 20 These 10 - 20 features then need to be translated to an industry-accepted ANA grade, which is on 1 – 70 Sheldon scale.

The cognitive abilities of the grader also come into play with grading.Grading is a

visual pattern recognition process, as it requires graders to identify visualized items and match them against the stored knowledge in their long-term memory. If the graders‘ long-term memory doesn’t contain the building blocks for the recognition of a particular collectible item then they are apt to misidentify or improperly grade it.


A person with great skills in the ZAR series (1892 - 1902) may possess considerable knowledge on the nuances of the series but lack any depth of knowledge in the Union series. When presented with a ZAR Coin to grade the Union expert would draw on their abilities in grading Union Coins and attempt to apply them to the ZAR. As so many features are different between the series it is unlikely that the Union expert would be exactly correct in their assessment. However due to humans ability to do complex visual pattern matching they may come close and in extreme cases (such as

a coin is a cull or a very nice specimen) their odds of getting the grade correct increase



Humans must draw on their long-term stored memory through their cognitive visual pattern recognition abilities while translating the visual input images that they have examined. Extensive documented research in the field of cognitive psychology supports the claim that humans have great difficulty processing more than 5 – 9 chunks of visual input data at one time. Thus by our very own cognitive nature humans loose, drop or fail to consider anywhere from 5 to 15 detailed technical features when grading coins. So in practice the process of a detailed grading examination by humans takes much more cognitive ability than the average grader is able to commit.


As a result the grading opinion offered by graders/companies is often different or incorrect.


Some exceptions to this process occur in very controlled situations, such as high third party grading services and in high profile auctions, when more human resources are allocated, as financial stakes tend to be larger. In these situations multiple graders are often used for consensus grading. The grades of the multiple graders are combined with extended evaluation timeframes to come up with an average grade, which is assigned to the coin.


Humans have been grading coins since long before the 3rd party grading services came into existence. Prior to the adoption of the Sheldon 70 point scale by the ANA in the 1970’s dealers and collectors were assigning grades to coins as the basis of valuation on a less defined scale than Sheldon’s. As long as grading has existed so have differences of opinions in the grades being assigned. Renaldo's (Ezethu) post is a very good

demonstration of the differences in opinions that graders have when grading the same item.




I myself was once faced with two coins:


1894 Shilling MS61 ( brilliant unc )

1894 Shilling MS62 ( should not have even graded AU55 )


I kept the MS61 !!!


Never forget the reason why you started you collection. Be the one to sell the MS62 because the MS61 is a BETTER COIN :)


Enjoy this wonderfull lifetime hobby of ours.......


Thomas van der Spuy


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No Steps - Priced R2000.00 higher


Inauguration R5 - #### NO STEPS - 1994 R5 PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION PROOF 69 ULTRA CAMEO #### for sale in Johannesburg (ID:24110309)



The mint realesed the full set for R8000.00


After breaking up the set - one coin now sells for R18000.00 ???


2008 Birthday R5 - yes proof 68 2008 sacgs ,the first sacgs on bob for sale in Hartbeespoort (ID:24778521)


(and then additional marketing phrase: "the first SACGS on bob")


Just to complicate things even further for the unexperienced buyer ???


Ask sometimes why the high starting price, ask why buy nows, ask why no bids???


Most honest sellers start their coins at R1, here one can pay much more, but at least you know that at the time of purchase it was purchased at market value or as close enough to it.


Happy bidding and be carefull


Thomas van der Spuy


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In my opinion, some of the designations you mentioned which exist in the United States make sense and others do not. Most of them do not from a financial standpoint. The importance should be based upon how much better the coin does or does not look.


For proof coins, cameo and deep cameo/ultra cameo make sense because if you have ever owned both, the cameos unquestionably can look much better than the "regular" proof. Sometimes, its just hard to tell why a particular coin was assigned one versus the other.


For US coin busineess strikes, I consider terms such as "Full Steps" for the Jefforson nickel (five cent) and "Full Head" for the Standing Liberty quarter dollar to be non-sensical. This type of designation could (in theory) be applied to many or possibly any coin design because the quality of the strike is not necessarily uniform.


What's even more ridiculous are the prices between these specially designated strikes and those without them. In actuality, ALL of these coins are common except in the narrow and artificial sense in which they are viewed.

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