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Category: Coin Grading & Authentication

PMG Announces Second-Generation Holder

The next generation  PMG label and holder is scheduled for release on Jan. 3, 2011.

PMG will begin use of a new generation holder on January 3, 2011. All notes encapsulated after that date by PMG will automatically be placed in the new holder. Additionally, the new holder will be used for on-site grading during the Florida United Numismatists (FUN) convention in January. This holder marks the first design iteration of the PMG holder since the company launched in 2005. The second-generation PMG holder is made from the same high-quality inert materials and is very similar in shape and overall aesthetics; however, it features new, highly sophisticated anti-counterfeiting and tampering-prevention technologies.

While PMG has not had any reported instances of holder tampering or counterfeiting, the company’s mandate requires periodic reviews of the security of its products. PMG was able to take advantage of advances and technologies used by other Certified Collectibles Group companies, including NGC, in their own certification holders. Ultimately, the holder was upgraded to maintain PMG’s leadership role and the strong preference for its certification holder among currency collectors.

“Our newest label and holder fully satisfies PMG’s combined objectives of exceptional visual display, security and long-term preservation,” comments PMG Grader Richard Stelzer.

Some of the changes will be almost invisible. For example, the label in the second-generation PMG holder includes a conservation-grade UV fiber paper, as did the previous version, but also includes a new UV watermark. These features are not visible under normal light, but when viewed under ultraviolet light these features help confirm the authenticity of PMG product.

Additionally, spot metallic-foil and holographic patterns have been added to the label design and borders. A state-of-the-art hologram is also now fused directly to the label paper. All of these features combine to make the PMG label virtually impossible to reproduce.

The outside holder itself has also undergone important changes. The holder’s sealed edges now include an embossed pattern. The custom design relies on a unique safe-sealing method pioneered by Certified Collectibles Group. The complex repeating texture includes the PMG logo and other elements within the seal that also confirm the quality and thoroughness of the holder seal.

For more information or to have your notes encapsulated in the newest PMG holder, contact PMG customer service at 1-877-PMG-5570 or service@PMGnotes.com.

NGC Certifies Historic Cache of Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles

These coins were part of a family’s possessions during World War II exile and remained together for more than 65 years.

NGC has certified a very interesting group of Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles that have remained in the possession of a family since prior to World War II. When purchased in Europe last month, their unusual history was revealed to the buyer. During the turbulent period prior to World War II, these coins were a trove meant to sustain a family through the worst possible situation.

Just subsequent to the Nazi invasion of this family’s home country in 1940, each of these coins was sewn into the lining of a leather coat. With great risk, they were spirited out to a safe-haven neutral country, where they have been kept ever since.

According to the gold buyer, who relayed the history of these coins to NGC, the family in possession of the coins elected to sell them this year because gold had risen to record price levels. The group of 200 coins has been encapsulated with the pedigree WWII EXILE HOARD.

While other US gold coins come from caches with similar histories, several features contribute to the significance of this group. When they arrived at NGC, many of the coins still had bits of leather still adhering to the coins’ rims.

At the submitter’s request, professionals at Numismatic Conservation Services expertly removed the leather so that the coins would be eligible for certification. Their unconventional storage imparted a number of the coins with a delicate reddish patina that was left untouched during conservation.

Another unusual feature is the uniformly high grade of these coins. Each graded from MS 63 to MS 67, with seven coins achieving this highest grade and a greater number grading each MS 66 and MS 66+. All are dated 1924 and 1925, with over three-quarters being from the latter date.

NGC Launches New Coin Price Guide Powered by NumisMedia

Powerful resource includes over five years of historical data and dynamic charting tools.

Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) has released a new online price guide, the NGC Coin Price Guide, powered by NumisMedia.

The price guide is now available to all NGC website visitors for free at www.NGCcoin.com. It includes five years of accurate coin pricing data for nearly all US coins, and collectors can analyze coin prices using dynamic graphing tools and ranking filters. Many of these features are entirely new to the numismatic marketplace.

For example, the performance of up to five different coins can be viewed on a single graph. Innovative trend spotting tools allow users to rank coin performance based on criteria they supply to gain unique insight into the value of collectable US coins.

The rare coin values shown in the NGC Coin Price Guide are independently compiled and edited by NumisMedia based on real, documented market transactions.

Since 2005, NumisMedia has served as the official price guide of NGC and the NGC Collectors Society. NumisMedia is the industry’s most accurate, impartial report of US coin values. The online guide constitutes the most comprehensive pricing available for US coins, including prices for the full range of AU and MS grades, as well as prices for a broad number of modern issues.

“Tools this powerful simply were not available to coin collectors before today,” comments Mark Salzberg, NGC chairman. “Since the price guide is free, we’re offering everyone complete access to the most advanced way to assess rare coin valuation trends. NGC is providing the ultimate means for collectors to make better purchasing decisions and build better collections.”

The NGC Coin Price Guide launched November 30, 2010. The price guide is part of a suite of collecting resources available on NGC’s Web site, including a US coin encyclopedia, US coin variety attribution guide, and US coin grading guide. Earlier this year, NGC launched a comprehensive coin collection management portal. Like the price guide, it is a free resource available to the numismatic community.

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The PCGS SecurePlus Program, Part 2: Reform

News and Analysis on scarce coins, coin markets, and the collecting community #29

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I explain the PCGS SecurePlus program in part 1. Here in part 2, Don Willis, the president of the PCGS, responds to the explanation that I put forth in part 1, and I argue, with assistance from expert dealers, that the PCGS SecurePlus™ program should be reformed, not by reformulating the program, but by preventing dealers from submitting rare coins through the old “standard” process. The positions of John Albanese, Ira Goldberg and Mark Feld are featured.

I devoted last Wednesday’s column to an explanation because I have found that many collectors and dealers do not really understand the PCGS SecurePlus™ program. For details of the PCGS SecurePlus™ program, and a discussion of its importance, please read part 1.

IV. Don Willis Responds

Don Willis has been the president of the PCGS since Oct. 2008. I knew him before then, when he was a coin dealer. Earlier, he had a very successful career in the field of information technology, including the founding of a large software company. I have found Don to be honest, willing to address controversial issues, and very concerned about the well being of collectors.

Willis graciously responds to the points put forth in last week’s column and to questions I asked. Fortunately, Don found my explanation last week as to how grading procedures under the SecurePlus program differ from standard PCGS procedures to be “correct.”

“Today, in its early stages,” Willis says, “SecurePlus is being driven by the collector community.” My (this writer’s) impression is that many collectors do not know or do not understand the benefits of the SecurePlus program. Moreover, not all collectors are familiar with the problems of grade-inflation and coin doctoring. Besides, the dealers who submit many coins to the PCGS are typically wholesalers, not dealers who sell directly to collectors. It would be illogical for the SecurePlus program to be steered by collector demands and collector feedback.

Willis continues, “We have seen many finest known and top quality sets submitted for SecurePlus grading.” I (this writer) find that this is certainly true. Several sets in the Simpson collection come to mind. “Most of these sets remain with their original owners and off the market,” Willis states. “One exception would be Dr. Steven Duckor’s set of Barber Half Dollars which were submitted through SecurePlus and later sold at auction for record breaking prices.”

Dr. Duckor is a strong supporter of the SecurePlus program. Please see his remarks in my June 2nd column. (As always, clickable links are in blue.) Further, I wrote two articles on Dr. Duckor’s halves (part 1, part 2). Also, I mention more of his halves in my column of Aug. 4th.

As Willis says, Duckor’s halves sold for extremely strong prices at auction and many auction records were then set. It is not clear, though, to what extent PCGS Secure holders (as opposed to regular PCGS holders) played a role in the prices realized. Dr. Duckor is one of the leading living collectors, and he is certainly one of the most sophisticated collectors of all time. For a Barber Half Dollar, or an early 20th century gold coin, a Duckor pedigree often adds considerable value.

The SecurePlus program should not only be for the benefit of those advanced, knowledgeable collectors who understand the program. “SecurePlus is only six months old,” Willis replies. “Currently all coins valued over $100,000 must go through SecurePlus. This will change in the future as the market dictates.” Willis figures that “the pace of SecurePlus submissions and the expansion of SecurePlus services will be determined by collector demand just as original PCGS submissions were back in 1986.” (more…)

Rare Slabs Can Carry Big Premiums!

By Steve Roach- First published in the December 6, 2010, issue of Coin World

Some collectors wouldn’t agree with the statement, “buy the coin, not the slab,” because to them, the slab is just as important as the coin.

In particular, some collectors have acquired a taste for Numismatic Guaranty Corp. “black” holders.

NGC was formed in 1987 and these holders were used for the first several months of operation, roughly from September through November 1987.

They are similar in shape to today’s NGC slabs, but differ in that the insert securing the coin is black, and the white insert with the coin’s identifying information is on the side that displays the reverse, where the coin seems upside down.

The obverse in black holders is displayed on the side with the NGC stamped logo, which for current holders is on the back of the slab.

Few of these holders remain today. Estimates on the number of surviving black holders range from 35 to 200, and they are collected as novel relics of the early days of third-party coin grading.

Occasionally they turn up and trade at auction.

At a Nov. 14 eBay auction, a New Jersey seller offered a 1924 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle in an NGC Mint State 62 “black” slab. (Pictured, image courtesy of Danielle’s, on eBay as onionsavenged)

It sold for an astonishing $3,805. In comparison, one major dealer is selling current-holder NGC MS-62 double eagles for $1,600 and MS-66 coins for $2,850.

While grading was perhaps more conservative back in the early days of NGC, and the seller said the coin “looks like a MS64,” the huge premium must be attributed more to the holder than to the coin.

Nine bidders competed for the coin, with the underbidder dropping out at $3,755. The seller set the starting bid at $2,750 – a price nearly comparable to a current holder NGC MS-66 piece.

While the black holders were flattering to brilliant silver coins or lustrous Mint State gold coins, the holders did little to flatter dark coins and copper, and the holder was retired at the end of 1987.

There is even a 420-page book on slabs by Michael Schmidt, Third Party Grading/Certification Services, that covers more than 80 companies that produced slabs and 200 varieties of normal production slabs.

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The PCGS SecurePlus Program, Part 1: An Explanation

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #28

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

On March 25, 2010, David Hall and Don Willis, the top officials at the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), announced and explained the PCGS SecurePlus™ program, known for weeks before as “The Big One”! For most grades between EF-45 and MS-68 inclusive, the PCGS begin assigning plus grades when warranted, such as 45+ or 63+. As the rival of the PCGS, the NGC, incorporated plus grades into their system two months afterwards, and the PCGS later allowed for standard submissions to be eligible for plus grades, not just coins submitted via the SecurePlus tier, plus grades now seem to be a secondary aspect of the program. In my view, the emphasis should always have been, as it is now, on the ‘Secure’ aspects of the SecurePlus program, which are truly revolutionary and have tremendous implications for the future of markets in rare coins.

I hope that those who are not entirely familiar with the PCGS SecurePlus program find this column (part 1) to be very clear and educational. In my opinion, the explanation of the PCGS SecurePlus program on the PCGS website is not extremely clear and, over the past six months, I have found that many collectors are confused about this program.

Collectors who are already very familiar with the PCGS SecurePlus program, and with PCGS policies in general, may wish to wait for part 2, next week. In part 2, Don Willis, the president of PCGS, responds to my explanation and a proposal for the reform of PCGS submission policies is put forth. The views of John Albanese, Mark Feld and Ira Goldberg are included.

In the first section, I provide a definition of the SecurePlus program. In the second section, I explain the benefits of the coin identification part of the SecurePlus program. In Section III, I emphasize that submitters of coins to be graded by the PCGS may choose between the SecurePlus program and standard submission options.

I. The PCGS SecurePlus Program

The SecurePlus program brings three new technologies to coin grading. (1) The introduction of a new technology for scanning and coin identification, through the use of CoinAnalyzer devices that are produced by Richard Haddock’s CoinSecure firm. An image and data from each scanned coin is entered into a database, and, if the same coin is scanned at the PCGS in the future, it will be identified as a coin that was previously scanned.

(2) The use of ‘Sniffer’ technology to detect added foreign substances and changes in the surfaces, the metal, on coins that have been deliberately harmed by coin doctors for the purpose of deceiving experts and others into believing that doctored coins merit higher grades than were (or would have been) assigned before such coins are doctored. Additionally, the adding of metal to the surfaces and/or the deliberate heating of the metal on the surfaces of a coin will, hopefully, be detectable by ‘coin sniffer’ technology as well. The PCGS has already begun using ‘sniffer’ technology to an extent, and will be phasing additional sniffer applications into the PCGS SecurePlus grading program over time. I will devote a future piece to coin sniffer technology. The subject is so complicated that it must really be treated in a long article.

To gain some understanding of coin doctoring and the urgent need to contain the coin doctoring problem, please read five previous pieces of mine. Last year, I devoted a series of three articles to the reasons why naturally toned coins are preferred and the topic of coin doctoring is discussed at length therein (part 1, part 2 and part 3). This year, I wrote two columns that address the PCGS lawsuit against alleged coin doctors, on June 3rd and on Sept. 8th. In these two columns, coin doctoring is defined, the lawsuit is analyzed, and the seriousness of the matter is emphasized.

(3) The third ‘Security’ issue relating to the PCGS SecurePlus program is the anti-counterfeiting technology incorporated into the new inserts. In each PCGS holder, there is a paper insert that provides information about the coin contained therein. A gold eagle with a shield is pictured on an insert in the PCGS holder that houses each coin that has been graded under the PCGS SecurePlus program. Unethical businesses in China have produced forgeries of PCGS holders with misleading grades printed on fake inserts. New anti-counterfeiting features are important, though less so than the coin identification and sniffer technologies that constitute the core of the PCGS SecurePlus program. (more…)

NGC at the Beijing International Coin Expo

The premier numismatic event was well attended and provided an opportunity for Chinese dealers and collectors to learn more about NGC and submit coins for certification.

Among the most important annual coin shows held in China, the Beijing International Coin Expo provides an ideal opportunity to look at the previous year’s coinage and look ahead to the next year. It is an event focused on modern coinage, with mints from Asia and around the world showcasing their coinage. NGC was present with its Guangzhou-based submission center, both accepting coins and providing information about certification. Additionally, NGC hosted an educational numismatic seminar conducted during the show.

The Expo, jointly hosted by China Gold Coin Corporation, the China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation, and the China Numismatic Museum, was held on November 7 to 10, 2010, in the China World Trade Center. Nearly 250 exhibitors from 27 countries were present at the 15th annual Expo. This event is very popular with the public. On opening day, large bustling crowds made it difficult to maneuver down the aisles. As in previous years, a special-edition commemorative coin was issued in celebration of the event. Owing to its popularity, the opportunity to purchase this coin is awarded in a lottery.

The Chinese coin market itself is extremely vibrant, with many scarce modern commemorative issues trading at record price levels. Collectors identify strongly with commemorative issues from the past 30 years that celebrate Chinese cultural heritage. In particular, large-format coins that are five ounces and larger are highly coveted, as many have small mintages. The NGC Oversize Holder is especially popular for these coins because of the inherent challenges of storing and transporting large coins.

It is also evident that certification is gaining a greater foothold in the Chinese market, as NGC-certified coins could be seen throughout the exposition area. During the official auction of the Expo, nearly a dozen of the 110 lots were NGC-certified. Once again this year, NGC was the only certification company represented in the auction.

NGC also hosted an educational symposium to discuss certification with prominent members of the Chinese numismatic community. A detailed discussion of the grading process and grading terminology was followed by an open question-and-answer session. “Certification is attractive to collectors in China for three major reasons: first, collectors appreciate the protection it affords against counterfeits, which are of concern even in the Chinese modern coin market; second, collectors value the standardization of grade, which makes it easier for them to identify superior condition coins; and, third, collectors love NGC’s holder, which provides incredible long-term protection for their coins,” said Scott Schechter, NGC vice president, sales & marketing, who presented at the symposium.

Unusual Items: NGC Black Slab

On Nov 14th, a rarely seen and unusual item sold on eBay, but what made this sale interesting was not the coin being sold, but rather the holder it was in.

The coin was a 1924 Saint graded MS-62.  and it sold for $3805.oo with 9 bidders, over twice what one might expect given this is a common date Saint in an unremarkable grade. The 100% premium was for the slab, a First generation BLACK NGC Holder.

The eBay sellers description offered the following comments on the holder…..

“When NGC first started operations in late 1987, they used this black holder with a white grading insert.

The first generation black NGC slabs didn’t always carry the big premiums that they do now.

The main problem was, while Gold coins and untarnished Silver coins looked amazing, copper coins (especially brown oxidized ones) and other dark, circulated Silver coins proved hard to see with the black filling.  Thus, for the second generation NGC holders, the filling was changed to white and has remained that way to this day with NGC.

Following marketing advice at the time in 1987, the coin was inserted right-side-up the coin is upside-down reverse!  This was also corrected in the subsequent generations on NGC slabs so the coin would be right-side-up when the grading insert is viewed right-side-up.

The black holder was only used by NGC for a month or so (September-November 1987).  Grading was quite conservative in those days when compared to grading today.  As such, the black holders that surfaced in later years were cracked and the coin resubmitted in pursuit of a higher grade which is why they subsequently became so rare!”

What Gold Coins Do CAC Stickers Add the Most Value to?

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

After two+ years of being traded on the open market, I think few collectors and dealers would argue the statement that CAC stickering has added considerable value and liquidity to many types of United States gold coinage. But are we now able to determine with a decent degree of accuracy which coins are most affected by a CAC (or the absence of a sticker)? Let’s take a look at some areas of the gold coin market and see how CAC is adding value.

One of the areas that CAC has added the greatest amount of value is in the St. Gaudens double eagle market. The impact is seen two ways. The first is with common “generic” issues in MS65 and MS66. One of the main reasons why the premium for non-CAC certified MS65 Saints is so low when compared to MS64 coins is that most of the coins in MS65 holders are not significantly better than those graded MS64.

What CAC has done is to identify those coins graded MS65 that are nice quality and which are “real” 65’s. Currently, non-CAC Saints in MS65 trade for around $2,300. Those with CAC stickers are worth at least 10-15% more. They are also quite liquid and can be sold even when dealers have extensive numbers of non-CAC coins in stock. Non-CAC MS66 Saints are currently worth around $2,750-2,850 per coin. The premium for MS66 Saints with CAC stickers is at least $750-1,000 per coin. Given the fact that the stickered MS66 coins I have seen are very nice (as compared with the non-stickered coins which range from inferior for the grade to decent) this premium makes sense.

Another area where CAC stickered coins are selling for a significant premium is in the better date Saint market. Let me pick a random issue: the 1927-S in MS64. This coin has a current bid of $70,000 in this grade and a bona-fide Gem is worth double this. The quality of 1927-S double eagles varies greatly and there are coins that are very low end and hard to sell for $55,000 and coins that are very high end and worth over bid. I can’t recall having ever seen a 1927-S in MS64 with a CAC sticker but if I had a PCGS/CAC coin that I liked I’d quote $75,000+.

Early gold (i.e. gold coins struck from 1795 to 1834) is area that has shown itself to be influenced by CAC stickers. I don’t like every single piece of CAC-stickered early gold that I see but I like at least 90% of the coins. Compare this to non-CAC early gold where probably 50-60% (or more) of the coins offered at auction or through dealer’s websites are not, in my opinion, nice for the grade. I find this to be especially true with early gold in the MS63 and MS64 grades. As an example, an 1812 half eagle in MS64 with a CAC sticker is currently worth around $40,000. The same coin in the same grade that is not stickered and which is not a CAC-quality coin, in my opinion, might be hard to sell for $32,500. More and more collectors of coins like this are demanding that they be CAC stickered and the premium for the pieces that have the Green Bean is at least 10-15% and climbing.

Because so many Proof gold coins have been doctored over the years, CAC-stickered pieces are currently garnering high premiums. This is more so with Matte Proofs than Brilliant Proofs. I can’t remember seeing more than a few Matte Proof gold coins in the last two years that weren’t doctored to the point that they weren’t even the right color. When the few remaining fresh pieces come onto the market, they realize strong prices. As an example, Stack’s just sold at auction a lovely 1913 Matte Proof gold set. All four coins were CAC stickered and all four brought exceptional prices. I see similarly graded washed-out NGC Matte Proof gold from time to time and it brings Greysheet prices or lower; these superb, vibrant Gems brought numbers that were way over “sheet.” (more…)

PCGS Currency Releases Population Report for Serial Number Blocks

The newest resource for paper money collectors is now available online. PCGS Currency has expanded the PCGS Currency Population Report, a report by grade of more than 250,000 notes authenticated and certified by PCGS Currency, to include population by serial number block. Updated daily and available by subscription to members of the PCGS Currency Collectors Club and all PCGS Currency Authorized Dealers, the new “Pop by Block” feature gives collectors and Small Size U.S. currency specialists the opportunity to view PCGS Currency grade populations by serial number block.

“Small Size U.S. currency collectors and specialists now have the availability to research population data and view the relative scarcity of individual blocks by grade,” says PCGS Currency Vice President Laura A. Kessler. “Our new “Pop by Block” population report expands the many resources available to our members. With it’s ease of navigation and 24 hour availability at your fingertips, collectors can quickly find and research pertinent information for over 150,000 small size notes by block. Our initial small size series release includes Legal Tenders, Silver Certificates, Federal Reserve Bank Notes, Federal Reserve Notes, WWII Emergency Notes, and Gold Certificates.”

While the initial release of population data for serial number blocks includes just Small Size notes, the data for Large Size notes by serial number block will soon be released as well. Population data for Canadian notes by serial number block will follow, as well.

“A great deal of work has gone into this project,” stated Jason W. Bradford, President of PCGS Currency. “Our experts have gone over the data line by line to ensure the accuracy of this report. The PCGS Currency Population Report expansion to include serial number blocks will provide collectors of all U.S. notes to gather more information and accurately gauge the relative scarcity of specific blocks by grade.”

PCGS Currency Collectors Club memberships are available online by clicking on our Collectors Club page, or you can join by calling (309) 222-8200. All PCGS Currency Collector Club members can submit notes directly to PCGS Currency, access the online Population Report, and receive a free sample note and a copy of the PCGS currency Grading Standards guide.

Pricing Problem Coins !

By Doug Winter www.Raregoldcoins.com CoinLink Content Partner

I’ve discussed many times the process in which how nice coins are assigned price levels. But how are problem coins valued? This is an interesting question and one which is becoming a bit easier to answer since NCS coins have become a well-accepted part of numismatics.

(Before I begin, I should state here that NCS or Numismatic Conservation Services is a division of NGC that certifies and encapsulates “problem coins” which NGC does not see fit to put in their regular holders. This includes coins that are harshly cleaned, polished, heavily scratched, rim filed, etc. NCS only uses adjectival grades—i.e., they would call a coin “AU details” as opposed to “AU55 details.”)

The reason why non-problem coins are easier to value than problem coins is, well, because they don’t have problems. There is a greater degree of consistency of appearance between an 1830 half eagle in PCGS AU55 (or NGC AU55) than there is with this same issue when it has the details of an AU55 but it has been cleaned.

Let me explain what I mean by this. If you were to call me up and offer me an 1830 half eagle in PCGS AU55, I would have a decent idea of what to expect. I’m figuring that it has light wear, a decent amount of remaining luster, maybe a few scattered marks in the fields and probably a pretty good overall appearance. But if you call me an offer me an 1830 half eagle in an NCS holder that states the coin has “AU details” but has been “cleaned,” I’m not sure what to expect. Has it been lightly cleaned or harshly cleaned? Does it have an acceptable appearance or does it look overly shiny from having been polished or perhaps whizzed?

From my experience with viewing NCS coins, there is a very wide range of coins in these holders.

I’ve seen coins that NCS has called “cleaned” that look pretty acceptable to me; not very different, in fact, from coins encapsulated by both NGC and PCGS. I’ve also seen coins placed in NCS holders that had planchet flaws or mint-made surface that, in my opinion, could just as easily be in “normal” NGC or PCGS holders.

But back to cleaned coins and how to value them. As a general rule of thumb, I think that if a coin has been lightly cleaned it is worth around half of what a non-cleaned example would be worth. The NGC or PCGS AU55 1830 half eagle that I mentioned above is a $60,000 coin if it has a decent, original appearance. In an NCS “AU details—cleaned” holder it’s more likely worth $30,000 or so. And if it’s a very harshly cleaned AU coin with some damage as well it is more likely worth in the area of $15,000-20,000. (more…)

Coin Collecting: Thoughts on Originality?

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

“Originality.” It’s one of the most overused terms in all of numismatics. And it’s one of the most misunderstood as well. Given the choice, I believe that most people would rather own an “original” coin instead of one that has clearly had its appearance changed in recent years. With the help of some good quality images, I’d like to show some of the characteristics that I equate with “originality” and offer some suggestions on how to judge if a coin is original or not.

1844-D Quarter eagleThe first coin that we are going to look at is an 1844-D quarter eagle graded AU55 by NGC. (Disclosure: this coin is currently in my inventory and it is currently for sale. I am not using this coin as an example in the hope that someone will buy it as I am certain someone will and I don’t need to go to this much trouble to sell it. I am using it to illustrate this report because I believe it represents what I believe is complete originality.)

One other quick topic before we review this 1844-D quarter eagle. My definition of an “original” coin is one that appears to have never been cleaned, lightened or in any way altered. I would be quick to point out that the flaw in this definition is that, of course, there is no way to make such a comment without having had access to this particular coin at all times since 1844.

There is always the possibility that, in the 1850’s or the 1860’s (or even the 1960’s), it may have been lightly cleaned. But there are some things to look for on a coin that I think gives a reasonably good assurance that it hasn’t been messed with. The most obvious is hairlines. If a coin has been improperly cleaned at one time, it is going to show hairlines. These may range from subtle to very obvious. If a coin has nice seemingly “original” color but it shows noticeable hairlines, this probably means that it was cleaned years ago and has subsequently retoned. Such a coin may have a natural appearance but, from the standpoint of semantics, it can’t truly be called “original.” You can also look for areas of cloudiness or haze. If a coin has these, the chances are good that something has been applied to the surfaces at one time.

In looking at this coin, there are a few points to note. The first is its depth of coloration. Take a look at the color on the obverse and the reverse and note how the hues in the fields are richer than in the protected areas. On coins with natural color this is generally going to be the case. On a coin that may have been dipped at one time, you are going to see the opposite; the color tends to be lighter at the centers and deeper at the peripheries. Also, note how on this 1844-D quarter eagle there is color present even on the high spots and relief detail. A coin that has been cleaned or dipped typically lacks color on these areas as they are the first places that the original color is lost. Finally, note the depth and intensity of the color. On natural coins, the color is “sharp” in hue and depth. On dipped or cleaned coins, the color tends to be “fuzzier” and less intense. (more…)

Coin Grading in Paris, PCGS Grading Week a Big Success

Next Grading Week Event Will Be October 25 – 29, 2010

PCGS Authorized Dealers from across Europe eagerly attended another successful Grading Week conducted at the Paris, France offices of Professional Coin Grading Service, September 13 – 17, 2010.

Photo: Don Willis, Fabrice Walther, David Hall

PCGS Co-Founder and Collectors Universe President David Hall personally met with the attendees to talk about the current rare coin marketplace in Europe, the importance of third-party grading, and the next scheduled Paris Grading Week, October 25 – 29, 2010. “There is a thriving market for world coins in Europe and there are a lot of U.S. gold coins still in Europe. Paris is the center of the European coin market. There are dozens of dealers there and a ton of activity,”

“Certified grading is starting to be accepted in Europe. Many dealers and collectors are beginning to see the advantages of third-party certification and are quite enthusiastic about the new PCGS grading office in Paris. said Hall.

“There were many outstanding coins submitted, including an amazing collection of high-grade Greek coins and several hundred Brittany coins,” said Don Willis, President of PCGS, a division of Collectors Universe, Inc. (NASDAQ: CLCT).

Dealer Takis Syvridakis of Collector’s Shop International in Athens, Greece, who submitted a 1901 (Creta) 2 Drachmas that was graded PCGS MS64, said: “My client was more than pleased with such a grade and he promised to continue to send his collection to PCGS for grading.”

Syvridakis was also pleased to meet Collectors Universe President and PCGS Co-Founder David Hall in person in Paris.

“I was very impressed with his enthusiasm, his honesty, his knowledge and his visions on the coin market. He was very helpful with my collection, gave me great ideas for my business and many solutions to offer to my clients. I was very glad to meet him in person and felt quite privileged.”

Jonathan Fhal of Godots et Fils in Paris agreed: “We were very happy to get the opportunity to actually meet Monsieur David Hall. He had great advice and, indeed, guided us all along the process of selecting the coins which we should grade or not.”

Laurent Fabre of Monnaie d’Antan in Poses, France submitted over 200 Brittany coins from the prestigious collection of collector Alexis Bigot for an upcoming auction (www.catalogues.monnaisedantan.com/vso8) including an 1861 Napoléon III 5 Francs that was graded PCGS MS65. He described it as “certainly the most beautiful known today.”

PCGS Authorized Dealer Fabrice Walther of Numisaisne in Paris brought in for authentication and grading a large quantity of important rare coins he is offering in the upcoming Salon de Brogniart Paris show on October 16, 2010. PCGS will participate in that show.

“We’re now also eagerly looking forward to attending the big Coinex show in London, October 1 and 2, and the Warsaw Coinexpo in Poland, October 14 and 15, and, of course, hosting the next PCGS Paris Grading Week, October 25 to 29,” said Muriel Eymery, Manager of the Paris office and PCGS Director of International Business Development.
For a list of PCGS Authorized Dealers in the EU, visit www.PCGS.com/dealers and click on the map to locate your country.

To make an appointment for PCGS’ next grading sessions or to obtain more information, EU dealers can contact the Paris office at info@PCGSglobal.com or by calling Muriel Eymery at 33 (0) 1 40 20 09 94. Additional information on PCGS is available in English and other languages at www.PCGSglobal.com.

Five Things You Can Do to Make Your Coins Worth More

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

If you have been collecting rare coins for more than a few years, there is a good chance that you have “found money” in your holdings. What I mean by this is that there are a number of things that you can do–often with little or no cost–that can significantly improve the appearance and value of your coins. Here are five suggestions:

1. Send Your Coins to CAC. CAC is now well established as an important factor in the high-end segment of the market. In certain areas, CAC coins trade for a nice premium and there is no doubt in my mind that a CAC sticker makes a coin more marketable. Submitting a coin to CAC is very inexpensive; typically just $10 to $20 per item. Another thing that’s nice about submitting coins to CAC is that you are getting an expert’s opinion (in this case John Albanese) for next to nothing. You might try sending a sample of your five best coins to CAC. If you get CAC approval on all five coins, you know you are doing something right. If only one or two get the coveted “green bean” then you can assume that the dealer you are buying from needs to be replaced.

2. Attribute Your Coins. Let’s say that you are a date collector of early half eagles. It makes sense to purchase the Bass-Dannreuther book on early gold to attribute all your coins to “BD” numbers. You might get lucky and find that one of the coins that you own is a very rare die variety. This isn’t necessarily an immediate financial upgrade, as it would be in a series like Bust half dollars or Large cents which are avidly collected by variety. But wouldn’t you rather keep the potential financial upgrade for yourself than to read on page three of Coin World how some lucky collector just cherry-picked an excessively rare variety of 1806 half eagle? Also, if PCGS or NGC attributes varieties in the series you collect and you find a good variety, have it marked on the slab.

3. Pedigree Your Coins. If you have a coin from a famous collection like Bass, Garrett, Eliasberg or Norweb, a pedigree can add value. Some coins from these collection are clearly marked on the PCGS or NGC insert. But there are hundreds of others that have “lost” their pedigree for one reason or another. I’d suggest that you purchase all of the major auction catalogs in the area that you specialize in and spend a few hours searching through them. Your coin(s) may have a different appearance than they did in an earlier sale, but if they have an obvious mark this will make it easy to trace them. If a great pedigree is easy to prove, send the coin along with a xerox of the catalog page to PCGS or NGC.

4. Reslab Your Coins. Please note that I didn’t say “regrade” your coins. That’s another subject entirely and one that, if you have coins in old green label or “fatty” holders, I do not necessarily think will add value to your coins. What I mean by “reslabbing” is that many coins are in holders that show severe scuffing, wear, or dullness. A great coin can look just so-so if the holder it’s in doesn’t present itself well. I know this sounds a little hokey but its no different than deep-cleaning your house when you get ready to sell it. If all of your coins are in pretty, fresh slabs it is going to make your coins look nicer. (more…)

Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Defining Coin Doctoring and Dipping, Additions to the PCGS Lawsuit Against Alleged Coin Doctors

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #17

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. The filing and re-filing of this lawsuit

Over the last forty years, especially from the late 1990s to 2006 or so, the coin collecting community has suffered from the terrible problem of coin doctoring; coins are deceptively altered for the purpose of tricking experts, particularly those employed by the PCGS and the NGC, into concluding that a coin is of higher quality than it was before it was doctored. The process of doctoring a coin reduces its level of quality and, in many (though not nearly all) cases, permanently damages the coin. Coins ranging in value from less than $50 to more than $1 million have been doctored.

In many instances, doctored coins ‘turn’ at a later time, as unintended byproducts of doctoring processes result in unsightly delayed chemical reactions or the decomposing of added matter on the doctored coins. It is not unusual for a coin doctor to deliberately harm (often permanently) a coin that grades MS-64 in order to try to deceive experts into believing that it grades MS-66.

John Feigenbaum is president of David Lawrence Rare Coins (DLRC), and has been involved in the coin business for more than twenty years. In 2004 and 2005, DLRC sold one of the fifteen greatest collections of classic (pre-1934) U.S. coins ever to be publicly auctioned. Feigenbaum says, “in general I [John] applaud PCGS for taking action on this matter, and I think they should take any and all actions in the future towards parties that are trying to slip doctored coins past them.”

In my column of June 2, I analyzed the CU-PCGS lawsuit against alleged coin doctors, which was filed in late May. I encourage readers who wish to learn about this lawsuit, its importance and its implications, to read my column of June 2nd. On Aug. 10, CU-PCGS filed a “second amended complaint” along with a new motion.

II. The basics of the lawsuit

Although technically PCGS is a subsidiary of Collectors Universe (CU) and it is CU that filed this lawsuit, the PCGS predates CU and the PCGS is the core of Collectors Universe. Further, the PCGS certifies coins. So, it is clear and helpful to refer to the plaintiff as the PCGS as the lawsuit concerns allegations that dealers deliberately submitted doctored coins to the PCGS, without disclosing intentionally added defects, for the purpose of deceiving graders at the PCGS into assigning higher grades to such coins than the coins would have merited before they were doctored. Coin doctoring, of course, reduces the grade of a coin, often to the point where the coin no longer merits a numerical grade.

The submission contract that each dealer signs to be a dealer-submitter of coins to the PCGS for grading and authentication prohibits dealer-submitters from sending in doctored coins for numerical grading. At the very least, it is argued that dealers who submit doctored coins for numerical grading have breached their respective contracts with the PCGS. Moreover, the PCGS argues in the lawsuit that such coin doctoring is in violation of several Federal and California State laws. Curiously, attorneys for the PCGS declare that conspiracies to doctor coins and submit them to the PCGS fall under RICO statutes, and are thus said by the PCGS to constitute racketeering.

Importantly, attorneys for the PCGS argue that coin doctoring is not just a civil offense, a racket and a breach of contract. Attorneys for the PCGS maintain that coin doctoring is a crime under Title “18 U.S.C §331,” which is cited in the lawsuit as follows, “Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales or lightens any of the coins minted at the mints of the United States … [or] … Whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish or sell … any such coin, knowing the same to be altered, defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled or lightened … Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years or both.” (more…)

ESM Collection of Early Proof Copper Coins To Be Displayed at Long Beach Coin Show by PCGS

Professional Coin Grading Service (www.PCGS.com) will provide on-site authentication and grading services and showcase the first West Coast public display of the acclaimed, award-winning ESM Collection of early proof copper coins during the Long Beach Coin, Stamp & Collectibles Expo, September 23 – 25, 2010.

PCGS will accept Show Service submissions starting with dealer set-up on Wednesday, September 22 through 5 p.m. Friday, September 24. All other submission levels, excluding bulk, will be accepted through mid-afternoon on Saturday, September 25.

In addition to viewing the coins from the ESM Collection, visitors to the PCGS booth (#807) can Meet the Expert with PCGS Co-Founder David Hall, and have their coins personally examined by him from 2 to 3 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.

Assembled by Illinois collector Pete Miller, the ESM Collection ranks among the all-time finest of its kind in several PCGS Set RegistrySM categories with some of the finest known proof Half Cents, Large Cents, Indian Head Cents and matte proof Lincoln Cents. The weighted Grade Point Average for the collection is an astounding 65.974.

“This amazing treasure of early proof copper certainly was one of the highlights of the recent ANA World’s Fair of Money in Boston when it was displayed at the PCGS booth. Now West Coast collectors and dealers will have an opportunity to see these coins in person in Long Beach,” said Don Willis, PCGS President.

An informative, illustrated brochure about the ESM Collection will be available free at the PCGS booth while supplies last.

The following show specials will be available in Long Beach to PCGS Authorized Dealers and members of the PCGS Collectors Club:

* Walkthrough: one-day turnaround for $100 ($125 for Secure Plus) on any coin with a maximum value of $100,000
* Show Economy: $65 per coin for U.S. and world coins valued up to $3,000 each with a minimum submission of five coins
* Show Gold: $45 per coin ($55 for Secure Plus) for any U.S. gold coin valued up to $3,000 each with a minimum submission of ten coins.

Customer Service representatives will be at the PCGS booth to answer questions and accept submissions. Visitors will also have the opportunity to see demonstrations of the convenient PCGS Photograde™ Online applications for the Apple iPhone™ and Apple iPad™.

“Aside from our PCGS Members Only Show at The Venetian in Las Vegas, September 9 – 11, this will be the only opportunity in September for collectors and dealers to take advantage of PCGS on-site grading services at a national show. We will not be attending the Whitman Philadelphia show scheduled for the week after Long Beach,” said Willis. (more…)

Fire Damaged Coins Conserved

Have you ever wondered what a coin collection might look like after it is pulled out of a house fire? The following is from the Numismatic Conservation Services (NCS) newsletter and shows the remarkable conservation of a cherished collection after a damaging fire.

“A house fire can be especially devastating to a prized coin collection. A once pristine, cherished collection can turn into a horrible blackened mass. However, with some careful conservation work, all is not lost.

The first stage in conserving a group of coins such as these pictured is to safely remove them from what remains of their holders. Removing coins entombed in deformed coin holders is a challenge. The standard methods of removing coins from third-party grading services’ holders are usually not an option. To make the task even more difficult, every coin and every holder is different. The heat of a house fire can melt the plastic that makes up the majority of quality coin holders. While still in the fire, this plastic, in the molten state, will combine with soot and other materials. After it has solidified, the conservator’s job is more difficult.

Once freed from the burnt plastic mass, the next step is to remove the small bits of adhered plastic from the surface of each of the coins as safely as possible. Different plastics react to conservation efforts in wildly different ways. Materials from the fire itself also adhere to the coins and have to be removed without damaging the surface of the coin. Coins can sometimes be left with lightly stained surfaces, often a result of the heat of the fire.

A pattern emerges as the collection is conserved. Coins in the best holders, those certified by third-party grading services such as NGC, are the best off. Coins housed in coin tubes and individual holders are often damaged by the action of the fire or necessary actions taken in the aftermath.

The conservation results on this group of coins can be described as better than expected. The classic gold coins came out especially well as did the Morgan and Peace Dollars. This collection was submitted to NCS by Liquid Bullion Coin & Collectibles of Houston, Texas. “Wow! NCS was a life saver for our client. He was afraid he had lost everything and came out with over $27,500 in Rare coins, Bullion, and Generic Gold,” commented Danny Lee, Liquid Bullion’s CEO.”

How to Detect Doctored Coins? The PCGS “Coin Sniffer”

The PCGS Coin Sniffer™, a process incorporating advanced technology for detecting foreign materials and other enhancements on a coin’s surface, will be used in two roll-out phases on all PCGS Secure Plus™ submissions with the first step beginning in September or October 2010.

“When our testing and development are completed, the PCGS Coin Sniffer will analyze the surfaces of coins to detect foreign substances, whether they are organic or inorganic materials. We will begin first with organic substances,” said Don Willis, President of PCGS, a division of Collectors Universe, Inc. (NASDAQ).

“We are currently testing the detection of organic materials on coin surfaces and will begin incorporating that process on all PCGS Secure Plus submissions this fall. We are still in the development stage of detecting inorganic foreign materials, such as metals. Implementation of the PCGS Coin Sniffer for inorganic materials is planned for early 2011,” he told attendees at the PCGS Set RegistrySM awards luncheon at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Boston on August 13, 2010.

The PCGS Coin Sniffer uses dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDX), Fournier Transform Infra-Red Spectral analysis (FT-IR), Raman Spectroscopy and other analytical techniques to detect the kinds of materials applied by so-called “coin doctors” to conceal problems with a coin or alter its surface to improve its appearance in an attempt to artificially increase the coin’s value.

Commonly used organic materials applied to coins include plastic resins such as Bondo, putty, caulk, wax, lacquer, varnish, acrylics, paint, ink, acetone, glue, and citric acid.

“Some coin doctors have even used soap, eggs, fertilizer, forehead and nose grease and urine,” Wills explained.

FT-IR spectroscopy in the PCGS Coin Sniffer process uses a beam of infra-red light that is reflected off a coin’s surface to detect molecules of foreign substances. Different molecules vibrate at different wave lengths. A complete analysis of a coin’s surface with simultaneous detection of all wave lengths can be completed in less than one minute.

Coins detected with foreign substances are classified by PCGS as “altered surfaces.”

Willis explained that some coin doctors use metals to build up certain areas on a coin’s surface, for example, attempting to create a full head on a Standing Liberty quarter, full split bands on a Winged Liberty/Mercury dime or improving diagnostic high areas. Metallic solutions such as solder, indium, Clorox®, iodine and potassium or potash have been applied to alter a coin’s surface.

Beginning next year, the PCGS Coin Sniffer will use EDX technology to analyze elements of coins on the atomic level. The FT-IR technology that will be implemented this fall analyzes coins on the molecular level. In the EDX process, a high-energy beam of electrons is focused on a coin’s surface. Resultant dispersed energy is measured and the atomic structure is determined.

“It’s similar to scanning with an electron microscope,” said Willis. “Foreign metals as well as metal fatigue due to high heat from a blow torch or laser can be detected.”

Willis also reminded the audience that expanded “plus” (+) grading is now available for all standard submissions and show submissions to PCGS at no additional cost.

Since 1986, PCGS experts have authenticated, graded and certified more than 20 million coins from around the world with a declared value of over $20 billion. For additional information, visit www.PCGS.com or call PCGS Customer Service at (800) 447-8848.

Prooflike 1857-S Double Eagle Gold Coins from the Shipwreck of the S. S. Central America

by Greg Reynolds

In 1987, there was the greatest discovery of a shipwreck relating to the history of the United States. Yes, other shipwrecks may be especially important to the history of Spain and Latin America. The loss of the S.S. Central America in Sept. 1857, however, had an impact on the history of the United States. Although a recession had already started in 1856, and a major insurance company failed in August 1857, the loss of this ship caused upheaval in financial markets and exacerbated the “Panic of 1857.”

The Library of Congress website reveals that the S. S. Central America “had aboard 581 persons, many carrying great personal wealth, and more than $1 million in commercial gold. [This ship] also bore a secret shipment of 15 tons of federal gold, valued at $20 per ounce, intended for the Eastern banks”. In this context, the Library of Congress website cites several pertinent, recognized 19th century books and other contemporary sources. “As banking institutions of the day dealt in specie (gold and silver coins instead of paper money) the loss of some thirty thousand pounds of gold reverberated through the financial community.” In October, many banks suffered terribly or failed altogether. There were ‘runs’ on many banks by depositors.

The crisis reached its worse point on Oct. 14, about a month after the sinking of the S. S. Central America, which was “Suspension Day, when banking was suspended in New York and throughout New England [http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/aug24.html.” The U.S. economy did not fully recover for years.

In the wreckage of the S. S. Central America, there were thousands of 1857-S Double Eagles ($20 gold coins), which were very scarce before the salvaging of the S.S. Central America. Of all the Double Eagles found in the wreckage, however, only fifty were designated as being Prooflike, and only seven as Deep Mirror Prooflike, by the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). In late 1999 and/or early 2000, the PCGS certified and graded most of the coins found in this shipwreck. As far as I know, these fifty-seven PCGS certified 1857-S Double Eagles and one NGC certified 1858-S Double Eagle coins are the only reliably certified, Prooflike gold coins from the early years of the San Francisco Mint, which formally began striking coins in 1854.

I. The Rarity of Type One Prooflike Double Eagles

The 1857-S Double Eagles that the PCGS has designated as Prooflike are unusual in that it is generally the policy of the Professional Coin Grading Service to not designate gold coins as being ‘Prooflike.’ In a Dec. 2000 Christie’s auction, it is stated that a PCGS certified ‘MS-65 PL’ 1857-S is “Tied with two others for finest of 50 PL examples from the S.S. Central America treasure certified by PCGS.” According to the Christie’s cataloguer, who is an expert regarding the histories of coins found on shipwrecks, nineteen 1857-S Double Eagles are (or then were) PCGS certified as ‘MS-64 PL.’

Sources indicate just seven of the S. S. Central America 1857-S Double Eagles were designated as Deep Mirror Prooflike (DMPL) by the PCGS. The NGC has not designated any 1857-S Double Eagles as PL or DMPL. Before the finding of the wreck of the S. S. Central America, it is likely that no Prooflike 1957-S Double Eagles were known to exist. Furthermore, probably all (or almost all) of these certified Prooflike 1857-S Double Eagles are in PCGS holders with their respective original gold foil inserts (labels) that were specially designed for coins found in the wreck of the S.S. Central America. Therefore, it seems that there exist fifty-seven Prooflike (PL) or Deep Mirror Prooflike (DMPL) 1857-S Double Eagles. Only a handful of these have been publicly sold since the initial offerings in 2000 when coins from the S.S. Central America appeared in coin markets. (more…)

Dominion Grading Service (DGS) to Discontinue Slabbing

DGS announced today that effective immediately, all grading and certification operations at Dominion Grading Service (DGS) has been discontinued.

In a statement posted on the David Lawrence Blog page, the following explaination was given:

“In the time since we started DGS, both PCGS and NGC have made great strides and improvements to their grading technologies and practices and we no longer feel that our services are needed. Additionally, CAC is doing a fantastic job of assessing the quality in PCGS and NGC holders.

As for DGS, we simply do not feel that there is enough demand for collector coins at this time to merit our further investment. We have discontinued grading at DGS at this time. If you have DGS-graded coins to sell, please offer them to us for sale. We remain committed to the quality and standards of our grading at DGS and we still make two-way markets in DGS-graded coins. ”

In April 2008 DLRC launched Dominion Grading Service using the assets of the old PCI grading services thay had purchases as a base. At the time John Feigenbaum said ” “we had initially planned to keep the PCI brand name, but we quickly realized that it would be impossible to overcome the confusion that would ensue as we endeavor to recalibrate the [PCI] grading standards. Therefore, we have decided to discontinue the PCI brand in favor of an all-new grading company named Dominion Grading Service.“

Although Dominion used the same holder as PCI, that’s where the similarities end. DGS grading was based on strict standards (i.e. Photograde, for circulated coins). On mint state coinage, DGS graded conservatively with a focus on eye appeal, freshness of surfaces (including originality) and marketability.

Some of the innovative concepts at DGS were:

1. AuthentiVIEW ™: DGS introduced a service called AuthentiVIEW ™ which was integral to the submission process. All coins submitted above the “Budget” tier (i.e. valued above $100) were imaged — and this imaged serve as an authentication tool for any DGS certified coin. Anyone was able to go online, enter a serial # and see an image of the coin in the holder after it was graded.

2. Visual Population Report: DGS was the first grading service to have an entirely visual population report on its web site. Users who wished to look up populations were able to see the AuthentiVIEW images of all the coins graded. Feigenbaum stated at the time, “We anticipate this to be a useful tool for all numismatists. Just imagine the ability to see every 1901-S quarter we’ve certified; or a more common coin like the 1933-S Walker. This visual archive will be available to everyone.”

3. Net Grading of Problem Coins: Coins that have been cleaned, repaired, or damaged in any way will be slabbed in the same holder and label as undamaged coins, but the holder will describe the problem without “net grading the coin”. Coins will not be double-punished. The actual best determination of grade will be stated along with the notation of the problem. For example a coin may be described as: DGS AU55: Lightly Cleaned, Reverse scratches. According to Feigenbaum, “most coins are not perfect or original and it’s a shame not to have them in holders.”

FREE Online Coin Collection Manager Now Available at NGC Collectors Society

NGC Collectors Society has unveiled its newest website feature today – a comprehensive Collection Manager. This new tool allows collectors to organize and track their entire coin collections online in a secure password-protected environment. It is completely free to use, and requires only a free NGC Collectors Society account for access.

Watch “Features at a Glance” video to learn more

The goal of the NGC Collectors Society is to enable collectors to build better collections by providing the tools, community and resources that they need. Through feedback received from members, new features are planned and developed. The addition of the Collection Manager is the most significant enhancement to the Collectors Society toolkit since the initial launch of the NGC Registry in 2002. Since that time, over 500,000 coins have been registered in nearly 60,000 individual NGC Registry Sets.

The Collection Manager relies on an easy-to-use and intuitive interface that allows collectors to maintain records of all the coins in their collections – including US, world and ancient coins, as well as certified and raw coins. In addition to keeping track of coins they currently own, collectors can store information about coins that they want to buy and coins they have already sold or traded. Current market values are automatically displayed for all US coins tracked in the Collection Manager. Accurate market information is supplied by leading, independent price guide NumisMedia.

One of the unique features of the Collection Manager is that it is seamlessly integrated with the NGC Registry, the most-advanced and largest online showcase of coin collections. As of today’s launch, coins included in NGC Registry Competitive Sets and Custom Sets (formerly called Signature Sets) are pre-loaded into the Collection Manager and are already available for private recordkeeping. A new feature is that, in addition to public Registry Sets, collectors can create private Customs Sets that are visible only to them. These private sets allow collectors to group coins to keep their collection organized, and unlike public sets, they can contain raw coins and coins graded by any company. As in the past, only NGC and PCGS certified coins can be displayed publicly in the NGC Registry.

Security and privacy of Collectors Society members is a high priority. Information tracked in the Collection Manager is visible only to the owner of a particular coin when logged-in to the Collectors Society and coins are never displayed publicly unless they are added to a Registry Set that is publicly visible. Purchase and sale records are always kept private and cannot be publicly displayed. To maintain collectors’ privacy, the owner of a set is only identified by a Public Name, a pseudonym supplied by the user. (more…)

PCGS at Boston ANA: On-Site Grading, Award-Winning Proof Copper on Display

At this year’s American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money convention in Boston held August 10 – 14, visitors will be treated to a number of museum-quality exhibits of historic rare coins. At booth #105, Professional Coin Grading Service will display an amazing numismatic treasure of early proof copper.

PCGS will provide on-site authentication and grading services at the show including show specials for on-site submissions. And booth visitors can enjoy some of the finest known proof Half Cents, Large Cents, Indian Head Cents and matte proof Lincoln Cents from the award-winning ESM Collection.

Assembled by Illinois collector Pete Miller, the ESM Collection ranks among the all-time finest of its kind in several PCGS Set RegistrySM categories, according to BJ Searls, PCGS Set Registry Manager.

“The ESM Collection is a numismatic treat. Many of the coins in this collection are extremely rare and seldom appear on the market. When they do, they are auction highlights,” said Don Willis, President of PCGS, a division of Collectors Universe, Inc. (NASDA Q: CLCT).

“It staggers me that these coins could stay in that kind of condition for so long,” Miller exclaimed. “They are all red or close to red. Most are well over 100 years old and they look almost brand new, even colorwise.”

Miller’s “top five” personal favorites are:

* 1832 Large Cent, graded PCGS PR64RD
* 1848 Large Cent, PCGS PR65CA
* 1847 Half Cent, PCGS PR64RD
* 1843 Half Cent, PCGS PR64CA
* 1842 Half Cent, PCGS PR65RD

“The weighted Grade Point Average for the ESM Collection is an astounding 65.974,” Searls explained. “These coins were once owned by such astute collectors as Eliasberg, Naftzger, Norweb, Pittman, Parmelee, Atwater, Garrett, Anderson-Dupont, Byron Reed and others. Pete Miller has graciously arranged with PCGS to display many of the coins in his set in Boston.” (more…)

PCGS’ Paris Office Grand Opening: Dealers Praise Easy Access to Coin Grading

Professional Coin Grading Service successfully opened its European grading center at its Paris, France office on June 7, 2010. Coin dealers from all over Europe visited PCGS in Paris to submit coins for onsite authentication and grading. By the end of the week, PCGS’ numismatic experts had evaluated thousands of rare and modern commemorative coins from French, German, Italian, Greek and British dealers and collectors.

The dealers were extremely pleased with this new, convenient setting. More and more dealers and collectors are recognizing that impartial, third-party grading (evaluation) by PCGS will help their coins realize their true worth in the marketplace. The Paris office finally allows them to benefit from PCGS grading more easily and in a less-costly way.

Michael Creusy of ABC Numismatique in Lyon, France, expressed his appreciation: “Thank you, PCGS, for having made this marvelous grading service so easily available to all Europeans.”

Because of this overwhelmingly positive reaction, PCGS is preparing for an even bigger workload when the grading team returns to Paris. The next big grading week begins on September 13th, 2010.

“By establishing its EU grading center in France, PCGS has eliminated the need for European collectors and dealers to send their coins to the U.S. for grading and authentication. All submissions from within the EU are now made directly to the Paris office through PCGS’ network of EU Authorized dealers,” explained Muriel Eymery, Director of International Business Development at PCGS.

Dr. Josef Fischer of Emporium Hamburg in Hamburg, Germany, shared his opinion: “The PCGS grading in Paris was an excellent experience. It was easy to ship there and we got very quick service; turnaround times are much shorter than shipping to the USA with customs clearance and so on. Grading in Europe will make PCGS better-known and more appealing for European dealers and collectors.”

PCGS President Don Willis is encouraged by the dealers’ responses. “The convenience of a central Paris location makes getting coins authenticated and graded by PCGS easy for EU dealers,” he said. “Coins received on Monday and Tuesday are returned graded on Thursday or Friday of the same week. The dealers appreciate our commitment to serving them.”

Ingram Liberman of The London Coin Company in London, England expressed his approval of PCGS services: “Why have we chosen an American (coin grading) company rather than a British one? The main reason is that PCGS is the most respected of all the coin grading companies in the world and truly impartial. The future is bright for the future of grading.” (more…)

Heritage adds CAC Population Data to Rare Coin Auction Archives

A very quick way to measure a coin’s rarity is to look at how many coins of a particular date have been graded by the major grading services. Three figures are key as a rule of thumb in determining rarity:

  • The population of a coin in a particular grade, which shows how difficult the coin might be to replace exactly
  • The population of a coin in all higher grades, which shows how difficult a coin might be to upgrade
  • The population of a coin in all grades, which shows how difficult a coin might be to find at all.

The first two figures above are often written in shorthand. For example, a coin with a population of 100/4 has 100 known in the same grade and four known in higher grades. A coin with a population of 1/0 is the finest known to the grading service that certified it.

One of the features that has long been available on the Heritage Web site listings and archives HA.com/Coins are population reports. PCGS and NGC keep track of every coin they grade, and Heritage is generous enough to post this information, in condensed form, on the web page for every US coin.

Now, Heritage has added the CAC population data to it’s population listings.

As an example, the table you see here covers an 1911-D $20 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle, graded MS65 (in this case by NGC). Under the header “Population”, you can see that the PCGS Population Report shows 1731 1911-D $20 Saints with an MS65 grade, NGC Census figures show 1831 similar coins and CAC has stickered 130.
(more…)

Coin Grading: NGC Certifies Rare S-79 1795 Reeded Edge Liberty Cap Cent

Among early United States cents one of the rarest and most mysterious is Dr. William H. Sheldon’s variety number 79 having a reeded edge, an example of which has just been certified by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation.

Only eight pieces are confirmed to exist, and this one has been off the market for some 30 years. Its last public appearance was in a 1977 auction by the now-defunct Numismatic and Antiquarian Service Corporation of America (NASCA). NGC has graded and encapsulated this remarkable coin as having Fine Details with corrosion.

Aside from its rarity, S-79 is an intriguing variety on several counts. It possesses a reeded edge, the only large cent of any type to have such an edge device. Its obverse is unique to this die marriage, though it is similar in most respects to those of other 1795 cents. Where things really get odd, however, is that this cent variety was coined using a reverse die shared only with several varieties of 1796-dated cents. It was thus almost certainly coined well into that year and possibly as late as 1797. The U. S. Mint is known to have employed dies of earlier dates for as long as they remained serviceable, and this appears to be the case with S-79.

The reason for applying a reeded edge is entirely undocumented. This edge device evidently was used well after the December 1795 order reducing the weight of cents in response to the rising price of copper. The thinner planchets that resulted from this weight reduction precluded usage of the lettered edge device common to some 1793 cents, all those dated 1794 and the early issues dated 1795, which is why most 1795 cents and all 1796 cents have plain edges.

The only comparable instance of an unusual edge device occurs with the two die marriages of 1797-dated cents having “gripped” edges. These show a series of shallow cuts on their edges that were imparted by the edge milling machine. Perhaps they were contemporary with the extremely rare reeded edge cents dated 1795, as the U. S. Mint experimented to find a suitable replacement for edge lettering. Again, no documentation is known which would verify this theory.

The rare S-79 just certified by NGC is a previously-known specimen, though it has not been seen in the marketplace since its last recorded sale in 1977. It appears in fourth place in the condition censuses published by both William C. Noyes (United States Large Cents 1793-1814) and Walter Breen (Walter Breen’s Encyclopedia of Early United States Cents 1793-1814, edited by Mark R. Borckardt).

Though the variety was evidently known to collectors as early as 1862, this particular specimen was discovered by famed dealer Henry Chapman and included in his auction of June 1916, where it brought the grand sum of $1.75! It later passed through the collections of several legendary numismatists, including Howard R. Newcomb, Henry C. Hines and Dr. Sheldon himself.

The coin was submitted to NGC by Silvertowne of Winchester, Indiana. Owner David Hendrickson is delighted to be able to handle this great rarity. “It’s such a wonderful experience to come across a coin which has remained extremely rare despite a century and a half of searching by collectors,” Hendrickson said. “We at Silvertowne are proud to become a part of this cent’s distinguished pedigree.”
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Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Bowers & Merena auction, Proof 1876-CC dime, and $150 million for the CAC

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #5

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. Today’s Theme

I will not be discussing the most expensive or the rarest coins that are coming ‘on the auction block’ this week. Rather, I have selected a few that I find to be both newsworthy and particularly interesting. Admittedly, these are expensive. I continue to insist, though, that an understanding of rare coins, and of the values in the coin collecting community, requires knowledge of coins that most collectors cannot afford.

Suppose that this column was geared towards art enthusiasts rather than coin enthusiasts. Would it then make sense to discuss only the paintings that most art collectors could afford? Collectors who cannot afford great and culturally important paintings enjoy learning about them and often learn to apply their knowledge of famous painting to their interpretations of a wide variety of not-so-famous paintings. Likewise, coin enthusiasts, in general, appreciate coins that are great, famous, very rare and/or important to the culture of coin collecting.

Please see my discussions below of the following coins. The 1851-O trime is the only Three Cent Silver issue that was not struck at the Philadelphia Mint. Indeed, it is curious that the New Orleans Mint struck this denomination, as the Branch Mints tended not to manufacture small denomination coins in the 19th century. The Hawaiian Eighth-Dollar is certainly extremely rare and extremely curious. The 1926-S nickel issue is just incredibly difficult to find in MS-65 or MS-66 grade. As I discussed one in last week’s column, I could not resist mentioning another, as B&M will auction it this week in Baltimore. Similarly, I discussed a rare and historically important King James II English gold coin last week and B&M will auction a coin of the same design type this week. Plus, the unique Proof 1876-CC dime is one of the most exciting coins of all.

II. The CAC Surpasses $150 Million Level

It is widely known that the CAC approves (or rejects) submitted coins that are already graded by the PCGS or the NGC. Approved coins receive a green sticker, or, in rare instances, a gold sticker. It is not as widely known that the CAC will make sight unseen commitments to pay competitive prices for CAC approved coins. These are not ‘low ball’ bids. As of June 15, the CAC has purchased $154 million of coins, almost all of which are CAC approved.

The CAC was founded by John Albanese in Oct. 2007. CAC purchases have thus been averaging more than $4.7 million per month. The $150 million level was reached in early June.

Albanese was the sole founder of the Numismatic Guaranty Corp (NGC) in 1987. Around Dec. 1998, he sold his shares in the NGC to Mark Salzberg, who is the current NGC Chairman. (For more discussion of the CAC, please see my articles on CoinFest, Jay Brahin’s Coins, the PCGS graded MS-68+ 1901-S quarter, the 20th Century Gold Club, and Dr. Duckor’s quarters.)

Although the CAC has acquired thousands of coins that are valued at under $5000 each, the CAC has approved and acquired some very famous coins. Among others, the Eliasberg 1870-S silver dollar and the finest known, Rogers-Madison 1796 ‘No Stars’ Quarter Eagle ($2½ gold coin) come to my mind.

III. Unique Proof 1876-CC Dime

Laura Sperber, of Legend Numismatics, acquired the unique Proof 1876-CC dime from a New Jersey dealer in early June. On Saturday, June 12, she sold it for an amount in excess of $200,000. It “went into a collection of Proof Seated Dimes,” Sperber reveals. It is certified as Proof-66 by the PCGS and has a sticker of approval from the CAC. (more…)

Phenomenal Simpson Collection of United States Pattern Coins Helps NGC Launch Plus Designation

Many of the coins from this superb collection have received NGC’s new Plus Designation.

Followers of the numismatic scene have already learned of the fabulous Simpson Collection of United States pattern coins, but one remarkable numismatist is a connoisseur of other series, as well. He possesses superb holdings of nearly all United States coin series spanning the period from the 1830s to the 1930s, most of which have been graded and certified by NGC.

Many Simpson Collection coins have received the new Plus () Designation from NGC. Launched on May 25, 2010, the is used to identify coins at the high end of their assigned grade, approaching the quality requirements for the next grade. This new NGC service offering is heralded with the placement of the important Simpson Collection coins on the NGC Registry. Now updated to accommodate graded coins, the NGC Registry is the go-to place to find the rarest and most beautiful coins from around the world. The addition of the Simpson Collection sets only confirms this trend, and users of the NGC Registry will be able to view these remarkable coins for themselves in glorious color.

Texan Bob Simpson is the ultimate numismatic connoisseur, desiring only those coins that meet his exacting standards. He knows what he wants, and nothing less will do. Facilitating his efforts is his longtime numismatic consultant, Laura Sperber of Legend Numismatics. The old saying, “Know your coins or know your dealer” is particularly apt, as Mr. Simpson knows both, and this relationship has paid off with an epic collection of coins that compares favorably with the great named collections of the past.

Mr. Simpson’s premier passion is United States pattern and trial coins, and his collection of these is unparalleled. Comprising most of the entries found in Dr. J. Hewitt Judd’s standard reference work, United States Pattern Coins, now in its 10th edition, the Simpson Collection is the greatest assemblage of such coins since Judd’s own collection was dispersed some 50 years ago.

Among its amazing highlights is a complete set of the highly coveted stellas, or four-dollar pieces, complete in all types, dates and metals. While perhaps less known to most collectors, his array of early US Mint patterns is of the greatest historic value and rarity. These coins include 1792-dated pieces such as the silver-center cent (J-1), the even more rare example of this coin without a silver center (J-2), the most popular of early federal patterns — the HALF DISME (J-7) and the exceedingly rare DISME in all three varieties (J-9,-10,-11).

Also included are both uniface impressions of Joseph Wright’s famed quarter dollar pattern (J-A1792-1,-2). These coins are seldom offered for sale, as their owners are typically devoted numismatists who cherish their immense historical importance. Such a figure is Bob Simpson. (more…)

Laura Sperber Meets with PNG Board to Discuss Coin Doctoring

The Following is taken from Laura Sperber’s Hot Topics concerning her invitation to meet with the Board of Directors of the Professional Numismatists Guild [ www.pngdealers.com ] on June 2nd in Long Beach, CA., to discuss the issue of “Coin Doctoring” in light of the PCGS Lawsuit filed against 6 coin dealers, three of which are PNG Members.

First, I would like to thank the PNG Board of Directors for giving me the opportunity discuss my grievances direct. They seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say, however that is where it ends.

To make sure I am not overreacting, I waited until I was back home to write this. Plus, I wanted to see what the PNG press release had to say. Unfortunately my gut instinct was correct.

THE PNG MEETING I ATTENDED WAS A SLOW MOTION TRAINWRECK. EVERYONE ON BOARD HAD THEIR HANDS OVER THEIR EYES.

Even though the board was attentive, they were highly combative. MULTIPLE times they told me they are a REactive group, not a proactive one. They proved to me with out a doubt they do not have a grasp on the situation and no matter what rhetoric they release, they will do very little about it.

The most damning statement they said: “WE HAVE NEVER HAD A COMPLAINT ABOUT COIN DOCTORING FROM ANYONE”. Ok, so in their eyes there had been no problem? Adding to that, they dwelled on the fact “people knew we were here”. Who the heck is going to complain to them? Collectors had to go to the services to be made whole. Besides, according to the PNG, just having an altered coin is proof of nothing. Still, I freak when I think about how no one at the PNG knew there was this horrible abuse happening-some of it created by their own membership. Talk about denial.

They did ask me what I would do about the 3 members in the lawsuit. Of course I said “suspend them”. They hammered back with “we can’t suspend the members in the lawsuit. Its a complaint. There has been no trial, they are not guilty”. Another member said “we’d love to take action, We can not do so on hearsay”. Unless the PNG learns to stop living in fear of being sued by its members and take the actions it should, they will NEVER be able to effectively control them.

The best one was when the board challenged me. They dragged a name of a coin doctor from me acting like they would take action (stupid me). I told them I saw him put putty on a coin at a show. They charged back: What proof do you have? Do you have photos, what solid proof?” One member wanted me to go start my own lawsuit. Give me a break.

Here is the ultimate proof they do not have grasp of the situation: one member said to me: “You sell puttied coins”. My response,: “so do you”. He failed to understand the problem is with coin doctoring. We do NOT intentionally sell puttied coins-ever, nor does he. Its the coin doctors who fraudulently try and get this crap by the grading services who are the problem. They couldn’t even grasp that-one member said “aren’t the grading services supposed to catch this?.

As the meeting went on, I was called a hypocrite yet also was asked to help them. It ended up exactly how I knew it would-they would have a debate to decide the definition of coin doctoring before moving on. I asked them, “being so quick to take NGC’s money as the preferred grading service, why did they not know any of this and why do they have to debate the definition?”. Their state of denial is unbelievable. These guys are dealers, dealers who do shows, dealers who do retail, how the hell can they not know about coin doctoring? In my opinion, this is far worse than a case of selective retention. (more…)