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By Gary Tancer – Coin Gallery of Boca Raton

With any investment: stocks, bonds, real estate, collectibles; if you do not have extensive knowledge in that field, it is always advisable to consult an expert. The coin business is no exception to this rule.

The advent of grading services such as PCGS in 1986, and NGC in 1987 was extremely beneficial to the collector or investor because they no longer had to rely on the seller for the grade of a coin who, let’s face it, usually had a vested interest. However, the third party grading services, which have no interest in the selling of coins, simply collect a fee for selecting a grade they judge appropriate.

In a perfect world, any amateur could use the internet or weekly sheets available to get a good idea of the value of a coin based on its grade. Unfortunately, this alone will only get someone so far.

The grading services, in my opinion, do a decent job grading; however, lately we have seen that there can be dramatic differences between the pricing of a coin for the same grade. This is why I am writing this article. In an ideal world, an MS 65 is an MS 65, and every coin graded would have the exact same value, but, as most people are realizing, this is not the case.

There are several factors in the determination of a graded coin’s value. Luster, color, and originality are only a few attributes that can add or detract from the value of a given coin compared to another of the exact same type. This is seen especially in auction prices realized; how a coin with the same date and same grading service, can have a 10%-100% variation in price. For example, in April of this year, a 1911-D $2 ½ in NGC AU58 sold at auction for $8625. Two months later, another 1911-D in NGC AU58 sold for $5463. In another April auction, a 1914-S $5 Indian in NGC AU58 sold for $805 while, in the same auction, another coin of the same date, grade and grading service sold for $546.

Today there exists CAC, PCGS Secure Plus, and NGC Secure Plus; though, these also can be confusing with regard to which coins are worth the high end of the spectrum and which are worth the low end. The reason for these new services is because mistakes happen, and grade inflation has occurred over the last 24 years.

In my opinion, CAC does a fabulous job and has made their presence felt in the coin business today. But as far as PCGS Secure and NGC Secure, they are too newly established for me to voice an opinion. This leads back to the title of the article. Even though many feel CAC does a great job, there remain plenty of quality coins that are highly desirable that do not meet their strict standards. That’s why expert coin graders/dealers are still needed to interpret anything and everything in between.

The difficulty is finding these expert dealers and building trust and a rapport. Most quality retailers deal directly with their customers or have educated employees working for them. You can research a dealer to see how long they have been in business, if they are active in going to coin shows and their membership in professional associations. A final factor in determining a high-quality numismatic dealer will be how receptive he is to buying coins back that he sold. I, for one, look forward to buying back any coins I’ve recommended to my customers in the past.

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