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All Posts Tagged With: "Commentary"

Laura Sperber: 2010 IN REVIEW-MY VISION

EVERYTHING WRITTEN HERE IS THE SOLE OPINION OF THE AUTHOR.

2010

What a year it was. We saw gold hit a new record and the stock market made a semi come back. The coin market had what I would call a turbulent but productive year. Prices did not go up as much as good coins weren’t being drowned by dreck anymore. There actually has been a small influx of new collectors.

It was also great year in the sense of we dragged certain taboo subjects (like gradeflation, coin doctoring, etc) through the mud and brought them out in the publics eye in the nick of time. While the bad guys all have been pissed off, it unquestionably has given the collecting public a better feeling and renewed sense we can self police ourselves and that some of the “leadership” of the hobby does indeed care. Consumer confidence is critical to having coins rise in value and maintaining a healthy marketplace.

I do NOT regret saying or doing what I did to help make coins and the coin market a better place.

COIN DOCTORING

Exposing how bad the coin doctoring issue had become, was by far the MOST important POSITIVE thing to have happened. Had everyone just kept their heads turned and let these criminals rape coins and the coin market, it would have killed the hobbies future.

PCGS took a heroic lead in firing off a lawsuit with absolute hard evidence against a small crew. Other coin small to mid size docs took notice and are running scared. Now, PCGS is coming out with even more sophisticated technology to catch these guys and hopefully make them stop forever. I knew this was a critical problem when the Kutasi Collection of $10’s and $20’s was sold a few years ago and the putty was so thick on many coins sometimes you could not see all the details! I do not regret standing up and speaking out about this subject when it was really taboo to do so. Just passing on a coin certainly was not stopping the doctors fromtheir reign of destruction. In my opinion, destroying a coin should be considered a full criminal act. These low lifes are taking away the few pieces of original history we have and are slowly ruining our enjoyment of collecting. They deserve to be harshly punished and shamed.

The grading services are definately doing their share to work on the problem, however I am disgusted with so many retail dealers who will not speak out. No, its not just the lame PNG (next topic), but the dealers who want to be your friends, the ones who can’t grade for crap, or have huge web sites. They are greedy cowards in my book, worth no more than the bad slabs they sell. There needs to be a shake out of these people.

I know there is still a long, long way to go in this fight. A few major firms who still employee doctors are still quietly practicing thinking they are just too big to tackle. I believe in 2011 they will be exposed and will fall. Its a matter of compiling more evidence. They certainly have been frustrasted at the very least in 2010. At least this issue is moving forward and not backwards. I hope this year to get more people speaking out. EVERY voice is important-no matter what size collector you are! (more…)

The Gold, Silver and Rare Coin Market Report

By Laura Sperber – Legend NumismaticsBelow is a portion of the most recent Legend Market Report

GOLD

This is hard for us to believe that gold spot went up, yet ALL Generic $20’s came down! That is the most ridiculous thing we have ever seen. We have been told that the market makers here are flooded with coins. Plus, there seems to be a huge flood of gold coming from Europe. We have even heard some grumblings that the quality of these new arrivals have been poor (more gradeflation?). So no one wants to step out and make bids.

At one point last week, the LARGEST market maker in MS65 Saints quoted us $2,000.00 as his “buy” on a day when gold went up $20.00 (MS65 BID did end the week at $2,200.00). In the meantime, we know dealers who badly need CAC MS 65 Saints and have open BIDS of $2,300.00-$2,400.00 per coin and are buying very few.The demand for NON CAC generics is obviously thin.

The demand for CAC coins is huge with many MAJOR Funds or financial advisers selling the coins easily. We know they cannot get enough, because we supply them and we haven’t bought squat. We will still buy ALL the PCGS /NGC W/M MS66 CAC we can get at $3,475.00 sight UNSEEN. We will pay $2,675.00 for NON CAC PCGS coins only on a SIGHT seen basis. BTW, for anyone who wants to cat call, the CAC market is NOT artificial, its as real and powerful as you get.

The CAC coins sell by demand, not dealers creating phony bids and trying to pump the market. With gold (especially generics) right now for sure there is a two tier market, and quality is what people want.

You know there is something seriously wrong when graded MS61 $20 Libs are priced at $100.00 OVER melt!

With $20’s, it also seems to us that the market feels they are too high (along with the price of gold). We doubt at the lower grade levels quality is the issue. Something has to give in that market. We believe there will be a correction in the price of gold sometime soon. But, its really the hedges who control the price of gold and it seems they want to take it up a little further.

Its totally bewildering to us why there are not stronger premiums since gold is climbing daily into record territory. Something is just not right with this picture.

Right now the BEST buys are $10 Indians and $5 Indians (no 09D) in MS64 and higher. You can not find them emass, and the grading seems to be OK. If you insist on playing the $20 generic market we still believe MS66’s are too cheap or, you can buy NICE MS61/62 $20 (if you can find them) for little over melt and hope one day the premiums expand. We still recommend building a Gold Type set. You can include ANY coin you want then.

SILVER

People are finally waking up to the fact silver is at its all time high. Here too, things like MS65 Morgans and Walkers have come down. That’s insane! How can such a huge market as coins show little demand for simple $100-$200.00 items that actually were popular? Where are all the collectors? (more…)

Opinion: Laura Sperber’s Hot Topics – SO WHATS (NOT) NEW?

By Laura Sperber – Hot Topics

MY HOW THINGS HAVE CHANGED!

NOT! I can not believe how lethargic and pathetic the leadership of the coin business has become. PCGS launched their lawsuit back in May. Other than scaring the greedy bastards into slowing their dirty deeds-NOT MUCH ELSE HAS HAPPENED. No hobby groups have stood up what so ever and done anything about the situation. The attitude among dealers still seems to that the grading services are there to be abused.

I think its a crime that the best the PNG could do is announce they have a definition of coin doctoring. Whuppie! Did they do anything? Apparently not a damn thing. They are hiding behind the lamest of lame excuses (they are a reactionary, not proactive group). The perpetrators named in the suit got caught (by their own stupidity) still trying to ruin coins yet again recently (the evidence was even posted in Coin World). Even better, at the ANA Show this past summer one of the parties in the suit set up and proudly displayed his PNG banner at his table! What a slap in the face to those of us who do care. I know the PNG’s time has come and gone. They do nothing and are nothing for this coin biz-in MY opinion. Their PNG Days prior to major shows not only have become a show case for the parts of their membership they refuse to punish, they are a complete joke anyway (one must be invited for admission-how arrogant and stupid). I hope the PNG tries to prove me wrong about their total waste and ineffectiveness.

My head hurts from shaking so much after seeing what they are NOT doing! Besides, we all know its not the entire group of PNG dealers who are bad-so where are the innocent ones? You telling me they have little to no powers on these critical issues? Just more of a point about the bad dudes who apparently control that organization. if they wanted too, they could chase after and maybe even prevent coin doctoring-btye clearly choose not too. Looks like I will never have to pay $1,000.00 I promised for anyone the PNG catches and expels for coin doctoring. Yeah PNG, I am grandstanding for attention (NOT)! -at least I am not sitting on the sidelines with rose colored glasses doing nothing about all this!

Its not just them. I have only seen a handful of smaller dealers-the ones who get screwed by the coin docs perpetually stand up and make statements. Where are all the other big shot retailers? Why I am the lone wolf speaking out? But then I guess when you have a coin doc who sits behind your table and who sells you a lot of coins cheap your not going to complain about them. This doesn’t rock the boat culture has to change. Its for the good of the hobby for the long term.

READ THIS AND WEEP

Many people ask me why I do not like so many other dealers. It has nothing to do with them being competition. It has to do with them not caring or worse, they are phonies. One of the problems in today’s coin market place-many of the “newer” dealers just can not grade. That’s right, give them a raw coin out of the holder and they are clueless. Sadly, they have the best web sites and act like they are kings and hook the public. They are just one more means keep to the coin doctors longevity going. These unqualified dealers certainly are not going to be involved in stopping the coin docs. But we can make them change since they are too dumb to know what to do. Yet again, I call for more public scrutiny of dealers. (more…)

GUEST COMMENTARY: Coin Doctors – CAN’T STOP NOW

All Editorial and Commentaries posted on CoinLink represent the opinions of the author(s), who are soley responsible for this content. All points of view are encouraged and comments are welcomed.

By Laura Sperber – Hot Topics Blog

I say a heart-felt thanks to everyone who has emailed me support concerning the fight against coin doctors the past several months. Due to my hectic travel schedule, sometimes I just can’t respond to all your emails-but do know I read EVERY SINGLE ONE!

EVEN IF YOU ARE A NOT BIG DEALER, YOU COUNT

Every single person counts and is needed in this fight. Every single person has a voice that counts. Do not think there is nothing you can do.

You do not have to right on a blog like I do, you can just talk to your fellow collectors or dealers, at shows, clubs, or wherever. Send an email or a letter to the grading services, the numismatic organization, or the coin papers. The more “pressure” that is put applied, the better the results will be. If people don’t speak up it will be back to biz as usual for these bad guys.

A small dealer came up to me at the PCGS Invitational. He told me “I support you 100%”. He told me how badly he HATES the docs and anyone who is a mule for them. He told me how he has told one dealer friend why he won’t do business with him anymore and how he shoos away the docs from buying his coins. But he was upset because he felt he has no where to speak out. I told him if he can write a letter to an editor of a publication that’s great. I also told him-his voice has already spoken and he is a HUGE help. He definitely has the “RIGHT” attitude. Just imagine if very non doc did what he did-or had his attitude. I believe he also told me he is quitting the PNG.

At this point, the PNG has PROVEN (to me, in my opinion) with out any doubt to be the most WORTHLESS organization ever formed in coins when it comes to protecting the consumer and the coins themselves. As predicted, the PNG came up with a definition of coin doctoring and then all has been quiet since. I was totally disgusted that one of the PROVEN trouble makers of the PCGS lawsuit proudly displayed his PNG flag and was set up and doing business PNG day. That is a slap to EVERYONE (from the smallest collector to the biggest dealers). Meanwhile a high ranking PNG official told me he thought I was grandstanding on these issues for publicity. That’s why nothing makes me prouder than NOT being a PNG member.

I BELIEVE THIS IS THE BACKBONE OF TODAY’S PROBLEMS

Nothing disgusts me more than how dealers-especially young dealers disrespect the coin business. I watch the brightest potential talent all lean toward being “crack out” dealers and eventually fading in to full coin doctoring. Why isn’t the PNG working to scare them straight? Why can’t they educate them that coins are a treasure that need to be carefully saved in their original form? We desperately need to break this negative attitude or in 20-30 years it is a real possibility that the % of coins that will have been messed with in as high as 50%. The docs are all about making money. They will do whatever they can to a coin to gain a profit.

All the dealers refuse to blame their buddies or are in pure denial about the issues. So many dealers tell me I am so wrong and that its the grading services who should catch the bad coins. Here is what they need to wake up too: DEALERS WHO FEEL ITS THEIR RIGHT TO VIOLATE THE GRADING SERVICES SUBMISSION CONTRACTS AND FRAUDULENTY SUBMIT “WORKED ON” COINS. Key word: FRAUD. These guys should not only be exposed, but they should be forced to pay back ALL their ill gotten gains in multiples and perform numismatic community service of retraining and supporting dealers from NOT being doctors.

THE PCGS LAWSUIT HAS STARTED TO SHOW SOME CHANGE

I was speaking with John Albanese (the founder and finalizer at CAC). He confirmed to me that the amount of “messed with” coins he has seen since the lawsuit has been seriously reduced. That’s a huge plus. But that does not mean these rats are on the run. As evidenced in a Coin World Article recently, even after the lawsuit was filed one of the defendants still had the disgusting audacity to be ready to doctor more coins. So as you can see, this is nasty and serious war against sick and greedy individuals. (more…)

What Makes Certain Coins Popular–and Others Unpopular?

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

I often make buying decisions based on a coin’s popularity. As an example, I will buy a coin like an 1839-O quarter eagle for stock because it is popular and I know it will sell. But I might pass on a rarer coin like an 1862-S quarter eagle because it is not a popular issue and it will be a harder coin to sell. This got me to to thinking: what makes one coin popular and another unpopular?

Certain 20th century series are popular with collectors because of a strong nostalgia factor. I would imagine most of the collectors who focus on Lincoln Cents or Mercury Dimes remember collecting them as a kid and the sense of accomplishment that they get from completing a set is an act of closure that extinguishes the nightmares they felt as kids about filling those pesky 1909-S VDB Cent and 1916-D Dime holes.

The nostalgia factor does not really apply to gold given the fact that circulation for these coins ended in the early 1930’s. There are certainly some collectors who can remember being given an Indian Head quarter eagle for the holidays by their grandparents or aunt and uncle. But I’m willing to bet that the majority of gold coin collectors are not working on a set of Charlotte half eagles because it rekindles pleasant childhood memories.

The word “promotion” gets a bad rap in numismatics. Yes, there are naughty promotions where worthless modern trinkets get hyped and sold to unsuspecting people for multiples of their true value. But in the better sense of the word, coin promotions can turn formerly unpopular series–like Type One Liberty Head double eagles–into popular ones. The key to a coin promotion is that it has to be sustained and it needs more market participants than the first wave to regenerate its initial success(es).

I mentioned the Type One double eagles series in the last paragraph. One of the most brilliant coin promotions of all time was the S.S. Central America.. The marketing group that owned the coins not only was able to sell them, they were able to generate enough new interest in this denomination that it impacted all Type Ones, not just the few dates that were included in the hoard.

A coin that is historic is always going to be popular. What represents “history” to be may not be what represents history to you. But I’m almost certain we can both agree that a gold coin produed in the 18th century–the first decade of the operations of the new U.S. Mint–is clearly historic. This is one reason why a coin like a 1795 half eagle or a 1799 eagle, while not truly “rare,” is still always going to have a very high level of demand among collectors.
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How the Internet Has Changed the Rare Coin Market

By Doug Winter – RareGoldCoins.com

The year was 1995. I can remember my wife Mary telling me that it was really important to establish a presence on the Internet; that it would be the future of the coin business. No way, I thought, people are still going to want to read print ads and receive mailed price lists. The Internet was slow and bulky and you could basically die of old age waiting for each coin image to come up on screen.

Sixteen years later, it seems that, as usual, she was right and I was wrong. The Internet has, along with third party grading, changed the coin market like nothing else in history. Why has the Internet been so good for the coin market and what are some of the changes that it has wrought?

The best thing about the Internet for all hobbies has been the dissemination of information. 10 to 15 years ago, if you wanted information about rare coins you had to dig for it. You could open a Redbook and get mintage figures and you could find information about die varieties in various specialized books. But like the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz, in the past, information was strictly controlled. If you were lucky, you were invited into the secret circle and given some of the information you needed. If you didn’t know the secret handshake, you were pretty much on your own.

The impact of the Internet can be felt in a numbers of distinct ways. One is the newest phenomenon of the Internet (better known as Internet 3.0): social networking. Back in the pre-web days if you wanted to meet and talk with other collectors, you had to join a local coin club or, if you were lucky and lived in a town with a good coin shop, you met at the bid board on Saturday and talked coins with other interested locals. Now, it is reasonably easy to connect with fellow collectors and share information, buy and sell coins, talk about which dealers are good or bad, etc. I would expect that Facebook will become a much more important platform for coin collectors in the coming year.

As I mentioned above, the Internet has given collectors access to information that was formerly difficult to acquire. Pricing information from auctions is easier to source than ever before. A decade ago, the only place that compiled annual auction data was Krause Publications’ annual auction prices realized book(s). These were expensive, not always complete and only provided a one-year window into specific series of coins. Today, sites such as Heritage.com and PCGS.com enable collectors to see 10 or even 20 years of auction results for a specific coin in a specific grade. This is critical information for determining what to pay for a coin or what to price a coin at when you are ready to sell. I would expect that better, more sophisticated coin pricing sites will be introduced in the coming years as well.

As recently as ten years ago, many dealers did not have a website and many of the ones that did featured clunky, slow moving sites. Today, coin websites are considerably more sophisticated and offer much better quality images and descriptions than before. The fact that collectors now feel comfortable enough to buy coins sight-unseen is a result of better technology (hello cable modems!) and it has greatly broadened the size and scope of the market.

One of the biggest changes we have seen in the last decade as a result of the Internet is a restructuring of the auction market. One coin auction firm responded better to technological advances in the last ten years and as a result they have basically decimated their competition. Ten years ago, the vast majority of coins sold at auction were purchased by dealers who were sitting in the room. Today, most lots sell to Internet bidders. Its a little unnerving for a new collector to walk into a coin auction and see it basically empty (with the notable exceptions being the FUN and ANA sales which still attract good crowds or very important specialized collections) but to be told that the auction is in fact a rousing success and that there are hundreds of active bidders participating. (more…)

Laura Sperber’s Hot Topics – BACK TO HELL?

THIS ARTICLE SOLELY REPRESENTS THE OPINION OF LAURA SPERBER

At the Baltimore Show I heard many rumors about the PCGS lawsuit. One was great-but also was especially disturbing.

That rumor was that PCGS and some of the “named” defendants in the suit were discussing a possible settlement. That news is terrific! Or is it? I should point out what I heard is ONLY rumor and I have not spoken to anyone from PCGS about it. Legend FULLY supports PCGS in this lawsuit and its efforts to stop coin doctors.

PCGS is absolutely deserving of being refunded with penalty for all the damages these disgusting people have caused to them. A note to promising to cease probably will be included in any settlement. So I started to think, if there should be a settlement where does that leave the rest of us? The others who have been damaged by coin doctors actions with no restitution?

I believe it leaves us right back where we started. The coin doctors will just continue on their merry way. Sure, one small group is down, but the others all got away-with out so much as even a slap on the wrist (assuming there is a settlement). Of course since I had my meeting with my favorite party club of dealers-The PNG, they have issued only one statement and seem to be intent of claiming to try and define what makes up the standard for a coin being doctored (my bet is they will NEVER end the debate). Of course that will have to wait until their next meeting, then the board has to discuss, yada, yada.

EVERYONE MUST TURN ON THE PRESSURE NOW

Collectors, its going to be up to you to make changes apparently. Talk to your dealers. If they do not become vocal about this, before you walk out the door for good, ask what they could possibly be afraid of? How can any dealer not see coin doctoring as a serious crime? Ignoring it will not make the dirt bags who do it stop. Do they really believe this does not affect them? So far I have only seen 3-4 dealers actually speak up. All others seem to be hiding on corners.

Anyone who cares needs to speak up NOW. Keep writing letters to the PNG. Write letters to Coin World. Discuss the subject on the gossip boards. Write the grading services too.
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Coin Rarities & Related Topics: The PCGS Lawsuit Against Alleged Coin Doctors

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community #3

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

I. Today’s Theme

Welcome to the third installment of my column. I had planned to write more about auctions and about current demand for rare Liberty Seated coins. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by the most important lawsuit in the history of coin collecting: The PCGS lawsuit against six named individuals and other not yet named individuals regarding coin doctoring is pathbreaking and earth shattering.

Even if the PCGS does not prevail on all points or against all defendants, the educational value of this suit, and the impact that it will have on coin doctors, goes way beyond the fate of these defendants. For legal reasons, I will not comment on the defendants in this suit. I am asserting that a significant number of coin doctors who are not defendants will be discouraged by this lawsuit from doctoring coins.

The PCGS SecurePlus™ program, which was inaugurated in March 2010, also discourages coin doctoring. For some discussion of the ‘plus’ aspect of the program and my idea as to how the NGC can discourage coin doctoring, please see last week’s column.

Under the SecurePlus™ program, submitted coins are scanned, for purposes of identification, with CoinAnalyzer devices. The PCGS will be able to identify each scanned coin if it is submitted to the PCGS again in the future, and, when a match is found, the submitted coin will be closely compared to an image of the same coin that was taken when it was previously submitted. Changes in the appearance of each matched coin will be investigated. The positive effects of the SecurePlus program, though, will build very gradually over a period of many years. This lawsuit will be extremely effective at discouraging coin doctoring in the near future.

Four years ago, when coin doctoring was rampant in the dealer community, had PCGS officials threatened a coin doctor with a lawsuit, the coin doctor probably would have figured that PCGS officials were bluffing. I am almost certain that this is the first time that a grading service has sued some of its dealer-members for submitting coins that are allegedly doctored and misrepresented.

Now, if PCGS officials threaten a coin doctor with a lawsuit unless he stops submitting doctored coins to the PCGS, the threatened individual is likely to take the threat very seriously and believe that the PCGS might actually follow through with a suit. Yes, I realize that not every coin doctor will be deterred by the threat of a lawsuit. Most will be deterred, at least to an extent. (more…)

David Lawrence Rare Coins View on PCGS’ Hard Stance Against Coin Doctors

Guest Commentary By John Feigenbaum – David Lawrence Rare Coins

On Friday, May 28, the numismatic community learned of lawsuit filed by Collectors Universe (the parent company of PCGS) against a group of so-called coin doctors. There’s no reason to rehash the details of this lawsuit as you can find good information on the Coinlink.com site, including a PDF of the actual filing.

From my perspective, action against the “coin doctors” has been overdue. For years, these guys have enjoyed an unfair advantage in the U.S. coin market and their presence in the general marketplace and auctions made it more difficult for legitimate buyers to compete. But we all accepted their existence because these folks have been around as long as there was a profit to be made in artificially improving coins. The grading services were designed originally to eliminate this scourge, but these guys are good and their methods are ever-improving. The extent of the doctoring of late has been somewhat hidden during this time, so some of the revelations in the filing are news, even to me. Now, it seems PCGS has drawn a line in the sand and they are throwing the book at some known offenders. More like a hammer, actually.

The heart of the matter seems to lie in the definition of exactly what is meant by the term “coin doctoring”. Are we talking about the dipping, or conservation of a coin’s surfaces? Are we talking about artificial toning of a coin to cover past cleaning, or scratches? Or, are we talking about the most nefarious acts of moving metal (whizzing, lasering) and surface alteration, like the enhancement of the bands of a Mercury dime to achieve the Full Bands (FB) designation?

I absolutely applaud PCGS for taking this measure. It has been too long in coming and it’s high time the leaders of the coin market took a stand against the alteration of a coin’s surface to deceive the grading houses.

In filing this suit, PCGS has aimed a missile at the latter-mentioned offenders. The so-called “metal movers”. There is no room for argument in any of our minds that this is wrong and should be dealt with harshly. Clearly PCGS has known about these guys for some time because the examples they present in the brief acknowledge a “rebuilt full head standing quarter” back in 2005. So, why now? The most logical conclusion I can make is that – for too long — they hoped the problem would end on its own through better detection techniques, and now they have also announced something called a Coin Sniffer™, for this purpose. I suppose this is the other shoe in PCGS’ “Big One” announcement back in March.

So, if lasering, re-engraving and rebuilding are obviously wrong and (perhaps) criminal acts (see paragraph #47), the bigger question is what is the low-watermark standard for coin doctoring? Is adding any foreign substance to the surface of a coin to conceal damage of any kind (hairlines, gouges, etc) going to be considered “doctoring”?

I would like to see PCGS take the next step of defining what is legitimate conservation versus doctoring. Perhaps a consortium of industry leaders like PCGS, NGC, CAC and PNG could work together to create such a document. It’s not clear that PCGS is interested in doing so, but I hope they would consider such a move to unify the marketplace. (more…)

Legend Market Report: The 2010 Central States Coin Show

We were VERY surprised at how the show ended up for us. But then our expectations were small. It took a tremendous effort to make things happen.

Arriving on Tuesday, we immediately did business within 5 minutes of arriving at the hotel. Since everyone was scattered around different hotels, activity was limited until set up began. At CSNS they have a PNG Day. So as usual us lesser folk had wait outside while the mighty members of PNG set up. Once allowed in, true to form for PNG days, activity was non existent. Many dealers got spooked fearing the entire show could be lame. We feel very strongly these PNG days add nothing to a show and actually hurt momentum.

Thursday was dealer set up day. Since there had been a full PNG Day and the night before PNG set up, the majority of dealers were ruffled by the fact the CSNS people did not allow any public in until Friday. If you wanted in Thursday, you had to pay $75.00. We heard one angry collector say he’d much rather go tip cows.

However, a funny thing happened during regular dealer set up: activity started to happen. We can’t say there was a rush, but we saw signs of coins selling. By the end of the day, we had done some significant sales and we spoke to others who had seen some life too. When the public was allowed in Friday-there was activity! We were totally surprised at how many collectors did show up Friday. In the morning there was a light buzz. Buying was not aggressive, but you could sell a coin here and there.

The biggest problem Legend had: BUYING. Yes, this is broken record: THERE ARE NO NICE, FRESH, COINS TO BUY! On Friday evening as the show closed, we tallied up our buying on the floor: $93,000.00-of which ONE coin was $50,000.00. Each day dealers would ask each other: did you buy anything? We know this lack of nice coins made many collectors leave the show earlier than they had anticipated.

One huge positive note: dreck was finally being bought! Since the floor was so dry, dealers realized they needed to make a living. So the intelligent soles who knew better lowered yet again the prices of their dreck and made the pieces more attractive. Two of our stealth sales team each sold an expensive coin (over $50,000.00) that we have had in our inventory for a year! We knew this would happen eventually. (more…)

The New PCGS Secure+ and what (it might) mean for the coin business…

By John Feigenbaum – David Lawrence Rare Coins

Well, now that PCGS has made it “Big One” announcement, it’s possible to speculate on how this might affect the coin industry (I used to call it a hobby but I think that ship sailed a long time ago). There’s an awful lot to digest here, but I had the benefits of advance notice of this announcement by Mr. Hall himself and I was able to personally attend the Press Conference at the Ft. Worth ANA National Money Show when the Big One was unveiled publicly.

For starters, if you are not familiar with the “Big One” I recommend that you read/view all about it on the PCGS web site first. This was actually a dual announcement:

1) PCGS is going to start laser-scanning/fingerprinting certain submissions (the submission tier is called “Secure-Plus”, which costs a little more) to make certain these items haven’t already been submitted. If so, the system will allow the graders to compare the coins with images of the same coin to be certain it hadn’t been doctored or altered in any negative manner.

2) Coins submitted in the “Secure Plus” tier are eligible to be examined for a “Plus” grade which is awarded to any coins the graders determine to be in the top 30% of quality in the grade range. Or, as David Hall defines it, the “A” category.

Let’s start with the laser scanning technology. Mr. Hall claims that it was “never PCGS’ intention to grade the same coin 40 times” which is a way upgraders use the system to repeatedly send the same coin in until it finally gets the added benefit of doubt and achieves a higher grade that it typically would get. This ultimately is a cause for “gradeflation” which has long term negative effects on the hobby. The logic also follows that a database of stolen coins that have previously been “fingerprinted” can be marked for future submissions. In the event they ever come back in to PCGS, the coins will be flagged and justice can be served. Apparently one major insurance company is offering a discount for SecurePlus coins thanks to this service.

I love this concept for all the reasons PCGS is brandishing. But it’s flawed… Clearly, from the outset, there is a major loophole (or, chasm) in the service because only coins submitted in the more expensive “Secure Plus” tier are being fingerprinted. So a doctored, or stolen coin, can simply be submitted without the added expense and we’ll never know if it was doctored. Or, what happens if a coin is upgraded via the non-Plus service but later submitted for “crossover” into the “Secure Plus” and PCGS realizes what has happened? Will the buy it off the market? That could be very expensive for them. I directed these inquiries directly to PCGS’ President Don Willis, to which he replied that this is merely the initial launch of the product and they need some time to refine the details. I hope, at a minimum, that they ultimately choose to fingerprint every coin submitted (at least every coin over $500). I think that would benefit PCGS as much as the consumer.

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The Coin Market Phenomenon of 2009 is the Widening Gap between the Prices of High End and Low End Certified Coins

By Greg Reynolds

price_gapThe key to understanding current U.S. coin markets, and bourse activity at the ANA Convention, stems from the widening gap in prices between mid range to high end coins and low end or problematic coins. This growing gap reflects underlying currents in the marketplace, the recent trend of collectors becoming better educated and more sophisticated, and reasons to be optimistic about the future of U.S. coin collecting. Markets are logically adjusting to imperfections in grading practices, and collectors, on average, are showing a greater understanding of and greater appreciation for the aesthetic and technical characteristics of coins.

Partly because of this gap, price guides have less meaning than they did in previous eras, and it is now harder for buyers and sellers to hone in on the current price levels. U.S. coin dealers must use their experience, current observations, and intelligence to set prices, as world coin dealers have been doing for decades. Coin prices are becoming a little more mysterious and trading has become more interesting.

Two coins graded X by the same grading service may be very different, whether X is Good-04, VF-30, AU-55, Proof-64 or MS-66, or any other number on the accepted grading scale.

  • 1) An accurately graded coin’s grade may fall into the high end, mid range or low end of the X range.
  • 2) One coin might be much more attractive than the other.
  • 3) There is more than one route to the same destination, as there are different sets of reasons for a coin to grade X. This is especially true of coins that grade from 55 to 62.
  • 4) Some coins will score higher in terms of originality while others will have artificially induced characteristics.
  • 5) No grading service will ever be perfect, and the grades of many certified coins are legitimately subject to question by talented dealers and very advanced collectors. Grading services, including CAC, like all other entities, make mistakes.

Herein, I am also employing the notion, though, that the tastes and preferences of sophisticated buyers is more in line with traditions of coin collecting in the U.S., rather than the criteria of the PCGS, the NGC, or the CAC.

Matt Kleinsteuber, a grading expert with NFC coins, remarks that “quality for the grade means everything.” Of course, he knows that collectors have other considerations as well. Kleinsteuber emphasizes the differences in desirability and price among coins of the same type, date (or equivalent date) and certified grade.
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