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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…)

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…)

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…)

PCGS Announces Coin Sniffer™ Process Enhancement to Secure Plus Coin Grading

The Next Step To Improve And Protect the Coin Collecting Hobby

Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) today revealed additional steps it is taking to improve its ability to detect altered coins. PCGS announced that it has a process in development which will detect any foreign substance on a coin’s surface.

According to PCGS officials, in conjunction with the development of coin recognition technology launched in March of this year, PCGS has been developing a process to detect foreign materials and other enhancements to a coin’s surfaces.

Using energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDX), Fournier Transform Infra-Red Spectral analysis (FT-IR), Raman Spectroscopy and other similar analytical techniques, this detection process (code-named by PCGS, the PCGS Coin Sniffer™) will analyze the surfaces of a coin in a matter of seconds to detect foreign substances and provide quantitative information about the coin.

“Coin doctors” often apply numerous materials to the surfaces of coins to conceal problems with the coin, and/or alter the surfaces to improve its appearance in an attempt to artificially increase its value. The simultaneous alloy determination will further aid in the detection of counterfeits as an additional benefit.

David Hall, cofounder of PCGS and President of its parent company Collectors Universe, Inc. said, “[w]hen we launched PCGS Secure Plus featuring coin recognition technology we stated that it was just a first step in improving grading and battling coin doctoring. The PCGS Coin Sniffer™ is the next significant development in our ongoing efforts. When combined with our existing PCGS Secure Plus service, this new process will make it extremely difficult for altered coins to go undetected.”

“This new process is somewhat similar to what we often see as we are going through security at an airport,” said Don Willis, PCGS President. “We have already filed a patent which covers the methodology and unique techniques we are using for processing coins. The new PCGS Coin Sniffer™ process will be integrated with the help of our partner CoinSecure, Inc into the PCGS Secure Plus service and will be available at no additional cost. Our targeted production implementation is this year, although we will be conducting live testing much before then.”

The Finest $10 Indian Head Eagle Gold Coin Registry Set: The Simpson Collection

The all-time finest set of Indian Head Eagles was among the first coins certified under the new PCGS Secure Plus (http://www.pcgs.com/secureplus.html) system.

Known as “The Simpson Collection” and now added to the popular PCGS Set RegistrySM, the 32-coin set was assembled with the help of Laura Sperber of Legend Numismatics of Lincroft, New Jersey.

The set includes 18 of the finest known gem mint condition examples of their date and mint with none graded higher. Eleven of those are unique in their top grade including a 1920-S graded PCGS MS67+, the owner’s personal favorite coin in the set.

The set was displayed at the Professional Coin Grading Service booth during the American Numismatic Association National Money Show™ in Fort Worth, Texas, March 25 – 27, 2010. The revolutionary new PCGS Secure Plus system was formally announced there on the first day of the show by David Hall, PCGS Co-Founder and Collectors Universe, Inc. President, and Don Willis, PCGS President.

“This is the finest $10 Indian set ever assembled,” said David Hall – Co-Founder of PCGS. “The quality and originality of the set are unsurpassed in numismatic history. In my opinion, the 1920-S is the most important $10 Indian in existence.”

The Simpson collection is ranked in the PCGS Set Registry as the All-Time Finest set of gold Indian Head $10 circulation strikes, 1907- 1933 (http://www.pcgs.com/setregistry/alltimeset.aspx?s=71313). It has a weighted grade point average of 66.335 and is 100 percent complete.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better inaugural set to be submitted through PCGS Secure Plus. Thirteen of the coins received the ‘+’ designation. Our entire team was blown away by the quality of these coins,” said Willis. (more…)

Industry Leaders Comment on New PCGS Secure + Coin Grading Announcement

David Lisot, Executive Producer of Coin Television has put together a montage of comments from industry leaders following the PCGS announcement of its New Secure + coin grading service

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The PCGS Secure Plus process uses laser scanning to help detect coins that have been artificially enhanced since their last certification, combat “gradeflation” and excessive resubmissions of the same coins, and can also be used to help identify recovered stolen coins. Additionally, PCGS graders can now designate deserving, superior-quality coins as “Plus” within their respective grades, an important distinction when there are big differences in value between one grade point and the next.


The following industry professionals are included in this video as follows:

Video used with permission and courtesy of CoinTelevision.com and CoinVideo.com.