RAM-VT

Member
  • Content Count

    25
  • Joined

  • Last visited

About RAM-VT

  • Boards Title
    Learning the Ropes

Recent Profile Visitors

The recent visitors block is disabled and is not being shown to other users.

  1. Chapter 7 How many of you remember when NCLT was a four letter word As I remember it, I first came face-to-face with the acronym NCLT sometime in the very late 1970’s or early 1980’s. The first time I remember seeing it was in rants in the “letters to the editor” column in coin newspapers (newspaper not magazine) and it had to do with what might be called “Commemorative Sets” or modified Proof/UNC sets. I believe several of the British Commonwealth countries started issuing these coins/sets in the around 1980+/- depending on the country. NCLT stands for = Non-Circulating Legal Tender, these are coins struck in silver or gold with a defined value in that country’s currency (thus the legal tender) and the quantity of silver or gold used to make the coins was well in excess of the coins monetary value thus the non-circulating. These sets sold well in excess of its total face value to cover the cost of metal used and to make money for the country. The rants basically charged that these were not “true” coins and it was just a way for these small countries to make money. Well in fact they really were coins even thought they would never circulate. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum :>) Countries like the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and China to name just a few saw how much money could be made and starting in the late 80’s the U.S. would issue “commemoratives” for any reason we dream up. Except for our half dollar commemoratives everything from the US, Canada, Great Britain and China are NCLT and some are hotly collected. What still surprises me is that a lot of these early NCLT coins have been melted down and their initial issues were not that large making assembling complete sets of these early NCLT coins a challenge and in some cases near impossible. One such set would be the 250 Cayman Dollar Gold Coins Issues. The set would consist of just seven coins 1985 estimated issue 250 coins, 1986 64 issued, ND 75 issued, 1988 86 issued, 1990 est. 500 issued, 1993 est. 100 issued and 1994 200 issued. All but the 1990 issue had 1.4016 troy ounces of gold. The 1990 issue had 1.0024 troy ounces of gold. I picked up a 1988 issue for just under $300 from an estate auction in Ohio in the mid-1990’s. The coin did not have a COA and nothing that showed the gold content so everyone but me had to guess at its gold content I had my KM with me so I knew. The $300 purchase included the buyer’s fee. I wanted to sell it for melt several times but the thought of selling a coin for melt when only 86 were minted seemed crazy. I can always get melt but I believe a true premium is warranted. My specimen is PF69UC NGC has certified one other and it also is PF69UC. The stigma applied to NCLT in the late 1970’s & 1980’s does not seem to apply to current day NCLT coins. Best regards Ram
  2. RAM-VT

    Ram’s Soap Box

    Hello Swiss Knight (Cool moniker) First I agree with you on the benefit provided by the holders used by the third party grading companies. I have accidentally damaged way to many coins by simply dropping them or dropping something onto them. In some of my early posts you will see I have nothing but praises for these holders. As for your other comments I see you creating mountains where I don’t even see a mole hill. As for the extraneous comments about eye appeal, toning and blemishes you must have missed where I said NGC should keep doing what they are doing now. What I am against is NGC’s combining strike and surface conditions (which have nothing to do with grade or post production wear) to determine grade and the extremely naive assumption that a coin with a great strike must have a corresponding great surface as implied by their very own grading standards when there is absolutely no correlation between these two condition factors. Simply I want NGC to stop melding these condition factors and report them separately. This resistance to change reminds me of a presentation I was part of at a symposium many-many years ago. The purpose was to present new technologies that would provide an approach to the current method of addressing an industry problem. The lead off speaker represented the leader in providing the existing technology and his argument was unique. He started off by showing the outside of some research center in Russia with a motto carved in granite (in Russian) above the entry doorway. We were told it translated to something like “Better is the enemy of good enough.” In other words, if it works don’t waste your time trying to make it better. This approach may explain why the U.S. defeated the Russians in the cold war. With this approach we had no justification to improve on the Model T Ford, countries developing the bullet train when we had proven steam locomotives, and why replace the land line telephone or get rid of vacuum tubes for transistors? In the late 1960’s my mother had breast cancer and had to have both breast removed. Thank god doctors did not maintain the concept that mastectomies work so don’t look for something better. Unlike Russia, in America it is not part of our nature to say “oh it is good enough.” If we can do better, we do better. Best regards Ram
  3. RAM-VT

    Ram’s Soap Box

    Hello Coin928 Yes I have a copy of the ANA Grading Standards for United States Coins edited by Kenneth Bressett which I believe is a must have for in every numismatic library. I also owned a copy of Penny Whimsy by Dr. William Sheldon. And Dr. Sheldon never ever developed a grading system never mind a 70 point grading system that will be with us for a long time to come. Dr. Sheldon developed a methodology for pricing Early American Large Cents. This determination of a large cent’s value involved a few steps. First the value for every large cent would have to be developed in its Basel State (this is the lowest state of preservation in which you could still identify the Sheldon variety). Once these values are established you would then tell Dr. Sheldon the date of the large cent, its Sheldon number (or possibly he would determine it for you) and its adjectival grade (Good, VG, F, VF etc.). Dr. Sheldon would then find the Basel State value for that coin and multiply it by the value multiplier for the stated adjectival grade and determine the coin’s value. These value multipliers are what you and almost everyone else call the Sheldon grades. The value multiplier for Good was 4, VG =8 and so on. If you asked Dr. Sheldon to grade a coin he would have given you the appropriate adjectival grade based on the standards in use at the time and not a number. Right now I accept that the NGC graders can competently Grade Surface and Strike according to the definitions defined at their web site all I am saying is it totally illogical to defend the argument that a strike for an MS 67 must have a surface that corresponds to an MS67. There is NO correlation between Strike and Surface. So if the NGC can in fact score strike and surface according to their own guidelines as I believe they can then simply grade the coin UNC and present the strike and surface scores determine by the graders – there is no extra work involve since it is something they have to do for every UNC coin (MS or Proof) they grade. So all I am doing is asking for the grade to be broken down into its component values. This is not a new system in that I willing accept the standards used to determine grades but by presenting the information related to the components that makeup that grade you are providing the collector more info on what the collector is really getting. I agree that worn dies can produce some ugly looking coins but NGC ancients has found a way of addressing such conditions (They add notes to the label for such a case it could be “Worn Dies”). Look it NGC already says as part of grading any Uncirculated business strike or proof they score strike and surface. I personally want as much info as possible so I want that info that NGC generates before assigning a numerical designation. I know when I purchase ancients I will purchase a specimen with a strike of 5/5 and a surface 4/5 over one with a strike 4/5 and surface 5/5. With these two cases being so close together I prefer a bolder strike. Blending this info to a single number I feel cheats the collector of meaning information. Also I would never purchase either a MS or circulated ancient with either a surface or strike score below a 3/5. For me the scores defining condition related issues is just as important if not more important in some cases than the grade. If people could so readily accept a grading system that never existed (the so called Sheldon Grading System) why do you believe they could not accept the same info developed for that system in a form that simply provides the collector more information? My best regards
  4. Learn Grading: What Are Full Bands and Full Torch? https://www.ngccoin.com/news/article/6812/learn-grading-dimes/ Nothing new here, I am back to my pet peeve – silly grading standards. You can go onto reading other posts – this is my pet peeve and I am going to continue with such posts until someone can provide a convincing argument on why what NGC is doing is superior to my approach. I will be referring to the NGC article with the above address so I suggest you bring it up. Welcome All U.S. coins above AU-58 are graded using a standard that magically combines strike and surface conditions. I want to discuss this concept. First let me just briefly touch on what can affect strike and surface. Strike – The physical setup of the presses, installation of the dies and collars as well as slight variations in the dimensions of the planchet can all play some part in the quality of the strike produced. Once the dies start to separate in the process of converting a blank planchet into a newly minted coin the quality of the coin’s strike is forever defined. Things can happen to the coin that affect the condition of its surface but not the quality of its strike. Minor imperfection from post production handling cannot hide the quality of the original strike even scratches do not hide the quality of strike. Yes one could say if hit by a hammer the quality of the original strike would be obscured but so would all the features need to define a grade and score for both the strike and surface. In just such cases the determination would have to read “Physically Damaged Coin” no grade determination is possible. Surface – The condition of a coins surface immediately following the completion of the strike to the day it is forever removed from circulation is continuously changing if for no other reason due to chemical contaminants in the air. There are also changes due to physical contact with mint equipment, bagging, counting, transport and activities related to getting the coins to the bank and into the hands of the collector. Once in circulation the surface changes due to wear and physical damage. Please look the NGC definition for the grades MS-66 to MS-70 which I present below. Numerical Grades MS/PF70 A coin with no post-production imperfections at 5x magnification. MS/PF69 A fully struck coin with nearly imperceptible imperfections. MS/PF68 Very sharply struck with only miniscule imperfections. MS/PF67 Sharply struck with only a few imperfections. MS/PF66 Very well struck with minimal marks and hairlines First for the grade MS/PF70 Strike is not discussed because the strike for a MS/PF69 is defined as being “A fully struck coin.” How can one improve upon the strike required for an MS/PF69. As such it appears MS/PF69 is as high a strike can be graded or as I prefer scored, besides it appears surface conditions is what controls the determination of whether or not a coin can be graded 70. The following discussion relates to the NGC article specifies above and I refer specifically to the coins shown in that article. The first photo shows a 1935S Mercury Dime graded MS67+ and a 1917 Mercury Dime graded MS67+ FB. When you use the option to enlarge the photos it is obvious that the quality of the strikes are significantly different with the bands on the 1917 dime being fully struck up to the point that all the detail related to the bands is there while the 1935S dime has noticeable details related to the bands of the fasces missing, yet NGC gives both coins the same grade MS67+, by grade definition both are defined as being sharply struck even though one has flatness in the design features where the other does not!!!! Come on, what the heck kind of grading system is this? But the best is to come. The other photo shows a 1988D Roosevelt Dime graded MS67 and a 1984P Roosevelt Dime graded MS66 FT. These coins confuse the heck out of me. First the strike of the 1984P FT is defined as very well struck while the center design devices from the torch’s flame to the bands on the torch are boldly struck just like those on the Mercury dime. To say the least definitely superior to those same features on the 1988D whose strike is defined as Sharply Stroke one notch above “very well struck.” Here is where things get tricky. Is this a weighted grade? That is, is it an average of the entire obverse strike with the entire reverse strike? In the case of the Roosevelt dime there are three components that make up the design elements on the reverse of the dime. These are the Olive Branch, the Oak Branch and between them the torch with flame. On the MS67 the strike of the Olive & Oak branches is much better than the strike for these design features on the 84P dime with a FT designation. To put a major premium on this coin only because 1/3 of its reverse has a full strike is totally stupid while the rest of the strike is definitely inferior to the MS67. The concept to blend strike and surface condition to come up with a single grade is just stupid. I continue to insist NGC should grade all coins the way they do ancients. That is a grade for wear, a score for surface and a score for strike. All UNC. Mint state and Proof coins would get a grade of 60 simply it is either uncirculated or it isn’t. Then the strike would be scored 1 through 10 and the surface would be scored 1 through 10. This way the 1984P dime might have actually graded MS60 FT, Strike 6 and Surface whatever, this approach would tell the buyer that even though it has a full torch the overall strike is just slightly above "about average" (what I would call a score of 5/10) with a bold torch but some weakness in the overall strike. In this way the buyer can determine how much, in the buyer’s opinion, that premium should be, if any. To be honest I don’t think every collector would pay big bucks for a full torch with a strike of 6 when FT dimes with strikes of 7, 8 or possibly 9 exist. Also how does the NGC system address a coin with a strike of 7 and a surface of 4? Don’t say they don’t exist. Simply it is stupid to think that strike and surface would always have a comparable score. Strike is the result of the minting process and Surface is the result of what happens after the coin is minted and simply these two factors have no relationship to one another. Although I keep insisting that NGC should use the same approach to grading used by the NGC Ancient Department, it appears that the NGC Ancient Department has lost its way with respect to grading Mint State coins. Rather than just use the designation UNC or Mint State the ancients department has embraced the following terms used by NGC: MS = Mint State/UNC = equivalent to the grades: 60 Weak or average strike with no trace of wear. Numerous abrasions, hairlines and/or large marks. 61 Weak or average strike with no trace of wear. More marks and/or multiple large abrasions. 62 Slightly weak or average strike with no trace of wear. More or larger abrasions than an MS/PF 63 Ch MS = Choice Mint State/UNC = equivalent to the grades: 63 Slightly weak or average strike with moderate abrasions and hairlines of varying sizes. 64 Average or better strike with several obvious marks or hairlines and other minuscule imperfections Gem MS = Gem Mint State/UNC = equivalent to the grades: 65 Well struck with moderate marks or hairlines. 66 Very well struck with minimal marks and hairlines 67 Sharply struck with only a few imperfections. 68 Very sharply struck with only minuscule imperfections. 69 A fully struck coin with nearly imperceptible imperfections. 70 A coin with no post-production imperfections at 5x magnification. Do you see the problem here? The terms MS, Ch MS & Gem MS are defined as being equivalent to the indicated NGC grades and these grades are defined by distinct conditions related to both strike and surface. So how is it possible for NGC ancient to score an MS ancient with either a strike or surface as a 4 or 5 (which many are) if by definition of these characteristics are typically weak and at very best average? The same goes for Ch MS and all Gem MS ancients must score at least 4 for both strike and surface. One thing is NGC Ancient may want to score MS state ancients on a scale of 1 to 10. However at a minimum NGC Ancients must define the designations MS, Ch MS & Gem MS (if they insist on using this approach) by using terms that in no way relate to the coin’s strike or surface conditions as the current definitions do since NGC Ancients already scores these features independently. I am not trying to give the NGC Ancient Department hard time. I was and still am super pleased when NGC Ancients decided to move from the 18th century and almost totally move into the 21st century by recognizing that grade and strike & surface are not related and must be addressed separately. NGC Ancient fell short only when they decided to force their grading of Mint State ancients to look like all the other grading done at NGC rather than accepting that they are the standard against which all other approaches to grading should be compared. By the way there is no need for Ch. MS or Gem MS, to a great extent Ch MS should be implied when one gets a high score for both Strike & Surface. This would be stronger if for Mint State coins the scoring for strike and surface was increased to 1-10 from 1-5. And there is no better way to imply a gem specimen then to assign the coin the highest scores (8 to 10 or 9 to 10) for strike and surface as well as designating it as having both eye appeal and Fine Style. Regards
  5. Chapter 6 The Hunt I don’t care what you collect, every collector dreams of that “Big Find,” that is the (put in your own value) dollar rarity that falls into your lap for a steal and it is all legal and aboveboard. Does this really happen? Yes and I want to tell you about mine. But let’s first discuss what makes such finds possible. With just a couple of exception all my successful hunts took place at local auctions. Some were estate auctions that had a few coins in them, some were regularly schedule coin auctions held by local auction houses that could routinely (once a month or so) pull together enough coins and related items to hold an auction and some were better known local auction houses who happened upon a large holding of coins in good enough condition to justify holding a special auction or incorporating the coins into a two day auction. Please note that all these coin auctions were well attended by all the local coin dealers and for larger auctions dealers from neighboring states would attend. So how does a nobody scoop the dealers? I wish I had an honest answer for you. In the accounts that follow when I think I know why I was successful I will tell you. Either Yogi Berra or Casey Stengel make a comment that went something like, you would be surprised at what you can see if you just look. I know for a fact that I had many good finds simply by studying every lot up for auction. This approach landed me numerous proof and mint state Doubled Die Washington Quarters, Franklin halves, Kennedy Halves and a really nice 1946 DDR Walking Liberty. All I needed was a good magnifying glass and a willingness to spend a little extra time to look at what was up for sale. My first successful hunt came when I was 5 years old. Every Saturday before my mom went shopping she use to let me go through her change for those coins I needed to fill the holes in my Whitman folder. I got to check her change before she left and after she came home. Would you believe I found a 1921-D walking liberty half dollar!!!!!!!!!!! I ran to my mom and asked if I could have the half dollar. She said no. If you remember from Chapter 2 my parents worked in mills and 50C represented a half hour of labor before taxes. I kept pleading & telling her how few were made and when I pointed out it was $8.50 in one grade and $16 in another grade she decided to let me keep it. That coin was my lucky charm and I took it to every coin show I set up at until one day a fellow dealer stole it from my cash box. I say dealer because only dealers were allowed behind the tables. By the way I completed an entire set of Walking Liberty Halves from pocket change (I never purchase a single one). To support my hunts I had a “go box” ready, it always had the basics one or two standard generic references, magnifying glasses, note book and two pens (one wrote in red) I would then add other books based on the material listed to be included in the auction. The only items I would take into the viewing was a red book, magnifying glass & note pad. The rest I would leave in the car. After viewing the lots I would take my notes and go out to the car and check my notes against info in the appropriate reference book. Sometimes I would have to go back and check for additional characteristics. This was my preparation for the auction. Have good references for detecting counterfeits because they also tell you what to look for on the genuine coins. Whether you know it or not many, if not most, of our rarer coins were produced from one set of dies, thus the low mintages. But also the easier to verify it is what you believe it to be. Here is a mini test - where must you look to authenticate a 1942/1 dime? If you didn’t specify a particular location on the reverse of the coin please go back to class. Because only one die pair was used to produce ALL 1942/1 dimes, a genuine 1942/1 must have a die scratch on the reverse. No scratch no 1942/1 dime. The first lead authenticator for the ANACS (originally this was an authentication service only – no grading) told me when they got in 1942/1 dimes they always examined the back first and this check was always correct. You have a similar situation with the 1937-D three legged Buffalo Nickel. Both the obverse and reverse dies were rusted and the obverse surface produced by that rusted die is as important as the missing leg. Well I was at an auction in a firehouse west of Frederick, MD and I was impressed by all the key and semi-key coins in that auction. I was studying the list of items up for sale and there all by itself was a 1937-D nickel. I said to myself why in the world are they selling a 35c coin all by itself? Then the light bulb went on, this has to be a three legged nickel. I started to get up to check it out and I looked at the table where the coins were on display and it was surrounded by all the dealers from Frederick and surrounding areas and as far away as Baltimore. And any coin a bidder picked up to check out they immediately rechecked after it was placed back on the table. So I walked up to the table and didn’t pick up a single coin all I did was look at the obverse of that nickel and it screamed 1937-D three legged buffalo. The bidding started at a quarter and when it got to a dollar the chatter picked up and when I won the coin for $1.75 there were some snickers. When I looked at the back I saw the scratch in the area of the missing foot. I smiled sent it into ANACS and it came back a three legged buffalo. Had the other bidders looked at the entire coin and all its genuine characteristics the selling price would have been higher. I sold that coin for around $125. A strange example of how just looking happened to find me a good coin I was going through my own junk box. One day I decided to go through a box containing well-worn coins as well as world coins I could not identify. I was pulling out the silver coins to sell them for melt. As I pull out what looked like a slug I gave it an extra look to see if it was really silver and was amazed at how well-worn the piece was. Just as I was to let fly into the melt pile I realize there was actually a design on it that I could make out. It was a John Chalmers’ short worm shilling (1783) I had no idea where or when I acquired it. But since at the time I was living in Maryland I could only assume it was part of a box lot I picked up at one of the back woods country auctions I frequented. After sending it to ANACS I was able to sell it for about $100. My first true “hunt find” was at a fire station auction in Wolfsville, MD. I got there early on a Saturday because I did not expect to find anything and there was another auction I could go to. When I saw the coin component of this auction was only about 18 coins I wasn’t going to waste my time. But then I said I’m here there was only 18 coins take a look then leave. The only coin to catch my eye was an 1873 no arrows half dollar. The coin was totally undamaged and a very pleasing VG. When I checked the red book it catalogued for $20 BUT WAIT there is an open three and closed three and the closed three catalogues for over $1,000. At that time the red book did not have a photo of a closed three and if they did I probably would not have purchased this coin. Why? Do you know how small the opening is in the open 3? The opening is 0.4mm and the closed 3 is 0.2mm. Being half the size one would think that is easy to see but you don’t have them side by side and with just one coin to look at 0.4mm looks like it might be 0.2mm and 0.2mm might be 0.4mm. The only reason I did not pass on this coin was that I had once owned a closed three quarter and from what I remembered the date on that half dollar reminded me of that quarter. Because I got there early I drove 45 minutes back to my house ran down to my 450+ book library and guess what not a single photo of a closed three 1873 no arrows half dollar. Now I was almost out of time so back to car and back to the auction house. I decided to buy the half dollar. If I get it for $20 so what the coin was worth that and if I pay $5 or $10 more so what that isn’t going to brake me. I won the bidding at $20 and as I was handed the coin my hands were shaking and the person giving me the coin saw them shaking said you did good and I said “if you only knew.” Off it went to ANACS and I ended up selling it for over $1,000. Now for my ultimate “Hunt Find” this one is mind blowing at least for me. It was a two day “coin” auction that was held in Williston, VT. There was a full day of viewing the day before the auction started. When I say a full day I was there over nine hours, I was there as it was being opened and I was there as it was being closed. The dealers showed up in teams splitting up the work of checking out the lots. I was there by myself. I found several lots I would bid on. But just as they were asking me to leave I opened a small box that contained 13 ancient coins and the first coin I saw was an Aes Grave Semis (1/2 AS) from 280 to 269 BC. When I got home I got out my ancient books and determined it was a Sear 535 which has a decades old valuation of $500. This was a massive coin and hard to miss with a weight of about 130 grams. There were other Roman and Greek coins which I estimated to be worth another $750 to $1000 and about three Byzantine bronzes worth about $50 each. That night I decided this lot was mine and was willing to go at least $750. I knew I was going to get this lot because this is Vermont and this lot may represent half of all the ancient coins in the state at that time. The lots were sold in the order they were displayed for viewing so this lot sold at the end of the second day which also help me win it because most bidders had left by then. The lot opened at around two hundred dollars then moved down to $150 > then $100 then > $50 then $25 at which point I won the bid for $25 + buyer’s fee so $28.50 in total. I sold the poorest condition coins first and that netted me a little over $1,000 . I then sent the remaining coins to NGC Ancients. A few weeks later I get a call from Dave Vagi at NGC Ancients and he started questioning me about my submittal. He finally told me that one of my Byzantine coins was not byzantine but in fact one of the most important Armenian coins in existence and worth about $15,000. You can read the whole story at https://www.ngccoin.com/news/article/1258. The article includes a photo which is better than the photo you get when you use the certification number 2406902-023. The results of this hunt was just dumb luck, but what I will take credit for is making sure everything in my collection is identified. I could have simply continued to assume that what I thought were three byzantine coins where just that and sold them for $50 each. This again brings up the question when should a buyer tell a professional/dealer what he is selling is worth more than what he is selling for? Look, I have been to hundreds of these auctions and everyone starts the same way. The auction house makes no claims that their descriptions are accurate, they do not stand behind any grade you might find on a holder and it is up to the buyer to decide what the auction house is selling is real or a fake item. So if the coin is damaged, a fake or not as described and I find this out one second after I purchased it, too bad that is my fault!!!! Well I am sorry I am not obligated to tell the professional/dealer that an item is worth more than they think it is. Regards
  6. Thanks jgenn I am glad you mentioned checking for specific gravity since it is one of the best ways to check for fakes. In fact my three beam balance beam scale is designed to facilitate the suspension of an item/coin in water.
  7. Chapter 5 Tools of the traded What “tools” do coin collectors need to support their interest in this hobby? As with most things related to coin collecting I have very strong opinions on this topic. I will however try to be realistic. I want to first address the tools that are available to collectors. 1 – Numismatic Knowledge – This is without a doubt the key tool in the coin collector’s tool box. The truest guidance ever given the collector is the old adage “buy the book before the coin.” No one is born knowing all there is to know about collecting any type of coin. This knowledge must be developed with the creation of a numismatic library. The contents of this library will depend on the specific contents of each and every collection. Before I stopped collecting, my personal numismatic library contained over 450 volumes. I sold them over time in auctions conducted by Kolbe & Fanning and you can go to your search engine and find many more dealers in numismatic related books. 2 – Some form of magnifying device. I always wanted a stereo microscope but could never really come up with the money to buy one and I really could not set one up at an auction site. I settled for a group of well-made handheld magnifying glasses 5X, 10X and 20X. Typically with the handheld glasses the higher the magnification power the small the field you look at when you use them. Why would you want/need this tool, first to assist in grading and second to assist in determining varieties and checking for doubled dies. If you want to know a secret the best magnifying glass I ever had was a lense from a home movie projector or home movie camera (I am not sure which). After I purchased one and found it to be such a great magnifying glass I purchased a second. Eventually I wore them both out. The lense had a zoom function and over time I just wore the zoom function out. If you ever have the opportunity to acquire one of these lenses don’t turn your nose up at it just because it doesn’t look like a magnifying glass. 3 – A Vernier caliper this is more for counterfeit detection of colonial and truly early U.S. coinage. But here you must be sure of the value you are comparing your measurement against. About two years ago I was at a local auction which contained 1797 sixteen star dime. I closely studied the coin in order to make two determinations and these were; is it real and, what is it grade? I graded the coin XF and everything I saw said this coin is real. I won the auction and paid $4.600 including buyer’s fee. After I paid for the coin one of the bidders came up to me and said I really wanted that coin but I think it is a fake. He said according to the Red Book this coin is supposed to have a diameter of 19mm and that this coin has a diameter of 20mm and possibly a little over. He used a small plastic ruler he laid over the coin to measure it. I said that his info surprises me. And that was that. When I got home the first thing I did was get out Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. Guess what Breen gave the diameter as 19.8mm or approximately 20mm vs the Red Book and approximately 19mm. Anyway the coin came back from NGC graded XF-45 and it also received a CAC sticker when I sent it in for that. The coin sold for $8,000 over what I paid for it. 4 – A scale, I use a three beam balance beam good to 0.01 grams. The Caliper and scale combined are great tools to help in the detecting of counterfeits whether it be a contemporary or modern counterfeit. 5 – A comparator Magnifier. I use a “Desk Model” and once you develop the correct technique for using one of these you will be glad you have one. You only need this item when identifying die varieties of colonial through mid-ninetieth century coins. These are not expensive items. Mine came with eight interchangeable end lenses (four in black markings and the same four in white markings). Coins of light metals or toning use the black and darker coins use the white. Mine brakes a centimeter into mm’s and mm’s into 1/10ths of mm’s. So you can accurately measure small variances in design elements or the location of design elements relative to one another. I also use it to grade stamps by measuring the distance from the bottom of the perf to the frameline of a stamp (usually in two locations on all four sides of the stamp). I strive to identify grades higher than VF and not a single stamp has comeback worse than VF-XF with XF being typical and an occasional XF-S. OK which if any of these tools do I recommend for you. – Trick question because my answer will depend on what you collect. So let’s take these tools one at a time. Show dealers – these are collectors that on weekends setup at coin shows to sell to the public. These individuals need the most accepted reference book related to every type of coin they sell. In addition they must attribute every coin they sell with the variety designator provided in the appropriate reference. Once one of these individuals offer a coins for sale they become a dealer and they are expected to be knowable on the material they are selling. To sell coins without attribution they’re telling those that visit their table they’re really just a hack who is either too cheap to purchase the necessary reference material and/or too lazy to put in the time to find out what it is they’re really selling. I once read a post where a “Show Dealer” whined and cried about collectors who would come to his table and cherrypick his inventory. He totally believed that when a customer found a rare variety in his inventory they should be obligated to inform the dealer of this. To this I say BULL! There is no reason that dealer cannot purchase the appropriate reference material unless the dealer is just too cheap to purchase the necessary reference material and/or too lazy to put in the time to find out what it is they’re really selling. So this dealer believes it is up to his customers to do his job – No Way. Show dealers must add to their library a decent number of references on counterfeit detection. In the 80’s & 90’s there were a couple of firms that several times a year published packets of 8½ X 11 sheets that detailing recent new counterfeits that came into the market place. If you can find any of these buy them because those counterfeits are still out there and some are quite good. I have a few ring binders full of these sheets. I would also include two general references these being the MEGA RED (the massive red book) and Walter Breen’s complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins. And last but not least a very good grading reference. If as a dealer one limits his inventory to 20th & 21st century coins you can skip the scale, calipers & comparative magnifier. If you are going to deal in a wide range of U.S. coins, in my opinion, you will need all of the tools listed above. Now the collector Once you have decided on what it you want to collect you have defined what it is that you need in your library. That is your library must be tailored to the material you collect. There is one exception here. If your goal is to complete type sets or a single massive type set covering all U.S. coinage you need not go after all the specialty books such as those dedicated to half cents, large cents, bust halves and etc., etc. Since all you are looking for are coins that represent each type the MEGA RED or Walter Breen’s complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins will serve you well. When it comes to reference books stay away from simple reprints of monographs. In my library I had a copy of Valentine’s original monograph on half dimes and a newer reprint of the monograph. The photos in the reprint were nowhere near the quality of those in the monograph. Even though I wanted to protect that original work from wear and tear I ended up using the original monograph more than I wanted. When it comes to what tools to get to support his hobby, the collector should follow what I recommended for the show dealer. If the show dealer and collector both specialize in the same areas they should both be on the same footing when it comes to depth of knowledge and tools used. When the dealer prefers to support a larger base of collectors and purchases inventory for this larger base he may have a very good knowledge base to handle his inventory but the collector who specializes should know more about his area of specialization than the dealer. Best regards
  8. Chapter 4 There are always unintended consequences For those of us into ancient coins (as I currently am) NGC is doing something long overdue in this field of numismatics, based on the coins they have certified, they are developing a condition census of sorts (i.e., not a true condition census) that will still provide very useful information to the ancient coin collecting community. I have no idea when the results of this project will be made available (if at all) to NGC members or the collecting community in general. However NGC has made its data available to Heritage Auctions who in turn provides this data as part of their online auction listings. When I found this data I was overjoyed. But I was also surprised at the large number of MS, Ch AU, AU and Ch XF coins some ancient issues had. I mean really surprised. I expected the data for this census to be skewed to the upper end grades because let’s face it unless you have a really rare coin who is going to pay round trip registered mail postage and grading fees for a common fine ancient and depending on the issue this question could include VF’s. It appears (I cannot document this) that ancient coin prices have started to drop in general because the upper end coin prices have dropped due to a perceived larger than expected availability of inventory in higher grades. This most likely is not true for the truly key/rare issues but rather those specimens typically found in ancient collections. Simply people see the data and apparently don’t try to understand it and may just assume this is representative of what is out there. Again just because of the cost to certify coins this data will always be skewed to the upper end. As an example I looked up my AU Strike 5/5 Surface 4/5, Gordian III, AR Drachm, Caesarea, Cappadocia and found 268 had been graded, with just 16 graded below XF. Now David Sear’s work on Greek Imperial Coins and their values released in 1982 with reprints (not new editions) up to 2006. So we are basically working with 36 year old valuations. And the value given for a VF specimen is 100£ or about $140 in 1982. On October 26, 2017 a high end VF (listed uncertified grade was "about XF") sold for $61!!! Between October 13, 2016 and November 2, 2017 Heritage had 11 sales of NGC certified MS specimens of this coin involving 7 different specimens ranging in price from $141 to $282 with an average selling price of $195. So what do we have here when in 1982 the book value for this coin in VF was $140 with the following guidance provided re. valuation: "Collectors must bear in mind that exceptionally well preserved examples are worth substantially more than the prices quoted, whilst very worn or damaged specimens can be almost valueless", in the case of common bronze coins. (The bold type is as give in the book.) So to go from VF to MS there are step increases in the coin's value as it goes to Ch VF, XF, Ch XF, AU, Ch AU and then Mint State in total six step increases. I am sorry but I do not believe a MS valuation of $195 meets Sear’s guidance on higher valuations for MS specimens unless the value for VF specimens is well below $140 as apparently it actually is. Until NGC came along grading of ancient coins was a total joke. Recently I was trying to research the value of some ancient coins in my collection and I was using auction results information from numerous dealers through NGC’s site. The auction result infomation lists 25 coins per page. One page had 20 coins graded some type of VF (yes 20) the remaining 5 were some type of Fine. Checking the photos the actual grade (based on my grading) was all over the place one VF looked like a well-worn slug as was no where near a VF specimen. Anyway these 20 coins had the following grades in their auction listings, Ch VF, Good VF, Nice VF, VF+, VF, About VF (this is really a high end Fine, I hate it when dealers use a higher grade designator to define a lower grade), Near VF (see previous grade). All I can say is thank you NGC for your efforts in developing this condition census. And I hope when you release this data to the general public you make it clear that the data is skew and why. Best regards
  9. A Supplement to Chapter 3 Grading Look it I can talk forever on the subject of grading mainly because I have some very strong feelings on the subject. This may due to my age and a belligerent nature that I have developed on topics I feel strongly about over my years in this hobby. So now I am going to tell you how I really feel about grading. First let’s get one thing perfectly straight and that is everyone has biases. These biases influence our perception when we must interpret things like standards for grading. I had a political science professor that on the first day of class said “history is as perceived by the historians.” What he was saying was that there is no one real history. Political scientists tend to prefer historical accounts of events that support their perceptions. To give just one example I had always believed that FDR should have impeached for trying to stack (a term used within the FDR White House) the Supreme Court. Then one day listening to an interview with a political science professor on Vermont Public radio this very subject was addressed. The professor took issue with the term "stacking the court" and this was not FDR’s intent and that he totally dropped the issue once congress refused to support his plan. I said well I guess I was wrong and continue to listen to the interview. Then a few months later a documentary on FRD on the history channel again addressed this issue. It was pointed out that the action of congress to not support FRD in his attempt to stack the Supreme Court so upset FDR that in the very next election he spent all his remaining political capital (which evidently wasn’t that much) to defeat the twelve that voted against his plan. Only one of those twelve lost reelection. That is when FDR gave up on his plan to stack the Supreme Court. Two totally different accounts of one relatively recent event in American History. Which one is true? I depends on your personal bias or perception of FDR. What makes a good grader? As far as I am concerned what makes a good grader is reparation – reparation – reparation – reparation. From my days when I was routinely buying coins to acquire stock for coin shows I would go to local coin auctions and grade every coin up for sale and when at coin shows I would grade coins (to myself) of the other dealers. All this took place before third party grading took off. I knew I made it when a friend of mine that owned a coin shop in Rockville, MD would ask my opinion. Do I ever disagree with a grade I get back from a third party grader? Yes yet I accept it (I yield to overwhelming experience). I expect these professional graders grade more coins in a week than most collectors see in a year (in some cases years). This also goes for small time dealers. Well established coin dealers with high inventory throughput rates should also have excellent grading skills. Simply looking at a dozen or so coins a week just isn’t going to cut it. There are more than 15 grades between AG & AU-58 and 11 grades of UNC. At 12 random coins a week how long would it take the average collector to examine one coin of each type in each grade? The key grading tool related to grading is a well-established grading standard. When I started there was Brown & Dunn which used drawings to define the basic grades. Then came James Ruddy with Photograde (I still have my well-worn copy held together with Duct Tape) and this was followed by the ANA Grading Standards. Now to show a bias I had, I would buy coins using Brown & Dunn and sell coins using Photograde. Old timers wouldn’t think twice when someone checked their Brown & Dunn when assigning a grade. And Photograde was such an instant hit that no one questioned you when you handed them your Photograde to check grade. So yes I perceived a difference in accepted standards whether it was real or not. All I know is I made money in my sales. Today the major third party grading firms have reference collections something dealers and collectors don’t have. Do we now have acceptable/workable grading system? In my opinion the answer is not simply no, but HELL NO. I addressed this issue in my first Chapter 3 post. I am totally against the single designator grading system whether this designator be a number or an adjectival grade. First in grades above AU-58 it assumes that strike issues and surface condition issue exist in comparable relationship. For example using NGS grading standards: MS/PF68 - Very sharply struck with only miniscule imperfections. MS/PF67 - Sharply struck with only a few imperfections. MS/PF66 - Very well struck with minimal marks and hairlines. MS/PF65 - Well struck with moderate marks or hairlines. MS/PF64 - Average or better strike with several obvious marks or hairlines and other miniscule imperfections. MS/PF63 - Slightly weak or average strike with moderate abrasions and hairlines of varying sizes. Why can’t you have and MS-68 Strike and an MS-64 surface? I am sorry this is really not an ideal fantasy world. In the real world nature would not allow this assumed perfect relationship. Second in grades below MS-60 it ignores strike and issues that can affect the coins overall appearance/desirability. NGC’s grading standards for circulated grades does not address variances in strike and surface conditions? In coins from the mid-1800’s on up to present day this should be relatively negligible but just like with Mint State coins they are there and in earlier coins one would definitely expect to find circulated coins with variations in strike and surface on coins from all around the world. And talk about interpretation of a standard we have well struck, very well struck, sharply struck, very sharply struck and fully struck we have similar word play with imperfection and marks. In this case we cannot eliminate the possibility for different interpretations for such guidance. Here is where we must rely on the experience resulting from reparation – reparation – reparation – reparation. For me the perfect grading system would be based on that used by NGC’s ancient department, however, modified to address modern strikes. In this case every coin would be graded for wear with all truly uncirculated MS & Proof coins being graded 60 and then Strike and Surface being individually scored 1 through 10 or whatever scale you choose (ancients use 1 through 5). Similarly circulated coins would be graded e.g., XF-45 Strike 6/10 Surface 8/10. Wear is defined by XF-45, Strike is defined by 6/10 and Surface is defined by 8/10. Maybe circulated coins could use the 1 through 5 range used by NGC’s ancient department. Best regards
  10. I need to edit my last journal which is posted. I can not believe there is no way to edit a posted journal, I just can not find out how to it. Thanks for any advice I can get
  11. Chapter 3 Grading is not a four letter word There is no way we can have a discussion of coin collecting without eventually getting to the subject of grading. The reason a coin’s grade is so important is that the coin’s grade is the key factor in determining the coin’s value but not the only factor. Technically the grade all by itself indicates the amount of wear the coin has experienced after the planchet was struck by the dies and became a coin. Sometime in the 19th century the production of coins became highly mechanized and exacting production standards were implemented and achieved resulting in almost every coin of a given denomination coming out of a major mint being identical to all other coins of that denomination. But in the early 1800’s and going back to the first coins struck at a mint there was no nice and neat uniformity in coins of the same denomination produced at a given mint. There were many reasons for this with the obvious reasons being as follows: 1 - Each pair of dies were either totally or partially hand cut (thus no true uniformity in the dies); 2 – Differences in the pressure used to produce the coin; 3 – Varying planchet dimensions including non-uniform thickness across the same planchet; 4 – The planchet was not parallel to both dies or both dies were not parallel to the planchet; 5 – The hammer and anvil dies would wear out at different rates resulting in a used die (but not totally worn out die) being matched with a new die being combined and the appearance of one side of a coin having more wear than the other. Let us be serious here, you have to admit that the grade XF/VF has to be one of the stupidest concepts ever devised in grading coins. Coins are small and totally randomly handled and could someone please tell me how in the act of commerce a coin could experience more wear to one side of the coin than to the other. Please reach into your pocket and pull out a coin making sure you only touch one side of the coin (and almost always the same side). Have any of you ever seen a real “Pocket Piece”? How many of these had wear to only one side? So with older coins we have reasons why just minted coins do not look the same. Then there are the post minting factors, Bulk transport/handling marks (bag marks), dropping the coin or dropping things on to the coins, scratches, environmental conditions, business related condition issues (chop marks & counter stamps) and then collector inducted condition issues resulting in surface problems due to stupid attempts to make the coin look better (improper cleaning) and last be not least the one thing that most likely has ruined many a nice coin and that is the staple. Fortunately 2X2 holders are not used that much today but in my day every collector and dealer carried around 2X2 boxes crammed full of coins in 2X2 holders with a staple in all four sides. The problem is these staples were not crimped down flat so that when a 2X2 was pulled out of those boxes the raised staples would scrape across the coins behind it. I have seen many a nice coin ruined by stapples. So how do we address these other factors that result in condition issues but do not affect the grade? Actually the approach taken by NGC in grading ancient coins is as far as I am concerned the only viable approach for a grading system for coins. This concept first grades the coin and second scores on a scale of 1 through 5 the coins strike, this would address items 1 through 5 above and then scores on a scale of 1 through 5 the coins surface, this would address the remaining issues listed above. For uncirculated MS & Proof coins NGC decided to combine strike and condition issues into an 11 point grading scale. MS/PF70 - A coin with no post-production imperfections at 5x magnification. MS/PF69 - A fully struck coin with nearly imperceptible imperfections. MS/PF68 - Very sharply struck with only miniscule imperfections. MS/PF67 - Sharply struck with only a few imperfections. MS/PF66 - Very well struck with minimal marks and hairlines. MS/PF65 - Well struck with moderate marks or hairlines. MS/PF64 - Average or better strike with several obvious marks or hairlines and other miniscule imperfections. MS/PF63 - Slightly weak or average strike with moderate abrasions and hairlines of varying sizes. MS/PF62 - Slightly weak or average strike with no trace of wear. More or larger abrasions than an MS/PF 63. MS/PF61 - Weak or average strike with no trace of wear. More marks and/or multiple large abrasions. MS/PF60 - Weak or average strike with no trace of wear. Numerous abrasions, hairlines and/or large marks. If this is what NGC wants who am I to say no. but I would prefer a purer system where all truly uncirculated MS & Proof would simply be designated "Uncirculated" and Strike and Surface would individually be scored 1 through 10 using the above standards. Another problem with the remaining grading system presented by NGC is that circulated coins is that it only address wear that the coin receives once the coin enters circulations. As far as NGC is concerned circulated coins have no strike or surface issues, could that really be true????????? Don’t you fine this to be strange particularly for pre 19th century coins from the U.S and older coins from around the world – why should they have no Strike or Surface issues while UNC’s do????? In a future post I will address an issue every collector's enjoys. And that is “The Hunt” or search for a great find and believe me I have had more than my share which I will talk about later and why I was able to make these finds. But understanding grading from around the world can result in you making some great purchases. Many decades ago when I was building my numismatic library (an absolute must for serious collectors) I purchased an English equivalent to our Red Book published by I believe Seaby. The first thing I read was the section on grading. Now get this, an AU was defined as an UNCIRCULATED coin with poor eye appeal. Then the light bulb went on. How many AU, XF or even VF American coins can I purchase from English dealers or form dealers in countries using the English grading standards??? My most recent purchase was November of last year. I purchased the following coins: 1900 Liberty Head Nickel 1900 Barber Dime 1900 Barber Quarter 1900 Barber ½ Dollar The above were described as toned XF or better, the nickel, dime and quarter NGC graded MS-63 and the half dollar was graded AU50 1912-S Cent listed as an XF graded AU55 There still out there folks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But be careful, foreign dealers don’t seem to mention problems and particularly if the coin has been cleaned (you really have to study any photos and send e-mails). Regards
  12. Chapter 2 – In the Beginning I am not unlike many collectors my age that started collecting by filling holes in those little blue Whitman booklets. I was really into it with booklets for pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. I did have the booklets for Walking Liberty Halves but very seldom did I have a half dollar coin to place in the booklet. Since my basic source of collectibles was pocket change silver dollars were just out of the question even thought my dad’s pay envelope did contain them. Also since both my parents worked in mills $1 was close to an hour's pay back then and putting a dollar coin into a booklet was out of the question as far as my dad was concerned. Filling those booklets remained my basic approach to collecting even after graduating college although by then I was buying some of my coins. In the 1970’s I became aware of how broad the numismatic universe really is. I don’t mean just world coins vs. US coins. What I am talking about is US coins, world coins, ancient coins, medals and tokens. I cannot believe how beautiful many of the Swiss Shooting Medals are; they are for all practical purposes small works of art. My awaking to the numismatic universe was kindled by the sale of the Garrett collection which was sold from 1979 through 1985 (Seven auctions in total containing 2354 US pieces and 4841 world and ancient pieces). The sale of the Garrett collection was followed by the Brand auctions in the early 1980’s. The sale of the Garrett collection followed so closely by the Brand auction simply reinforced my belief I had to completely revise my approach to coin collecting. Did I really need well over 100 Lincoln cents all looking the same except for mint mark and the last two digits in the dates? I really became obsessed with variety or really diversity in what I added to my collection. I sold off all my sets and started to collect US Type coins, and coins from around the would. My world coins were much older than my US and in many cases much rarer. If I were to start collecting US coins again all my sets would be type sets. Because collectors can define their type set anyway they want, one can get as simple or as far out as one wants. But a complete type set of US coins would be massive and every coin would be of a different type. There is one type set I am fascinated with, it has the simplest type concept yet I believe it would be a very difficult set to assemble in total. Simply it is a complete type set of 1873 US coinage. This set contains the following 32 coins, yes I said 32 coins for a one year type set.. Indian Head Cent 1873 Closed 3 1873 Open 3 Two Cent Piece 1873 Closed 3, Proof only 1873 Open 3. Restrike Proof Only Silver 3 Cent Piece 1873 Closed 3, Proof only Copper-Nickel 3 Cent Piece 1873 Closed 3 1873 Open 3 Seated Liberty Half Dime 1873 Shield Nickel 1873 Closed 3 1873 Open 3 Seated Liberty Dime 1873 Closed 3 1873 Open 3 1873 Arrows at Date Seated Liberty Quarter Dollar 1873 Closed 3 1873 Open 3 1873 Arrows at Date Seated Liberty Half Dollar 1873 Closed 3 1873 Open 3 1873 Arrows at Date Seated Liberty Dollar 1873 Trade Dollar 1873 Indian Large Head Gold Dollar 1873 Closed 3 1873 Open 3 Coronet Quarter Eagle 1873 Closed 3 1873 Open 3 Indian Head $3 Gold 1873 Open 3 Proof Only 1873 Closed 3 Original Coronet Half Eagle 1873 Closed 3 1873 Open 3 Coronet Eagle 1873 Coronet Double Eagle 1873 Closed 3 1873 Open 3 Best regards
  13. Hello Kohaku Thank you for your very kind comments As for my future Journals I plan on no more than one a week. That will give time to plan on how to address the upcoming topic. As for selling any of what I have left of my collection, that will be addressed in one of my Journals. But what ever happens it will not be soon. Regards
  14. Looking back on my 70 years of collecting Chater 1 - The End My third try at posting this journal. Today I did something I hoped I would never have to do. I deleted my now much smaller ancient custom set. Due to finances I had to sell off a large portion of my ancient collection. Since I will no long have the financial means to meaningfully grow this collection I took the reasonable step of deleting that collection. I did however move my ancient coins into a much smaller custom set I have titled “Oldies but Goodies and other Pieces.” I was quite pleased when my Custom ancient set became the first ancient set that made it into the list of 50 most viewed custom sets. I do have a never say die approach to collecting in that the day I shipped off my ancients for auction I purchased three more ancients. Since then I have purchased what maybe my last ancient for some time to come. I believe it to be a beautiful specimen of a Roman Provincial Coin (RPC) by Macrinus, the coin is from Moesia, Nicopolis. It is an AE26. The coin grades Ch XF with “condition scores” of Strike = 4/5 & Surface = 4/5 (see photo). It is my belief that specimens of bronze RPC that grade XF and better are not that common. In fact I just input “Macrinus, Moesia, Nicopolis, AE26” into the NGC’s Ancient Coins Archives search engine and 40+ pages of results came up, I check Page 1 & Page 40 (50 coins total) and not a single bronze RPC graded better than Good VF (Ch VF). So for all practical purposes I have a coin collection but I have stopped collecting coins (i.e., growing my collection). Now what I am I going to do? I have decided to start a journal that discusses what I have observed and learned regarding coin collecting over my 70 years of collecting. If you have any topic you would like my thoughts on just let me know. As it stands right now I have eleven topics I wish to write journals on. Take care (Ram in VT)
  15. Can we find a way to increase the interest for collecting ancient coins? I just sent David Vagi an e-mail expressing my disappointment at the low parturition rate in the formation of Ancient Custom Sets, only 83 sets after several years (88 sets are shown but five have nothing to do with ancients and should be culled). I am a recent convert to collecting ancient coins, I started the year NGC started certifying these coins. And my custom set is pretty meager in that after all this time it contains only 159 coins. The reason I wrote David was to express my opinion that it might be a good idea to have competitive ancient registry sets. But I acknowledged that this most likely would not be possible because NGC keeps no info on the coins variety thus the registry points would be based solely on grade and condition and a very common variety denarius and very rare denarius in the same grade and condition would have the same registry points, definitely not fair. I then suggested a hybrid concept. That is custom sets whose contents are defined by NGC just like registry sets but no registry points are assigned. The point is that NGC come up with numerous sets containing 7+/- coins to let's say 30+/- coins. These would be manageable sets that would not take forever to fill and would allow NGC to compare the contents of sets against one another and reach some sort of objective determination of the best set in that category. I suggested a couple of obvious examples such as the 12 Caesars or a set containing one coin from each of the Ptolemy's. I don't know maybe these set could also be subdivided base on the metal used in minting the coins. These just my thoughts, I would like to see more interest in ancient coins and this is my proposed approach for increasing that interest. May I suggest that if any of you have additional ideas on this subject that you also write David. To see old comments for this Journal entry, click here. New comments can be added below.