Grading cleaned coins
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37 posts

Why does a cleaned coin get a "Detailed" grade if it is genuine?

 

I would like to suggest that a coin be given a numeric grade based on the coin's status.

 

If the coin is genuine it could be given a grade; cleaning a coin does not make it fake, it would make it AU or less, but still a real coin. It could be listed as a reason that a coin did not get a MS grade, but to list it as "Detailed" "Cleaned" seem to detract from the coin.

 

I would suggest that older coins such as a 1909 S VDB that graded as "Good" or "Fine" could have been cleaned and that after that wear and tear after the cleaning removed the evidence of the cleaning, but it was cleaned and does not get a "Detailed" grade.

 

I have gotten several coins back from NGC as "Detailed" grades for cleaning and I can assure you that I have never cleaned a coin in my collection and never would, but to just give them a 'Detailed" grade seem to reflect on me as a collector.

 

DFA

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492 posts

Thanks for your question.

 

Unfortunately, a cleaned coin and coins certain types of detrimental surface conditions can't be described with a numerical grade. The grading scale used by NGC accords with the appearance and surface quality of a coin.

 

For example, if an uncirculated coin (MS60+) were harshly cleaned and NGC graded it XF45, would the coin really be an XF45? No, an XF45 has obvious signs of high point wear and some loss of luster from circulation. That's why we describe the coin as being Harshly Cleaned, UNC Details.

 

I suppose it is possible that cleaned coins are worn and the evidence of cleaning is obliterated. That in part explains why, for example, a cleaned XF Details coin may have the value of a VF coin in the marketplace.

 

When a coin is submitted for grading, NGC graders seek to accurate recognize all of the coins attributes, positive and negative. We don't think anything negative of a submitter who submits a coin that is called improperly cleaned. Rather we are happy to identify and describe these surface attributes as accurately as possible.

 

Some positive things have resulted from NGC Details grading. I have heard from a number of long-time submitters that they have learned to recognize cleaning and other detrimental surface conditions by examining NGC Details graded coins and from evaluating their own submission results, even if they are at times frustrating. And since NGC launched details grading in 2009, the marketplace opportunity for improperly cleaned coins has expanded greatly.

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I am very confused about what is cleaned and what is not. Some coins NGC grade look to have been cleaned, yet are not denoted as such. An example of this can be found in a current Heritage auction. When I look at this coin, I cannot help but wonder how it could be graded so high, let alone not be denoted as "Cleaned", when its obverse fields are filled with an abundance of scratches.

 

The coin in question is a 1922 Grant Commemorative, Lot 5610, offered in Heritage Auctions US Coins Auction. I have a Grant Commemorative that displays similar scratches, yet not nearly as severe as the one mentioned above.

 

Are these scratches produced at the mint? Is that why they are not reflected in the grading process?

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142 posts

I think those are good suggestions. Or, why not have major problems (eg deep scratches, harsh cleaning, severe corrosion) get a detail grade, but minor problem coins get a net grade (eg coins with light cleaning, light scratches or few, minor rim dings, etc.)? Net grading seems like to me a better outcome for problem or "details" coins. Whenever I see them on ebay, they are either very cheap (compared to their detail grade) or are just a below a adjectival grade or two and don't sell. In other words, i don't think detail grading is that marketable. Net grading would seem to me to help these coins and sellers out more.

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37 posts

Second question, instead of "Cleaned, UNC Details "why not a "MS60, Detailed Cleaned" grade for a coin that would grade MS60 because of appearance, but was cleaned.

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I am very confused about what is cleaned and what is not. Some coins NGC grade look to have been cleaned, yet are not denoted as such. An example of this can be found in a current Heritage auction. When I look at this coin, I cannot help but wonder how it could be graded so high, let alone not be denoted as "Cleaned", when its obverse fields are filled with an abundance of scratches.

 

The coin in question is a 1922 Grant Commemorative, Lot 5610, offered in Heritage Auctions US Coins Auction. I have a Grant Commemorative that displays similar scratches, yet not nearly as severe as the one mentioned above.

 

Are these scratches produced at the mint? Is that why they are not reflected in the grading process?

 

Grant Commemorative Half Dollars, and the With Star variety especially, are struck from heavily polished dies. These appear as concentrated raised lines.

 

Die polish can resemble cleaning but through experience the two can easily be differentiated. It's always best to look at coins in a darkened room under a single light source, like a desk lamp.

 

When examining die polish, tilt the coin so that the light rakes across the coin's surface and try to see if the lines are raised. Also, pay particular attention to where die polish lines in a coin's fields meet devices and lettering. Die polish lines will normally terminate abruptly. Hairlines from cleaning will often terminate before a raised feature and then reappear on the highpoints.

 

Looking at LOTS of coins under controlled lighting condition will be the best way to gain experience in this area.

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I think those are good suggestions. Or, why not have major problems (eg deep scratches, harsh cleaning, severe corrosion) get a detail grade, but minor problem coins get a net grade (eg coins with light cleaning, light scratches or few, minor rim dings, etc.)? Net grading seems like to me a better outcome for problem or "details" coins. Whenever I see them on ebay, they are either very cheap (compared to their detail grade) or are just a below a adjectival grade or two and don't sell.

 

All grading, in a sense, is net grading. We start at 70 and reduce the grade based on surface marks, wear, etc. Coins with minor problems are numerically graded if they are market acceptable at a lower grade. NGC doesn't have a very wide tolerance for this, however, which may explain why a small scratch -- that you think should be net graded -- is actually details graded by NGC.

 

In other words, i don't think detail grading is that marketable. Net grading would seem to me to help these coins and sellers out more.

 

The marketplace is developing for details graded coins. This service was first introduced by NGC only in 2009 (although it was offered by NCS much earlier). Previously, uncertified coins with minor problems were definitely not that marketable.

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Second question, instead of "Cleaned, UNC Details "why not a "MS60, Detailed Cleaned" grade for a coin that would grade MS60 because of appearance, but was cleaned.

 

Cleaning can actually alter the appearance of a coin, by softening marks or obscuring luster, making it impossible to be precise in that way. So in many cases, you really can't know that a would have graded MS63 but now is a cleaned MS63. It's only possible to say it's a cleaned coin that doesn't have evidence of circulation -- which is what we do.

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"Also, pay particular attention to where die polish lines in a coin's fields meet devices and lettering. Die polish lines will normally terminate abruptly."

 

Thanks for the confirmation, Scott.

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