Value Added Grading
Posted on 3/17/2011
As we all know, grading rare coins is truly an art. It requires a trained eye with years of experience to understand the subtle variations of vintage rare coins. One must learn how to interpret wear, bag marks, toning, strike, luster and various other issues that can affect a coin’s grade. Every series has its own set of criteria, with sometimes great variations from year to year and from each different Mint. A 1925 Peace dollar is very different from a 1925-S Peace dollar. The 1925 Philadelphia strike is one of the best produced coins of the series, while the S Mint issue is among the worst. Understanding how these and others factors come into play when establishing a grade requires a high degree of skill. NGC makes every effort to ensure accuracy when assigning grades to rare coins. When NGC has graded a 1925-S Peace dollar MS 65, they are essentially making a warranty of value for that coin of around $21,000. Not hard to see why accuracy is so important!
Let’s examine the issue even more closely. Regardless of what you might infer from price guides, not every coin in every grade is exactly alike. As a matter of fact, two coins in the same grade can be quite different. Recently, there has been much interest in coins with exceptional eye appeal. The NGC Star (★) system was designed to add another layer of information for dealers and collectors to consider when assigning value to a rare coin.
The recent addition of Plus () grading has caused some confusion about what a means versus a ★. Simply stated, a ★ means great eye appeal, but not necessarily above average for the grade. The is for coins that are indeed high end for the grade. The NGC ★ is added to the grade when a coin has been deemed to possess aesthetic qualities that make the coin superior to most others of the same grade. It is assigned only with the unanimous agreement among NGC graders. This may include attractive toning, crisp luster, fully original surfaces, or other visual attributes. Remember, most coins in the same grade are different in appearance. The ★ system is just another way for expert graders to convey their interpretation of a given coins grade more fully.
Plus () grading is another means of grading interpretation as well. When I first began my rare coin career decades ago, coins were assigned a limited number of adjective grades. The top end of the grading scale being Uncirculated. I still remember when in the 1970’s more advanced collectors and dealers began to assign grades such as Choice Uncirculated and Gem Uncirculated. Much has changed! Now Uncirculated is broken down into 20 levels of mint state when plus grades are included. Years ago many thought this impossible. I can safely state that MS 60 to MS 70 grading is here to stay. Coin grading is vastly more sophisticated today than it was even twenty years ago. NGC has certified millions of coins and has literally seen it all. In addition to this, coin values have soared in recent years. The difference from MS 64 to MS 65 can mean tens of thousands of dollars in value.
The system is designed to designate that a coin is superior in quality to others of the same grade. Using the 1925-S Peace again for illustration makes for a fine example. Catalogue value for a MS 64 1925-S Peace dollar is around $1,000. Catalogue value for an MS 65 1925-S Peace dollar is around $21,000. It makes sense to be able to designate that an attractive, nicely struck, almost MS 65 coin is above average. Today’s buyers are interested in quality like never before, and the system is another means for NGC graders to interpret grading for an ever more sophisticated consumer. We now live in the “information age” and the NGC ★ and grading now gives collectors and dealers more tools to make buying decisions. By the way, I’m still looking for that 1925-S Peace Dollar graded NGC MS 64 ★, !!
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