Winners Take Home Prizes from NGC Grading Contest

Posted on 1/14/2020

More than 100 people matched their skills against those of professional graders at the FUN Show. Check out the coin information and photos in this article to see how you would do.

Nine of more than 100 contestants took home prizes in the Grading Contest presented by Numismatic Guaranty Corporation® (NGC®) at the January 9-11, 2020, Florida United Numismatists (FUN) Show.

The number of participants, 103, was 15 more than last year, when the event debuted as part of the annual show in Orlando, Florida.

Contestants entered the coin grades into a laptop at the NGC/PMG table at the FUN show.

Contestants won prizes in three age categories. For both the Adult (26 and up) and Young Adult (18-25) categories, first prize was a $300 NGC grading credit, second prize was a $200 NGC grading credit and third prize was a $100 NGC grading credit. The Young Numismatist (13-17) category prizes were cash — $300 for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place. The top 10 finishers in each of the three categories also received a special NGC "Sample Slab" with a 2004 Proof Silver Florida Quarter. Additionally, all of the participants received a special "Sample Slab."

The contest was to see who could most accurately grade 15 coins in 10 minutes.

In the adult category, Ron Guth and John Baumgart tied for first place, both scoring 48 of a possible 75 points.

Guth had 7 of 15 exactly correct and 5 partially correct answers (within 1 or two grades). Baumgart had 5 of 15 correct and 9 partially correct. In a very close third place in the category was Jordan Miller, who scored 47 points, with 6 exactly correct and 9 partially correct grades.

Because of the tie, Guth and Baumgart will split the combined first- and second-place prizes, each receiving $250 in NGC grading credits.

In the Young Adult category, Jeffrey Schwartz graded 5 correct and 6 partially correct to take first place with 41 points, followed by a tie between Joshua Ramos and David Huang, who both had 37 points with identical grading results: 4 correct and 7 partially correct. Ramos and Huang split the combined second- and third-place prizes.

The Young Numismatists category was taken by Chris Alvarez, 17, who had 2 correct and 8 partially correct for a total of 32 points. Aaron Rosen, 14, was second with 3 correct and 6 partially correct for a total of 29 points. In third was Christopher Gatto, 13, who had 4 correct answers for 20 points.

The collectibles used in the contest were coins except for one medal and one token. They were a mix of countries, types and grades and included one not-genuine and one altered coin. Contestants graded the coins, which were in NGC Holders without grades, and entered their grades on a computer provided by NGC.

Photos of all of the coins used in the contest are shown below. Find information on the 70-point grading scale here.

#1 USA - 1880-S Morgan Dollar

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NGC MS 68 ★ - This coin is absolutely stunning, with an exceptionally clean cheek. Some extremely light abrasions in front of the face do not detract from the overall eye appeal of the coin. The most common answer for this coin was NGC MS 66, and the average score (out of a possible 5 points) was 1.8.

#2 USA - 1798 Large Cent

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NGC VG 8 – This coin has obviously seen plenty of use in commerce. It has some very light scratches and a small nick above “OF” on the reverse, but both are acceptable for the age and condition of the coin. The most common answer for this coin was NGC Details, and the average score was only 0.9 out of 5.

#3 Germany – 1882 Leipzig Shooting Festival Bronze Medal

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NGC MS 66 – This piece has stunning original chocolate-brown surfaces with minimal marks. A couple of hits on the rim and some very light cabinet friction on the high points of the devices hold this medal back from higher grades. The most common grade for this piece was right on the mark at MS 66. This is reflected in a higher average score of 2.1 out of 5.

#4 USA – 1854 Arrows Half Dime

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NGC XF 40 – This piece is a quintessential low Extra Fine. It has no remaining luster and it has lost a slight amount of its details. This coin also has some planchet issues and a light scratch that keep it from grading XF 45. Nearly 40% of participants graded this coin either XF 40 or XF 45. The average score was 1.8 of 5.

#5 Iran - 1350//1971 Iran 500 Rials

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NGC PF 68 Ultra Cameo – This coin is interesting and seemed to confuse some people because the Griffin design looks Mint State, while the opposite side looks Proof. There are essentially no issues with the Griffin side, but the mirrored side has a long planchet line as well as some light hairlines that hold it back from even PF 69 Ultra Cameo. Still, this was the most modern and easiest coin to grade in this contest, with NGC PF 69 Ultra Cameo being the most common grade, and the average score was 2.6 of 5.

#6 USA – New York Broas Pie Baker Civil War Token

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NGC AU 58 Brown – This was an interesting one that many people apparently felt was either Not Genuine or Details graded, with about 20% of participants calling it one or the other. The shattered obverse die and heavy clashing and rotation on the reverse clearly threw some people off. However, when looking at the actual condition of the token, it has only moderate wear on the highest points of the design and still retains its original luster, hence the grade NGC AU 58, which was the most common straight grade. Only an average score or 0.6 of 5 points was earned on this question.

#7 USA – 1925-S California Half Dollar

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NGC Not Genuine – This is the first curveball that we included in the contest. The coin has odd, yellow surfaces and poor details. It seems most people felt that this was due to cleaning, as NGC Details was the most common response, at 28%, followed by Not Genuine or Altered, with 17.5%. The average score on this piece was 0.9 out of 5 points.

#8 USA –  1788 No Period Massachusetts Cent

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NGC MS 66 Red Brown – Many people who saw it for what it was seemed to think it was fake because surely NGC wouldn’t put a $50,000 coin in the grading contest! Wrong; it’s real! This coin is essentially as struck and even retains much of its original red color around the devices. Only some minor cabinet friction holds this piece back from an even more astronomical grade. The most common answer on this piece was NGC MS 63 (16.5%), with only 2 participants grading it correctly at NGC MS 66. The average score on this piece was 0.6 of 5 points.

#9 India – 1943 2 Annas - Double Struck, 2nd Strike 75% Off Center

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NGC MS 65 – This piece is really interesting and is a nice example of a double-struck error. It has only a few minor hits, with the major issue holding it back from higher grade being some minor spotting on the reverse. 31% of respondents called this coin NGC MS 64, the most common answer. This led to a relatively high score of 1.8 of 5 points on average. 

#10 USA – 1893 Isabella Quarter

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NGC MS 67 – Here is another really nice coin! Sure, it has some very slight abrasions in the field, but overall the coin is pristine and has a great original look, hence the high grade. Most participants felt it was a bit lower, with the most common grade being NGC MS 65 (23%) and NGC MS 66 (21%). Only 7% called this coin correctly at NGC MS 67. The average score was 1.2 of 5.

#11 USA - 1875 Seated Liberty Quarter

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NGC VF 25 – Here is another more circulated coin. Most people got close, with over half of participants landing in the correct VF range of 20-35. 17.5% of people got this grade correct at NGC VF 25, with an average score of 1.9 of 5.

#12 USA – 1889-CC Morgan Dollar

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NGC Not Genuine or Altered – This coin tricked a lot of people! The CC mint mark has been added to a Philadelphia-Mint coin. 70% put a straight grade on it, although 25% did correctly call it Not Genuine or Altered. The average score was 1.2 of 5.

#13 South Africa – 1961 10 Cents

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NGC PF 68 ★ Ultra Cameo – This coin is absolutely gorgeous. It has deep original toning imparted by the original South African Mint case these coins come in. Only some minor issues on the right side of the reverse hold it back to PF 68. Unfortunately, 25% of participants felt it was NGC Details, with the assumption being they felt it was Artificially Toned. The average score was 1.7 of 5.

#14 USA  1902 Barber Dime

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NGC MS 62 – This coin was a bit tricky as well. It had clearly been very lightly wiped and retoned beautifully on the obverse. Many people overreacted to this wipe and called the coin NGC Details (16.5%) whereas the next most-selected grade was NGC MS 64 (14.5%). Only around 10% of people selected the correct grade of NGC MS 62, leading to an average score on this coin of only 1.1 of 5.

#15 USA – 1885-CC Morgan Dollar

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NGC MS 61 – Last but not least is this extremely flashy 1885-CC Morgan Dollar. The coin has absolutely phenomenal luster, but unfortunately the obverse of the coin is extremely baggy. This is one of those cases where the reverse graded MS 65 and the obverse is only an MS 61. Unfortunately, the obverse carries more weight and therefore put the cap at MS 61 for this piece. The most common answer was very close at NGC MS 62 (34%), compared to 14.5% for the correct answer of NGC MS 61. The average score on this coin was 2.2 of 5 points.

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