Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ugly Coins and Technical Grading

OK I needed to take a bit of a break but I’m back.  Over the summer I’ve managed to make it to the RCNA show in Windsor and the ANA show in Chicago.  Both were great events, I met some good people and saw some great coins.  I even bought a few.  Oddly I bought more at the ANA show than the RCNA show.  To be fair, there was more choice for the items I was looking for at the ANA show so that is why I purchased more there. 

Both shows however got me thinking about grading.  The Canadian show featured coins using a technical grading standard (ICCS mostly) while the US show featured coins using market grading (all the major TPG’s).  The difference put simply is that in the US the TPG’s also take into consideration eye appeal and strike as well as the technical aspects.  So a coin with better strike and stunning eye appeal gets a bump in grade and should sell for more money, or so the story goes.  I’m not sure how I feel about that but I do think pretty coins look better than ugly coins.

That brings me to the topic of this post.  I think I tend to fall into the technical grading arena for the most part.  However I will always tend to select a better looking coin at the same grade over a shoddy looking example.  I’m not talking about grade within a grade, and by that what I mean is passing a low end MS63 to get a high end MS63.  I’m talking about what a coin looks like.  For example, on a MS coin classified as “Red”, I like it to actually be “Red” without carbon spots, finger prints etc.  Nothing turns me off a mint state coin quicker than a big old thumb print, a few carbon spots, and a coin that looks more Red Brown than Red.  I’ll pass every time on those.  I’ll also pass on a VF 30 coin with distracting marks in favour of one that has fewer marks.  Where the marks are does make a difference to me.  Vicky can hide a mark in her hair an awful lot better than a gash across her throat!

If the coin is raw, then my mental check list of things I’m looking at proceeds as normal and I can make a decision on the coin.  This tendency of mine to prefer better looking coins causes me problems if the coin has been slabbed.  You might think that odd but let me explain.  When I’m looking at a technical graded coin, I have to “factor in” the market grading steps of eye appeal and strike to get me to a decision point on the coin.  So far so good right?  Leave the ugly one and buy the pretty one.  This is harder to do on line.  The pics generally feature the holder not the coin, so it’s harder for me to make this assessment.   When I’m looking at a market graded coin, I’m “factoring out” eye appeal and strike to back down to a technical grade.  Why would I do that?  If the coin was grade bumped to take into account those items, I want to establish for myself what I think the technical grade of the coin is.  This is a lot of work to make a decision on a coin.

Ultimately I guess what I want is market grade appeal with technical grade price.  Is that asking too much?  I don’t think so.  It just means I need to be selective on what I choose.  I can’t take a TPG coin at face value; I need to actually look closer at them before I reach my decision!  When I look at Vicky I want the girl looking the best she can.

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