By Richard Giedroyc
• “Gradeflation” and the grading craze in general appear to have formed a numismatic bubble for modern and perhaps all coin investing. Where did all this originate?
Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation of America each began separate registry collecting competitions, initially meant for traditional collector coins. Who wouldn’t want the honor of having their coin certified and recognized as the finest known? This registry competition drew attention to the ultra high-certified coins, regardless of whether they are commonly encountered circulation issues, bullion coins, or made-for-collector non-circulating legal tender commemoratives. This exuberance has been additionally fueled by the CAC sticker endorsement of certified coins, perhaps placing too great an emphasis on associated values for such ultimate grade rarities.
• I’ve read recently that there are now ATMs [Automatic Teller Machines] that vend bitcoins. I understood bitcoins are virtual rather than physical money. How can this be?
Bitcoins are cyber money, virtual money that is valued purely off supply and demand and is converted to the physical cash of any particular country through Internet kiosks that determine the exchange value. The advantage is that it is truly an international form of currency, however it is unregulated by any government, it can be speculative and volatile, and it has no physical form. It is difficult if not impossible to trace, and it costs nothing to use since it bypasses all commercial and government regulations. The ATMs of which you speak serve as cyber wallets through which someone can vend physical cash, then in turn have their “wallet” charged with the appropriate value in bitcoins. Since this value fluctuates the bitcoin holder takes the chance the value might decrease.
• Deceased American Numismatic Association President Grover Criswell billed himself “colonel.” Was he retired military, did he commission himself, or was this a legitimate commission?
Kentucky Governor Steven L. Beshear appointed me a Kentucky colonel. This is an honorary title. It can accompany your name if so desired. You are automatically a member of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, a benevolent organization that supports many charities and helps fund some emergency situations in the United States through the generous contributions of its members. I am unaware if Criswell was a Kentucky colonel, but it is most likely. Elvis was! So was Col. Sanders of fried chicken fame. The organization has issued military-style medals, but to my knowledge has never issued collectible medals or tokens.
• What is the difference between a CAC sticker on a certified coin as opposed to the coin being assigned a plus sign next to the numerical grade by the certifying service?
A coin may be assigned a grade, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t room to interpret if there is a difference in two coins in that same grade. CAC stickered coins are coins that have already been certified by a grading service and are in the opinion of CAC examiners to be very close to the next grade. Major certification services have countered by allowing a plus sign to be assigned to coins when these services examine the coins, designating the same opinion but without the need for the coin to be re-submitted for yet another service to make the same judgment call.
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