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Author Archives: F. Michael Fazzari
This column is going to be short, sweet and all about some of the surprises you may find as you examine coins closely. That’s what I have been doing for 40 years at the various grading services where I have worked. My job is very rewarding. I wish I could own every neat coin that crosses the stage of my stereo microscope but that’s impossible. Continue reading
What you are about to read is heresy. Sometimes it’s OK to touch the surface of your coins. That’s because, in some cases, the method used by coin doctors to alter a coin’s surface will leave a sticky residue that is easily detected by touch. Continue reading
Recently, I read that the Professional Numismatists Guild has formed a committee to draft a definition of “coin doctoring.” A definition needs to be concise – short and sweet, just like in a dictionary. Apparently, this may not be as easy as it would seem. There are too many variables so a previous attempt at this task became too wordy. Continue reading
I’ve illustrated a 1921 yuan from China that is commonly called the “Fat Man” dollar. Thirty or so years ago it was rather difficult to find one of these coins at a large show unless there was a major dealer in foreign coins. Today, it seems that these coins have flooded the market. Continue reading
A coin’s edge is an important side that professional graders/authenticators rarely overlook. What are they looking for? Damage and alterations are the first things that come to my mind; yet other attributes such as the edge type and style are also important. Continue reading
In a recent column I illustrated two Standing Liberty quarters and challenged readers to pick the coin that was assigned the higher grade by a major grading service. It was a trick question used to illustrate the subjective nature of the commercial grading system we use today. In that column, the coin with slightly more design detail was graded much lower because only one digit of its date was visible. Continue reading
The surface of every coin tells a story and the story gets more interesting with each increase of magnification used to view it. As such, many coins that look unquestionably genuine at first glance, fall apart when examined using magnification. I’ve written before about the power of the hand lens I prefer, but it boils down to a personal choice for each collector. Experienced numismatists, dealers and professional authenticators report excellent results using a 5X to 10X hand lens. Continue reading
Soon after I joined the American Numismatic Association’s authentication service, I went on a trip to the Philadelphia Mint. It was 1973. I spent a whole working day learning how coins were made. My boss, Charles Hoskins, the director of the American Numismatic Association Certification Service, was a former Mint employee so no doors were closed to us. The Mint was two different worlds. One was quiet the other was a noisy factory. Continue reading
Have we finally reached that point when some counterfeit coins are so “good” that they defy detection and are accepted as genuine by everyone – at least for a while? I have asked this question before because it has happened. Continue reading
How many times have you heard these words? “Grading is subjective” or “Grading is an art not a science?” That leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and we’ll examine some of that in this column. The subjective nature of grading is possibly one reason many numismatists are conservative buyers or liberal sellers. There is less risk of taking a hit to the wallet. Knowledge is power. It can be a jungle out in the marketplace where the uninformed can be eaten alive. Continue reading