There are fewer and fewer opportunities to do that today. So much value is embedded in third-party opinions that the very idea of looking at a coin in a raw state now often seems like a blow to good numismatic order.
However, for collectors to be truly collectors, you need to get in there and get your hands dirty. How many people who are collectors actually know the difference between genuine surfaces and coins that have been altered in some fashion? The only way to learn the difference is to make the physical comparisons.
Even bullion coin buyers seem to be subject to the same condition mania. They don’t want to touch the pieces. It should make no difference to the value of a coin bought strictly as bullion as to what condition of uncirculated it might grade, or whether it has toned a little or whether it is not the current year.
None of that should make a difference, but it does. Ten ounces of gold are still 10 ounces of gold even when they aren’t quite as nice looking as brand new pieces. Buyers seem to want it current or pretty. They pay through the nose for the privilege of obtaining just-off-the-coining-press issues like they would for the latest convertible or iPod.
Those who like to get their hands dirty will benefit if they trade the nice looking stuff that they might have that commands a high premium for the less pristine. In other words, if you have nice 2008 American Eagles, trade them for lesser pieces. You will get more ounces of gold or silver for your long-term holding and you will be doing a good deed by giving someone else who wants the very best in the current market the opportunity to pay through the nose to get it.