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A 'wretchedly poor' coin—yawn!

And the award for overly conservative and wretchedly honest coin grading goes to...

Of course, everyone knows that coin grading is subjective. All attempts to standardize coin grading have left something to be desired. Beauty remains in the eye of the beholder and for some the matter of a coin's grade is not a matter of beauty, it's the opposite.

One of my favorite lot descriptions in a coin auction included a prediction by an overzealous cataloger (prone to misusing words) that the given coin would no doubt bring a wave of "somnolence" over the auction floor. Thus, according to the auction company, everyone would likely fall asleep as soon as this coin was put up for sale. They can't really have meant this!

More brutally honest were the listings of Bangs, Merwin & Co., who took a unique marketing approach in grading coins for their Dec. 17, 1869, sale of the J.M. Wilbur collection. This nearly 2,000-lot auction featured 60 large cents dated 1847. The highest grade for any of the coins was "barely fair," while other were described by the cataloger, Edward Cogan, as "poor," "poorer," "worse," "extremely poor," "unusually poor," "wretchedly poor," "still worse," "exceedingly poor," and "poorer still."

Now these were coins that could have and should have brought a wave of sleepiness over the auction floor.