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Coin Clinic: Grading Morgan dollars


By Richard Giedroyc


newmorganI am told Morgan dollars are hard to grade since quality varied from year to year and from mint to mint. What should I look for in a coin that is supposed to be uncirculated?
According to the PCGS Official Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection, “AU55/58 Morgan dollars have slight friction on the hair below LIBERTY, the hair above the ear, and the cheek. Reverse wear is noted on the eagle’s head, breast, wing tips, legs, and claws.” This is a general statement that doesn’t take into account years or mints where the coins are notoriously poorly struck, but it is a good general guideline.

Getting started in coin collecting is as easy as 1, 2, 3 when you get your advice straight from the Answer Man of coin collecting.

Getting started in coin collecting is as easy as 1, 2, 3 when you get your advice straight from the Answer Man of coin collecting.

I see slabbed common date silver dollars at coin shows for prices that are near the cost of slabbing the coins. How can a dealer sell them at so low a price?
Some dealers make arrangements to submit large numbers of coins to a third- party certification service at deep discounts. They are counting on enough coins to be returned at a grade (and therefore a retail value) high enough to cover the cost of the coins that “didn’t make the grade.” The coins you see offered are those that the dealer needs to blow out due to their assigned grade being disappointing. From a collector’s view, yes, when considering the cost of slabbing them they are a bargain.”

I’ve asked several dealers at coin shows for a specific coin, only to be told they have one at their shop, but didn’t bring it. Why wouldn’t a dealer want to bring a full representation of his inventory?
It’s strictly a matter of practicality. Dealers attend coin shows to make money. Coin collectors attend to build or liquidate their collections. Dealers tend to bring their more expensive coins, or coins they know from past experience are more likely to sell. While some dealers work closely with the public others attend to make large, high value transactions with other dealers, or with collectors whom they pre-arranged to meet. One thing is certain, it is not possible to bring a shop’s entire inventory.

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