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Coin Clinic: Why should collectors learn to grade coins?

By Richard Giedoryc

You have warned collectors to use their own grading skills when evaluating coins for purchase. Does that mean we cannot rely on third-party grading services?

No. But it is important to point out that there are likely too many people who are collecting the encapsulation rather than the coin. Packaging enhances the appearance of a coin, but the bottom line is still the coin itself, not the window dressing. Third-party certification services are experts in their field, but you still need to be satisfied with your purchases regardless of the opinion they render. In short a collector needs to be satisfied with the look of the coin he is buying and not just the label on it.

You used the term “opinion” regarding third-party certification services. What is the point of using such a service if what they offer is an opinion of a coin rather than something definitive regarding the grade and authenticity?

Why does a large mintmark appear above the dome on Monticello on the war nickels of 1942 to 1945?

Why does a large mintmark appear above the dome on Monticello on the war nickels of 1942 to 1945?

Consider what these services offer as being an expert’s opinion that is usually right. There is no guarantee, nor are any of these services willing to guarantee that at some later date someone hoping to buy the coin more cheaply won’t insist the grade the service assigned to a specific coin is wrong. Their expert opinions are valued. Their expert opinion gives the rest of us who believe we lack their experience, assurance and the uniformity that is generally accepted throughout the hobby.

Must the ribbon by which a military medal is suspended be present to make the medal collectible?

Medals that have been separated from their ribbon are still collectible, but would not be as valuable as is a complete medal. Be careful of authenticity; there are reproduction ribbons.

Are there any military medal designers or manufacturers whose medals are particularly collectible?

Two prominent medal manufacturers whose products are worth considering are Whitehead & Hoag and Tiffany & Company. There isn’t room here to review the entire field of collectible military medals.

Why does a large mintmark appear above the dome on Monticello on the war nickels of 1942 to 1945?

It indicated the coins were made of an alloy that had been changed from copper-nickel to a 35-percent silver alloy. Consider it something like the arrows at the dates of 19th century coins that were of a new and different weight from the coins of the prior standard. The intention was to be able to redeem the coins at a later date if it was desired. The very large mintmark made it obvious which coins were to be redeemed. The redemption, of course, never took place.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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