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Viewpoint: Add color variation to copper grade


By: Gregory Kipp

F. Michael Fazzari’s “Making the Grade” column in the Oct. 2 issue of Numismatic News mentioned that Independent Coin Grading has begun using both the RB (Red/Brown) and BR (Brown/Red) designations to grade the color of copper coins.

This is a positive development in my view because increasing the precision of grading is desirable as long as the method doesn’t become overly complex.

Now if all the major grading firms could get together and agree on a common standard for grading color, we would be in great shape.
I’m wondering why this hasn’t been done already. Use of different standards is just begging for trouble in my view.

It occurred to me that a minor modification to the new ICG color-grading system could add even more precision. Consider the following color-grading scale:

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Red (RD) – Full red
Red Red Brown (RR/B) – Red with brown traces, > (greater than) 75 percent red
Red Brown (R/B) – More red than brown, 51-75 percent red
Brown Red (B/R) – More brown than red, 25-50 percent red
Brown Brown Red (BB/R) – Brown with red traces, < (less than) 25 percent red
Brown (BN) – Full brown
This scale offers four levels between full red and full brown.

I’ve tried it for a short time now and it seems to work well. It’s easy to designate the difference between, for instance, a BR copper with significant red versus one with only red traces.

I find this ability very useful and plan to use the system for now, until I find something better.

In a related matter, does anyone know how color is graded for world coins made with a brass or aluminum-bronze alloy? Such coins are usually yellowish in color when newly minted. Over time, they oxidize to a brownish color similar to that of U.S. coppers. You could have a YB (yellow-brown) and BY (brown-yellow) color scale, I suppose.

Perhaps there is already an accepted system in place, I just don’t know it. How do overseas hobbyists grade color for different copper alloys?

Gregory Kipp is a longtime reader of Numismatic News. Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send email to david.harper@fwmedia.com.

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