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Grading Tiers Add Pricing Complexity

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In a recent commentary, I said coins and other collectibles are increasingly being recognized as an asset class rather than simply as hobbies. A problem with this asset class is that the condition, and in the case of art, paper money, sports cards and toys preservation of the original color as well, matters. For this reason, there are independent, third-party services that offer their opinion of the grade of these objects as well as an opinion of their authenticity.

Coin grades became more specific once the 70-point Sheldon system was widely accepted. We have since had more than 20 third-party services come and go, some being more widely accepted than others. Even now, coins certified by one service rather than by another often command higher prices. Yet a fourth party service re-examines the work of the third party services, creating another layer of pricing by so doing. Certified Acceptance Service (CAC) has been adding its green or gold watermelon-shaped stickers to third-party encapsulations due to what CAC says “holds coins to a higher standard.” CAC recently announced they will become an additional third-party service, offering an opinion of grade as well giving an opinion to coins already serviced by other services.

Assigning values to coins continues to be challenging due to these numerous tiers and services. What is presented here is meant to be average coins for the grade and what should be anticipated to pay. Prices posted include “raw” and certified coins depending on the grade, rarity and what is available currently while trying to avoid the prejudice of one service being more popular than another. This causes pricing to be challenging for all buyers. My advice: While the encapsulation is important, buy the coin, not the slab.