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‘Average Uncirculated’ a Vague Descriptor

I see dealers advertising coins as “average circulated,” but they are priced even below the same coin in About Good or Good, which means they must be pretty awful. Logically speaking, the term “average circulated” would describe a coin in, say, Fine. How did this strange term come to be?

Purchasing coins sight-unseen that have not been certified by a third-party certification service may be unwise. A coin described as being “average circulated” can mean just about anything, depending on who is using the term. It is a well-used catch-all description whose origin would be challenging to find.

Could a lesser-recognized grading service be as good as is one of the well known major services?

Reputation is important. There are several third-party services that are well known, but this doesn’t mean other services are necessarily inferior. Without dropping names, I am aware of a so-called secondary service that does an excellent job of grading and determining the variety for Capped Bust half dollars that likely never gets the credit it deserves in this area.

How do I break a coin from a slab?

It isn’t necessarily wise to remove a coin out of its third party certification service encapsulation, as the coin may be damaged by so doing. Having said that, a flat hammer striking the edges may free the coin. Pliers with a cutting edge or a band saw will likewise work. I would suggest practicing on an inexpensive coin when possible before removing an expensive coin from its encapsulation.

Would it make sense for me to crack out a coin, then keep the coin with the label from the holder?

First you need to have a reason to remove the coin from the third-party service encapsulation or slab. Some people like their coins to be “slabbed” while other people like them to be “raw.” Keeping the label with a coin freed from an encapsulation may be important to you, but I doubt anyone else will accept the coin as is the information on the accompanying label without the coin being resubmitted for certification.

I have a solid VG-8 1795 large cent, but sadly it has some dents. The dents don’t touch the Liberty head or the date. The “5” bumps up against the bottom of the bust, the bust nipping a bit off the top of the “5.” Is this a known variety?

Someone needs to see the coin before its variety can be determined. You can do it yourself through the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis. The portal for the 1795 large cents is available at no cost online at

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