How can I tell if my Hobo nickel is an original or a modern machined example?
An extremely worn, dateless Buffalo nickel without a mint mark likely of low value is used as the host coin for most modern reproductions. Cut lines are sharp and clean, while lacking residue in those cuts. You should not be able to feel the engraving if you have an original. Most originals only engraved the obverse. All coins on which both sides are engraved should be suspect.
What kind of standard should I follow when grading coins with moderate dings, scratches, or other non-wear problems?
While any detriment to a coin beyond wear will impact the value of that coin, it doesn’t impact the grade. A ‘net’ grade can be offered, but all this suggests is that there are distractions to the coin beyond what was caused by circulation. To answer your question, there is no published standard.
How do I determine the grade on a coin described as ‘Uncirculated details?’
Any time the word ‘details’ has been interjected after the grade the word indicates that, while the coin is in the grade designated, there is some problem with the coin that will likely diminish its value from what a problem-free coin in that grade should command.
Why was the silver 3-cent coin or trime struck of 0.750 fine rather than 0.900 fine silver?
When the trime was introduced in 1851 the spot price of silver was greater than the face value of the circulating specie coinage. The trime was purposely struck of a lower grade silver to discourage hoarding and melting the coins.
What does it mean when the government declares we are on the gold or silver standard?
If we are on the gold standard this means circulating gold coins are to contain their full value in that metal. At the same time, silver coins will be composed of a lesser amount of silver than is their face value. The opposite happens if we are on a silver standard. Since we are not on a gold or silver standard today, there is no government obligation to issue specie coinage of its full face value.
Coins are graded based on the amount of circulation each has had. What impact do non-wear problems such as scratches have on the grade of a coin?
Technically, coins are meant to be graded strictly based on the amount of wear. In reality scratches, spots, edge damage, cleaning, original mint luster, and more are taken into consideration. This is why eye appeal is so difficult to factor into the value and net grade of a coin.