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Grading: A Tale of Two Coins

By Paul Malone

Over the years, the subject of net-grading has probably been beaten to death between the covers of Numismatic News. My jury is still out. Is it good or bad?

Mintmarked Lincolns from the early to mid-1920s are notorious for being poorly struck. Finding fully struck examples for one’s collection can be quite challenging. I had a 1924-S in my set that was uncirculated. There were traces of red, and there was no broken luster anywhere. The reverse was the most boldly struck that I had ever seen on a 1924-S. The lines in the wheat ears were so sharp, I could have cut myself on them. OK, I’m exaggerating, but you get the picture. Because of the ultra-bold reverse, the obverse suffered slightly. Although the mintmark was bold, Abe’s cheek and jaw had flat spots on them, but not from wear. They were never struck up during its manufacture. Still, the coin was uncirculated.

Curiosity eventually got the best of me, and I submitted the coin to ANACS for grading. I was anticipating a grade of MS-63 or -64 Brown. It was returned with a grade of VF-30. Apparently, they took into account only the visual appearance of the obverse and net-graded it. Later, I sold the coin to a dealer who agreed that the coin was uncirculated, but he added that “nobody would buy it that way,” that is, nobody would pay the price of an uncirculated 1924-S.

Recently, a collector-friend was showing me his recent eBay purchases. One of them was a 1922-D Lincoln (again, notorious for striking issues). It was the most poorly struck 1922-D I’ve ever seen. The reverse rim wasn’t full, and there were no lines in the wheat ears. Visually, a grade of G-4 would have been generous. The obverse was almost as bad. There was no detail in Lincoln’s hair, and his bow tie was missing. It looked “blobby.” I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want such a coin, but it was obviously uncirculated. There was no broken luster. NGC had graded it MS-62 Brown. It also featured a green CAC sticker, which I find baffling. Would they really sticker such a coin? Are there counterfeit CAC stickers? Compared to Jerry’s 1922-D, my 1924-S was an awesome beauty. I’m positive that Jerry was bidding only on the “green bean” instead of the coin.

NGC had done the complete opposite of what ANACS did. They ignored its visual appearance and graded its history of never having been in circulation, or at least not long enough to acquire any evidence of wear. I felt cheated when my coin was net-graded, and I’ve come to terms with it, but I don’t know what to think of Jerry’s 1922-D. I wouldn’t want that coin at any price.

Like I said, my jury’s still out. Perhaps Mr. Fazzari would consider doing a refresher column on the subject of net-grading. I could sure use it!

Paul Malone is a collector from Forest Lake, Minn.

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