Where to Find the Numismatic Santa Claus
Following is an open letter to Amy Keller, who wrote a letter headlined “Make Grading a Learning Experience for Collectors” in the Aug. 30 issue of Numismatic News.
There is a Santa Claus in numismatics, but before I tell you where to find him or her allow, me to address some of your concerns. There is a learning curve with every pursuit or vocation. There are rules, customs and accrued knowledge that one must endeavor to learn in order to get the full enjoyment they deserve for their time. That will take time and study on your part. Until then, you are not the first collector and will not be the last to feel the frustration you have expressed in your letter. We live in a world of “tooth and claw.” There will possibly be only a few cases either by luck, fortune or your effort where something will be easy. You will not be spoon-fed. Knowledge is not free. We are not born with it but today in 2022, it is much easier to acquire than it was in the past. Nevertheless, be careful. Don’t believe everything you see until you verify it for yourself, because the world is full of misinformation.
Grading services were not established to be teachers. They came about to police the abuses in our hobby. Businesses like third-party grading services (TPGS) must have rules to avoid chaos. Thus, there are forms to fill out and rules to follow. Any coin roll hunter such as yourself should be able to fill one out perfectly except for one thing: the “value box.” If you purchased your coin, you should have an idea of its value. If you found it for free in pocket change or roll hunting, it is rarely going to be worth sending in, but you may try again for the learning experience. A little secret is that while being graded, a coin worth 5 cents gets treated the same as one worth $100. Your letter did not say what kind of coins you sent in, but I consider 38 to be far too many for a first submission. You had an expensive first lesson. You will learn that all TPGS are not the same. You should not condemn them all because of one bad experience. In hindsight, it would have made better use of your money to try each of the four major services to see which you preferred. Each of them have very loyal customers who refuse to send their coins elsewhere!
You are going to learn that there are no grading “standards.” There is only “grading” and while it appears there is some uniformity, it is applied differently by everyone. Graders are human. They do not store images in a computer bank. Grading coins is a way to rate their condition of preservation so that they can be valued by the commercial market and bought sight-unseen. There are no secrets to grading coins – it’s simple. What is complicated is putting a value on one because similar coins with the same grade are commonly valued differently! Until their coin is professionally graded, many folks have no idea what it is actually worth and inflate its value out of ignorance or lack of research. After all, they are sending it in to find out if it is authentic and what a team of professionals think it may be worth by the grade they assign to it.
As for Santa, you will not interact with him at the top two grading services. He is too busy and the elves that surround him keep him isolated in the workshop. Santa is at the smaller TPGS where you can actually talk with him on the phone and read the notes he often sends you when your coins are returned. The smaller services also do better at providing the services you mention by alerting customers to the “special” coins they didn’t know they had. Even the obscure varieties that are not recognized by other services in an attempt to protect non-collectors from scams due to their low value. The graders at the smaller services are not under pressure to run coins through and actually have time to study even the common ones. Educating their clients makes them better customers. You will also find Santa at local coin clubs or when he leaves one of the top TPGS to teach at a grading seminar. Have fun and good luck.
F. Michael Fazzari
NN Columnnist, “Making the Grade”
Coins in 2022 Mint Sets Show Prong Marks
I’m writing as I have a question about my recent purchase of 2022 mint sets in early August. I bought four as usual as I give three as gifts, but all were damaged upon inspection. Not the holders or package, but the coins themselves. Mainly on the obverse or front of the sets as the quarters are reversed. It looks like four prong marks on the coins at 10 and 2 and 4 and 8 on each coin. Almost like they were grabbed by some type of four-prong machine forcefully enough to damage the rim on each coin. Has anyone heard or seen something similar?
In all the years I have purchased from the Mint, I have never received coins that were marked or damaged in any way. I’m sure I can’t send them back now as it was weeks ago and have never looked into this before in almost 50 years. I sent the director a letter but I’m sure she could care less. Please let me know if any same instances you’ve heard of. I guess I have to buy four new sets if I want a decent example and to give the few gifts.
Jefferson Design Attributed to Wrong Coin
In your recent edition [Sept. 13 issue], one of the responses to the question as to what change in our current coinage would you make, the answer was to make changes to the “Jefferson quarter.” Can you please tell me more about that coin?
Editor’s note: Thank you for the sharp eye! There is not, in fact, such a coin as the Jefferson quarter. Numismatic News regrets the error.