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Letters to the Editor (October 16, 2018)

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Palladium Eagle sellout not result of favoritism

Small town dealer response to: “Palladium Eagle sellout and dealer offer upsetting” (from Sept. 14, 2018, online letter to editor that I read).

Don’t get mad at the U.S. Mint, as no favoritism was extended to dealers. Several large dealers offered to buy the 2018-W palladium Eagle coins from their smaller dealer and direct mail client lists. We sold ours for a quick turnover profit.

Sit back and see if the prices drop and then buy on the aftermarket to save money, or wait a year or two and buy the coin if it has a proven market demand.

Fred Beihl Rare Coins, Auctioneer
Stewartstown, Pa.

Hobby undermined by 70 points; what will 100 do?

This question has pushed my hot button. One thousand times no!

The present 70-point scale has done more to undermine the coin collecting hobby than any other past decision. By making grading so difficult and complex, novice collectors are easily scared off from the hobby. The system has generated tens of millions of dollars for grading services at the expense of collectors and investors.

Investors and novice collectors have been harmed by overgraded certified coins issued by fly-by-night grading services. The system has given a bad name to the hobby, resulted in the departure of many collectors and discouraged potential new ones. I attribute the long-term decline of the hobby as due to excessive valuations precipitated by grading mania.

In fact, I decided to never join the American Numismatic Association precisely because of its decision to adopt the 70-point scale. The system has resulted in widespread grading abuse and misrepresentation of value. For years, I have watched people argue about whether a coin certified as an MS65 really isn’t an MS64.

Now, what will a 100-point system do? It will make all existing slabs obsolete. Those wanting to participate in the grading game will pay to have all their coins graded again.

Collectors who have figured out the current system will have to learn how to grade under the new system. More of the current pool of collectors will abandon the hobby. Investors will more easily be ripped off. New collectors will be less likely to stay in the hobby. More arguments about grading will occur.

After over 30 years of professional certification, I still prefer to buy uncertified coins in order to avoid arguments about the designated grades on the slabs. Collectors are not capable of greater grading precision without extensive, expensive training. Why take the fun out of the hobby?

If the objections I have raised are insufficient to kill the idea, go ahead and try it. I guarantee that I will not buy any coins graded using a new 100-point scale. Nor will I do business with anyone who trades in coins graded using a 100-point scale. If coin dealers universally decide to go with it, I will leave the hobby.

I remember visiting a dealer who graded his own coins rather than pay a certification service. I immediately departed his table when I saw a Morgan dollar graded MS62.5.

I was going to argue that the coin was only an MS62.4, but I knew that I would be wasting my time.

Bruce Frohman
Modesto Calif.

No to 100, but get rid of present grading system, too

My opinion on this subject is completely opposite. We should not only avoid adopting a new grading scale but also eliminate the current one altogether. I’ll explain why I feel this way and why it’s made me stop collecting/investing in rare coins.

Coin grading is very subjective. You can get a dozen top graders in a room from the top grading companies (NGC, PCGS, etc.), and maybe two or three will agree on a specific grade. I’ve held thousands of graded coins in all grades and no two graded alike will ever have the same look, quality, etc., especially between two grading companies.

Also, the grading companies set the pricing standards based on their graded coins. Specifically, PCGS on its website states: “The PCGS Price Guide prices apply only to PCGS-graded coins. The PCGS Price Guide is a guide to assist the coin buying public in determining values for all important United States rare coins. Before you use the Price Guide, you should read the following information very carefully.”

If there’s a standard grading range, why isn’t the pricing standard per grade? Why would an NGC coin MS65 be less than a PCGS coin graded MS65 or vice versa? Another problem is coin graders are also coin dealers. How can you have the foxes guarding the hen house?

Coin grading was established to allow the dealers to extract more money from collectors and investors. This, in my opinion, is why the market is so soft now and has been for a long time even in this booming economy. Coin grading has taken the fun out of collecting and made it a business for the rich.

Coin grading should consist of only genuine or counterfeit. Rarity should drive the price and what each individual is willing to pay based on his own opinion of the coin for his collection.

Greg Bose
Torrance, Calif.

Gong’s passing reminds us that friends are important

In candor, I have to admit that most of our exchanges and discussions that the late Lee H. Gong (1950-2018) and I had usually were in argument and disagreement, quite heated and temperamental.

This may account for Lee’s attempt on the “Queen of the Mist” in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, to push me over. For years after, Lee would say, “didn’t push hard enough!”

But, through the 30-plus years that we were involved with our world of money, we remained committed to our hobby and to each other as friends.

There were rituals that we shared; our road trips, mostly reminiscing about the hobbyists that we had known, keeping our compatriot Lloyd G. Chan wearing headphones, and visiting coin shops.

Of course, since I was always the driver, in Lee’s huge GM full-sized pickup, it never failed: “stop, here’s a baseball field.” One of Lee’s passions was baseball; he once, during the 2006 American Numismatic Association Denver, Colo., World’s Fair of Money, endured with me at the then third-longest game in Major League baseball!

While baseball was a passion, Lee’s true love was error coins. For example, at the annual San Jose (California) Coin Club Show for years, he would set up his quite informative exhibit, staffing all three days of the show. At times, I would be positioned next to him at my combination table, witnessing Lee spending hours and hours expounding on error coins to anyone at his table.

In 2005, I was able to have Lee join the Babe Ruth of Errors’ team (his term) during the ANA’s San Francisco, Calif., World’s Fair of Money: the late Alan Herbert, Fred Weinberg, Syd Kass and Xan Chamberlain. The only time these five greats were ever together, sharing their error coin passion.

His other devotion and sincere support was to his beloved Redwood Empire (Santa Rosa, Calif.) Coin Club, for which he must have served over two decades as vice president and was partner in the dynamic duo with its long-serving President Merle V. Avila. They created an exemplary and enthused local coin club that might be the standard for what a good local coin club should be.

In fact, Lee preferred local coin clubs. His defense was simple: They are distant from the pantheon of the national elitist organizations plus the major auction houses with their glossy catalogs, or the established regional groups. There are the local coin clubs, as Lee would remark, “the grass-roots” of our hobby, with numerous local activists in the trenches, as he would add.

Lest it be forgotten, Lee’s other devotion was to the now closed G&G Market, his family-owned and operated business in Sonoma County for over a half a century, plus the only supermarket to issue its own wooden money and silver rounds. Many in Sonoma County grew up shopping only at G&G Market.

I could ramble further. In the end, I state that Lee and I were friends and equally intense servants for our world of money hobby. His passing is my loss and burden.

I am loth to close; yet, this quotation gives me hope and gives testimonial to our friendship:

“The bond between friends cannot be broken by chance; no interval of time or space can destroy it. Not even death itself can part true friends.”

RIP, Lee, My Friend

Michael S. Turrini
Vallejo, Calif.

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