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Viewpoint: More grades needed for copper

 (Image courtesy

(Image courtesy

By Scott Casey

We are all aware of the significant differences in the amount of red coloring remaining on vintage copper coins. Unfortunately, we are limited to describing this wide color variety using only the standard designations of BN, RB and RE. The RB category is in desperate need of help. Too many RBs are either barely RB or nearly full RD. Since we know that virtually none, except some beautifully toned coins, are green or blue, brown and red are the only acceptable color descriptions.

Let us consider eliminating the B, N, R & D letters from our copper grades in favor of a “C” only for the obvious color, red. Then let us expand the three categories to nine, designated C-1 through C-9. The C-1 will be the traditional chocolate BR, maybe even further distinguished as C-1F or C-1G for flat or glossy.

C-2 would be light brown. C-3 would have noticeable traces of red. C-4 would have moderate red color.

C-5 would be the traditional RB. C-6 would have even more red. C-7 would have strong red. C-8 would be nearly full red. C-9 would be the traditional RD.

As a compromise, we could be temporarily satisfied with just two additional categories, C-3 and C-7, halfway between BN, RB and RB and RD. Currently, there is far too much difference in the amount of red color in our coins to be expressed by the standard three color labels. Even our silver coins in AU have four numeric designations; 50, 53, 55 and 58, and MS have 11.

Some who have “generous” RB and RD awards will surely protest these suggestions. Others, who coins are better than BN or better than RB, will be delighted. I have recently seen two Lincoln cents of the same date and mint graded MS64RB: one I called a C-5 with a strong even strike, the other a C-7 with a weak strike. I would hope that eventually an additional designation could be added to describe the strike quality of our coins. I will also choose a C-5/S-8 over a C-7/S-4.

Our trusted grading services should be happy to make these improvements for the sake of accurately designating our cherished coins, not to mention the staggering fees to be earned. Along those lines, allow me to express my sincere appreciation to the Professional Coin Grading Service, the only copper grading company I will ever trust. I cracked a 1914-D Lincoln cent graded MS62BN by another grading service. PCGS called it AU-58. To keep from losing money, I cracked the holder and sent it to the other grading service. It came back AU-55. Again to PCGS for another AU-58. Conclusions: PCGS was consistent. The coin is definitely an AU-58. The other service blew the grade both high and low. I sold the coin for a $1,000 loss and learned an expensive lesson.

If my suggestions have merit with my fellow collectors, I ask that they contact PCGS to voice their approval so these improvements can be implemented. I have several quality Lincoln cents ready for more accurate color designations and will gladly pay for that new service.

This “Viewpoint” was written by Scott Casey of Decatur, Ala.

To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send email to

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