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Viewpoint: Grading services should explain grades

The basis of building your coin collection and has always been condition, condition, condition.
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By J.D. Roberts

The basis of building your coin collection and has always been condition, condition, condition.

Establishing the condition has become much easier for us collectors (we think). We now insist that the coin be “slabbed” and the buyer/collector should accept the grading given to the coin without question.

The basis and methods for judging the condition of a coin was established many years ago. Within these methods was “eye appeal” and “overall condition” as seen by the observer. At a later date, a more involved description was printed in A Guide Book of United States Coins, commonly referred to as the Red Book, which came to be the book that all collectors would base the condition of all coins.

At this time we have companies (supposedly the top grading companies) that appear to have the authority to change the grading description and methods for judging coins. Also each one of these companies have different methods with different grading descriptions. Due to the confusion caused by these differences, many of the coins that meet the qualifications of the Red Book are being downgraded without any explanation given.

In Red Book, the Mint State coin category starts with MS-60 through MS-70 and the Proof coin category ranges from PF-60 through PF-65. Not listed in the Red Book is that the Proof categories have been extended up to PF-70, which can only be found in the “Professional Edition Red Book.” Most collectors don’t even know that a “Professional Edition” exists.

I believe that an explanation should be given to the coin owner as to why a coin is being graded lower than MS-70 or PF-70. Was it for scratches, or handling, or bag marks, etc.? I have had many coins that met all the requirements listed in the Red Book and have yet to receive an MS-70 or PF-70 rating , and received no explanation as to why they were graded as MS-69 and not MS-70? I recently spoke with a highly rated certification company representative and his answer to this question was, “It’s our opinion and no explanation is needed.”

It’s a fact that we all see things differently and have different opinions. Some have problems seeing things, and some should have their eye glasses checked more often. One thing for sure, there should be strict guidelines for the grading of coins and we, the collectors, should be aware of these guidelines and be given a written detailed summary by the grading company as to the problems they found with each of your coins.

I recently had an extended conversation with one of Numismatic News’ major advertisers concerning this subject. He stated that he believed that you really could not tell if a coin’s grade is MS/PF-69 or MS/PF-70. He believes that the grade PF-70 was created by big investors and certification companies strictly to increase their invested interest.

So what’s the consumer to do? Shouldn’t the consumer have a right to know why the coin was down graded when it met all the official requirements? We can’t seem to get satisfaction from companies that perform the “certification” on our own coins. Since there are no laws, that I know of, against purchasing blank slabs and grading our own coins based on the Official “Red Book”, we could just declare ourselves a “New Third Party Certification Company” and advertise it as such.

This “Viewpoint” was written by J.D. Roberts of Acton, Calif.

Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. 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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