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To Conserve or not?



Be careful what you ask for you might get it.

A few years ago, I purchased a US Administration, 1903-S Philippines 1 Peso coin featuring the allegorical Lady Liberty for my ?Inspirational Ladies? signature set. The coin looked to be a nice AU grade with even gunmetal toning. However, the coin exhibited what appeared to be carbon deposits primarily on its reverse near the coin?s rim. Thinking the coin would return as a no-grade, I thought to submit it for conservation and grading.

Highly graded coins in this series are hard to come by, with few grading MS-64 or above. Therefore, when the opportunity came, I bought an attractive NGC PF-62, 1904 50-Centavo piece with the same design for my signature set. Now despite having another coin for my collection in the place of the 1 Peso piece, I still thought I might like to conserve it. This, however, was a low priority, since the cost of mailing and conserving the coin approached the value of the coin. The chance to submit my coin came a few months back at the Central States Numismatic Society convention. Bypassing postage costs, I submitted the coin for conservation and grading directly to the representative at NGC?s table.

Conserving coins with environmental damage is generally a good thing. In the past, I have submitted copper coins displaying carbon spots and silver coins with PVC deposits with pleasing results. However, when you conserve coins you cannot simply remove the harmful damage without affecting the rest of the coin. This is an important consideration, because once conserved you are stuck with the results, whether you like them or not.

This is the first coin I have submitted that I question whether conserving is such a great idea. For instance, I had not noticed before that my coin was riddled with hairlines hidden underneath the coin?s gunmetal patina. The conservation process removed the offending deposits AND all the coins toning to reveal every defect. To hold the coin in my hand and look at it without magnification is not that bad, but photographing the coin with magnification looks awful. To be fair, as I have stated before, there are very few pleasing coins with good eye appeal in this series. I had hoped for an AU-58 grade, but received an AU-53 that under the circumstances is fair.

Now here?s the catch-22. Without conservation, this is a no-grade, but with conservation, it is eligible for NGC encapsulation. Now let us say I submit the coin raw as it currently is cracked out of its holder, does NGC return it as a no-grade cleaned? One can only conjecture, but since the coin is known to be conserved, rather than cleaned, it is eligible for encapsulation. The moral of the story is this; some coins must go through NCS to be graded. Beware though, even with this, there are no guarantees. All coins are first evaluated for conservation before conserving and then after conservation your coins still may not be eligible for grading.

All the cost aside, you be the judge, should I or should I not have conserved this coin? More importantly though should you conserve the coins in your collection? For the most part, this has been a good decision that has brought forth the true beauty in my coins. However, conservation cannot make beautiful what is already not. Conservation can only bring out the beauty OR the flaws in coins. Happy Collecting to all.





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