• When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network.


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Basic grading tips part l

7 posts in this topic

I just posted this on the OTHER board and thought I'd do the same here. I don't post nearly as often here and I realize that some of you frequent both forums, but hopefully this will be of interest to a few of you here.


Disclaimer :


I have no doubt that much or all of this has been discussed previously and in some cases, in greater detail and in a more interesting fashion. But, I have received a lot of questions about pointers for examining and grading coins, so I'll try to address them in this format.


These are merely my opinions and they may differ from those of others.


I was originally planning on including several pointers in one post. However, I quickly realized that to do so would necessitate a post that would be so long as to guarantee that I would put numerous forum members into a deep and prolonged sleep. So, I have decided to break it up into 2 or three different segments. If this first one does not get me banned from the boards there will be a Part ll and so on. Ok, here we go......




Different people prefer different types of lighting. I prefer using a small, high intensity "Tensor" lamp. I can sometimes see things (hairlines, etc.) on coins under this type of light that I can't see under a regular lamp with a 75 or 100 watt bulb. Some prefer halogen lamps and others prefer 75 or 100 watt lamps, like you might see at coin shows or auction lot viewings.


There is no right or wrong in this area. I would suggest experimenting with a few different types of light sources to get a feel for what you can see with each and what you are most comfortable with. Lighting can be a problem if it is not intense enough but conversely, if too intense, it can drown out colors that you might otherwise see and prevent you from getting a good look at a coin. Warning - do not look at coins in bright sunlight or under laser beams!


One thing I would stress - it is very important that whatever type of lighting you use, that it be consistent. If you go to a show and buy coins under different lighting conditions than you are used to, you might receive a very unpleasant surprise when you get home and examine your coins!


I would also caution you about lighting at coin auction viewings and shows - if the overhead lights are too bright they can drown out the light source that you are using and you might not be getting a good look at the coins. Be aware of the type of lighting, any time you are examining coins. You would be amazed how at different the same coin can look under different lighting conditions. Think about some of the coin images you see and how two different images of the same coin can look so different and you will get the picture.




BEFORE you put a glass to a coin, I would urge you to look at the coin for a few seconds without magnification - get a feel for what it looks like - look at the big picture.


Many very expensive coins get graded and bought and sold without the use of magnification. I rarely use a magnifying glass. The exceptions for myself, are for very small coins like Three Cent Silvers and gold Dollars, as well as the cases where I see something like a spot or flaw that I wish to examine more closely. When I do use magnification, it is most often a 5X and occasionally a 10X. I think it is important that when you use a glass, that in most cases, you be able to look at a good portion of the coin and not simply one tiny area in isolation. If you look at just one area you can get a distorted view.


If you use strong enough magnification, I am convinced that just about any classic coin can look bad! And, while you might be proud of yourself for finding 17 flaws on an MS66 coin, you might be doing yourself a big disservice by passing on it, flaws and all.


Whatever magnification you use should allow you to get a good look at the coin but not to lose sight (pun intended) of what the whole coin looks like. And remember, if you have decent eye sight and have been trained to examine a coin properly (more on that later) you wont need a glass in many cases. I PROMISE YOU - SOMEONE WHO KNOWS WHAT HE OR SHE IS DOING CAN SEE THINGS WITH THE NAKED EYE THAT YOU WONT EVEN SEE WITH A GLASS.


I am not against magnifiers but feel that they are sometimes overused and misused. Think about the whole/big picture and learn to overlook the little flaws (unless the coin is supposed to be an MS or PR 70) - oftentimes, they simply don't matter that much on a practical basis.


Please do not take what I have stated above to mean that I think it is ok to buy over graded coins or that imperfections and flaws don't matter with respect to grade. That is not the case at all. However, I see many non-experts engage in "micro-grading" where they focus so much on little, mostly inconsequential imperfections, that they lose perspective and can't see the forest for the trees, as the saying goes.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

great info! thanks! smile.gif Looking forward to the rest of the installments! smile.gif


I have yet to find the perfect light, mostly from not looking wink.gif but have a few lights and bulbs lined up to try this weekend.


Typicaly I wont use magnification to look at a coin. Maybe to see a mint mark or date on a worn or dark coin (like the lbs of wheat cents I have been going through lately) but for most MS and PR coins I find using a loop makes me miss more important details of the coin, like luster and eye appeal. I have "practiced" on enough Morgans where I can grade them very accurately by eye alone. My last ANACS submission I was 8 for 10, the two I missed where PCGS crackouts that went down 1-2 grades at ANACS, the rest were bought raw and all met my target grade of MS63 grin.gif


My latest venture is Roosevelt dimes, I havent figured them out yet. The smaller coin messes me up, and I seem to undergrade them more than anything, which I guess is better than overgrading smile.gif



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great post! Very helpful and informative. I found your insights on magnification to be right on the money, especially when it comes to gold. Under 10-X, an MS-65 coin can have so many tiny flaws you almost wonder if it's even unc! Of course gold is so soft, there are a lot of differences in the total grading picture, but the overall truth is the same, high magnification makes imperceptible flaws seem gigantic.


One problem I have in the bust series, is accurately grading the circulates grades. It seems like it should be easier to tell a VF from an XF, than telling an MS-66 from an MS-67, but I find it's not often the case. If you haven't written your future installments, that's one topic I would love to hear some pointers on.


Thanks for the post!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

superb !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! extremely well written and totally accurate this will save many when they go to shows and examine coins!! especially with the light thing...............


also i might add when you first .look at a coin

look at it with your own eyes this first three second glance weill tell you if you like the coin overall or not if you do not like the coin at first then this tells you to pass on the coin!


the first three second impression/look of a coin a coin within your speciality/trained eye usually tells you 90% of what you want to know about that coin!


also if you do not love the coin at first sight i mean it has to really do something for you then it is a pass

if you have to

think about a coin an aganoise about it well i like this but not this or should i or shuold'nt i? then it is also a PASS!!!


one of the best threads started on here!!!!!!!!!!!!!


i look forawrd to the part 2 and so on!!


sincerely michael

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Michael. you are right on but you jumped the gun. Examining the coin itself is the first part of the second installment - slow down there, buster. shocked.gif

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good advice. Keep it coming.

I have a flourescent swing arm magnifer lamp clamped to my desk. The lighting might not be the best but it approximates most of the lighting at shows and shops and doesn't overamplify.

Link to comment
Share on other sites