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  • Member: Seasoned Veteran

Sloppy Numismatic Research can benefit some and hurt others


On Saturday June 28th I attended a local auction that had several coin lots. Viewing was on Friday the day before. Most of the lots were foreign except for one US lot and one ancient lot with the best coin in the ancient lot being a St. Patrick Halfpenny ("U.S." colonial). I really wanted a couple of the world coin lots and did bid on them but I had to drop out because I only had so much money and I know I would need most if not all for the lot I really wanted, that being a 1797 16 star (JR-1) U.S. Dime.


On Friday I study the heck out of this coin and liked everything I saw. No did not bring my balance beam scale or micrometer to take physical measurements. However I have been collecting and studying coins for 60 years. I also took classes from the man selected by the ANA to originally head up their authentication service (not grading service). The one thing I took away from these classes was how to really look at/examine a coin. Everything I saw I liked, in addition die crack perfectly match the die crack on genuine specimens. The only thing I did not understand was the estimated value for this lot which was $500 to $1000????? I graded the coin as at least XF and hoped it would come back AU. Well today I checked the NGC web site and the result was in, it graded out at XF-45 (Not AU but better than a straight XF).


After I won the coin (total cost $3,800 + $570 buyer's fee + certification fee and round trip S&H) = $4,500 you could heard the under bidders talking about all the problems the coin had and how it was a really low grade. I just smiled.


As I was waiting to pay for the coin I was approached by a man who told me he really wanted to bid on the coin but he carries a little ruler with him and when he measured the coin it was a mm too large. And he convinced himself the coin had been placed into jewelry that cause a flattening of the rim. That caught me off guard, and to me the rim looked perfectly natural. So when I got home I got out my micrometer and measured the diameter to be 20mm. I then got out Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of US and Colonial Coinage. This reference gave the diameter as 19.8 mm, 19.8mm vs. 20mm close enough for me but nowhere near a mm off. I then looked at the Red Book and guess what it gives a diameter of 19mm. I checked out an older Red Book and there the diameter was approximately 19mm. They went from approximately to a definite 19mm. I then went to the NGC site and they just use the info from the Red Book so it also shows 19mm. I am somewhat disappointed that NGC does not (at a minimum) verify the physical information they provide on their website. I mean I cannot believe they authenticate coins without checking the physical parameters of the coins. So all this info would be readily available to NGC.


Anyway the sloppy numismatic research provided in the Red Book and repeated by NGC saved me from a serious competitor for the coin I wanted and definitely saved me money. So thank you.


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