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Grade Deflation

14 posts in this topic

Okay, this was yanked from the Journals, and not approved in the moderated Ask NGC area. So here goes.


Perhaps I'm just whining, but I have what I think is a legitimate complaint, and a speculation to go with it.


I submitted 5 nice early coppers to NGC at the Baltimore show las month. About a week ago I probed the system by trying to add one of the coins to the registry. It was placed on the admin queue. Two days ago I got an email saying the coin had been added to the registry. Eager to see the grade, I logged on, and tried to add the other 4 coins. It turns out that the email was premature, as the order hadn't yet shipped, and the coin was removed from the registry. But I did see the grade assigned.


But Wednesday the order was shipped, so I logged in again to add the coins and got some disappointing results:

1) 1835 half cent, a nice clean coin with perhaps a hint of wear. I could understand an AU58, but if its MS, then it has to be at least 63, maybe 64. The initial grade I got to see on Tuesday was 61BN. If they're going to call it MS, it has to be higher - it has no flaws to drag it down to 61. But the final grade is AU58.

2) 1853 half cent, removed (by previous owner) from an NGC MS64BN holder, returned to same, deservedly so.

3) 1828 cent, described in B&M auction catalog: "Choice, lustrous surfaces. So close to full Mint State. Late die state. A great 1828." The 1st 3 words are key. This is the kind of coin that commonly grades 63-65 at NGC & PCGS. I was expecting 63 or 64 BN. Result: body bag. I can't wait to see why.

4) 1829 cent, removed (by previous owner) from an NGC MS61BN holder. This is actually a nice coin, but certainly no better than 62, and I'd be okay with 61. Result: body bag (for improper cleaning - I know this from correspondence related to the attempted early registry additions).

5) 1831 cent, removed (by a previous owner) from an NGC MS64BN holder. This is a choice cent, CC#4 for its variety. It may have a trace of wear, as its former owner, a well respected EAC dealer, gave it a grade of AU58. But again, such coins commonly grade 63-65 at the major services, and this one is easily a 64. Result: MS62BN.


This brings me to the subject. We've all heard about grade inflation. It's an inevitable result of the limited supply of nice old coins. TPGs have to overgrade occasionally to give hope to those who would resubmit in hopes of higher grades. Otherwise, where will continued profits come from?


Bur what about the reverse? Do they ever deliberately undergrade to create a group of coins begging to be resubmitted? Would such be done more to coins submitted by non-dealers? In small quantities? I hope the answer is no, and the TPGs certainly will take umbrage at the suggestion. But obvious undergrading (with respect to what's most common in the marketplace, and that I see a lot at auction lot viewing and bourse floors) seems to have happened to my coins with upsetting frequency.


Let me know what you think. You can check out photos in my sets. If you do, note the 1831 in particular, and see the 1843 (and the 1819 regarding NCS conservation). Thanks for your responses.

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I don't think TPG's are out to get anyone. They are (supposedly) experienced in thier field of knowledge. Everone looks at thier coins in a different frame of mind as anyone else. We are always partial of our own coins. What we see in one coin, we may see another differently depending on our feelings of that type coin. Also, it seems that you bought some coins from some not so reputable sellers. 2 of the coins BB'd. It sounds like you have some knowledge on distinguishing the quality of coins, a cleaned coin seems would have been spotted before purchasing. Just my thoughts! confused-smiley-013.gif

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The crack-out game is fraught with dangers. I would think especially so with early copper. In a series where you're dealing with, beside a Sheldon scale of 70, Red's , Brown's and Red-Brown's, there are bound to be many discrepancies.

I've rarely seen an EAC person agree with a TPG, or any 3 people agree on a higher grade copper coin grade for that matter. Part of the series.....


Welcome to the boards, by the way.....



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early copper is extremely hard to grade when looking at it for a few seconds per side


and early copper depending on the day even among eac expert members there are wide variences with concern to grade and details and even surfaces


so these results do not surprise me in the least


also with ngc in regards to early copper over the last 20 or so years there have been times where there are great disparities of grading results aND bodybags


currently from waht i have seen and heard first hand ngc has been on a bodybag kick and all over the place with copper in general with regards to grades this last month or so with an above average count of bodybags to add to this mix


but tomorrow is yet another submission day filled with hopes dreams and over and under----grades along with some bodybags thrown into the count

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More than anything, I think you experienced what many have (including myself) that the TPGs are very fickle about grading early copper. There's no genuine consistency to the process and their grades (including BB's) are all over the map. It's just a simple fact. Bill Jones posted a couple of lengthy threads about the subject a month or so back - look for those, you'll find them quite informative.



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I've made note of this issue numerous times, and will take this opportunity do so again:


TPGs are incredibly inconsistent grading early copper.


This is the reason most collectors simply do not want certified copper. The inconsistency (forgive me for stating this, NGC) borders on total incompetence. In another recent thread, I stated that I disagree with at least 90% of certified grades on copper coins, and despite what certain PCGS-enamored collectors say, PCGS is no better at grading early copper.


I strongly urge anyone wanting to venture into early copper to take the time to learn from other early copper collectors. THEY have the knowledge to impart that no amount of erratic, inconsistent third-party grading ever can.


What you experienced was NOT "grade deflation", what you experienced was grading inconsistency.

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Others have elaborated already on the TPGs' grading fluctuatings on early copper...I agree. TPG grade assignments are pretty much useless here. When I purchase an early copper coin I give a cursory glance at the grade assigned on the piece of plastic and then determine the grade for myself. If the price is right for the grade I believe it to be then it's a sale...if not, then I move on the the next coin.


I play a crack-out game... of sorts. If I like the coin enough to purchase it and it happens to be in pastic...I crack it out.





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Bur what about the reverse? Do they ever deliberately undergrade to create a group of coins begging to be resubmitted? Would such be done more to coins submitted by non-dealers? In small quantities? I hope the answer is no, and the TPGs certainly will take umbrage at the suggestion. But obvious undergrading (with respect to what's most common in the marketplace, and that I see a lot at auction lot viewing and bourse floors) seems to have happened to my coins with upsetting frequency.


Not knowing too much about early copper coins I will focus my comments on the idea that TPS's will under-grade or BB coins to earn more submissions.


The main four TPG's are all rather large companies. PCGS parent company is even publicly traded. It is doubtful that such large companies would bother to systematically look for resubmissions by purposefully manipulating the grade on individual (non-super) coins.


However, the grading trends (deflation/inflation) that were discussed above may create a certain attraction to resubmissions. In other words, there is no need to do it on a coin by coin level. TPG's create that type of revenue on a much broader scale.

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Sounds like an ordinary submission result.


1. Previously holdered coins bodybagged.

2. Coin not the same grade as owner expected.

3. Coin not same grade as auction house proclaimed.

4. Coin not same grade as dealer said.


I see nothing new.

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I agree with James completely. The top services are very inconsistent at grading Early Copper. I submit a good number of Large Cents to the services, and the results would almost be laughable if not for the cost of certification. But I will say this, if your Ealy Copper coins are truly nice, they will EVENTUALLY get the grades they deserve, or at least reasonable and realistic grades--it's just going to cost you more cash than you had initially planned on!

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Ok. At least my expectations of sympathy were on the mark!

But seriously, I do appreciate the more substantive comments.


I am new to the chat boards. As I have time, I will check out some

of the discussions on topics like this one and others of interest to me.


In my experience of closely examining auction lots and bourse offerings,

the NGC and PCGS mint state grades have not seemed totally inconsistent

to me. Certainly there are plenty of what many of us would consider obviously

over or under-graded coins. But it seems to me there is a typical quality for the

various grades, especially 64 and 65. It is that consistency that leads me

to particular expectations when I submit coins. And I've gotten what I expected

in the past, with one exception in terms of grade (1843 cent), and one body bag

for a coin I got cheap, sight-unseen from Stack's (1819 cent) Check out my

descriptions & photos in the registry.


When I buy coins, I don't pay too much attention to the slab grade either. If I like

the coin and the price seems fair (and if I have the money!), I'll buy slabbed or raw.

But there is a certain security in having a NGC/PCGS grade I agree with on a nice

coin, but nice coins will do well when it's time to sell whether they're in slabs or not.


I choose to have my raw coins slabbed mainly to protect them from myself.

There are many, especially among early copper enthusiasts, who despise slabs,

and like the previous responder will crack coins out. But I've heard enough stories,

and seen enough fingerprints on otherwise wonderful coins, that I'd rather remove

my coins from potential harm than have the enjoyment many get from holding

their coins. I enjoy mine just fine in the slabs. I may have to rethink this if I ever

start seriously collecting coins with edge lettering or designs. And I do store my

coins in a temperature & humidity controlled environment, in corrosion protection



But I do also seek that comfort factor of an "accurate" TPG grade, and find the

registry to be fun to watch & participate in. The competition is not for me though,

since I don't have the funding to play with the big boys, and competing for 3rd

or 30th place is not my style.


Thanks again to those of you who made thoughtful, substantive comments.



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