Question: I am not a coin collector, but because several of my friends living in the East are, I became an interested listener. I have become somewhat conversant with their terms, so when I read the word grading , it had a different concept than that used in other fields. Earlier this year, my friends heard that a grading operation was to be established in New Jersey. I intend to visit there about Thanksgiving. Could you name such a company?--S.W.E.
Answer: Grading is a key element to determine the value of a coin. Attempts to create a uniform grading system have been going on for many years, and there is general agreement on the Sheldon Scale, devised by Dr. William H. Sheldon primarily for cents. The scale uses a 1-to-70-point system, with 70 being a coin in the best possible condition. A coin graded MS-60 (Mint State) would be on the low end of the uncirculated scale while one graded MS-65 would be mid-range but very desirable, because few coins meet MS-65 standards.
Because of the importance of grading, numerous services have developed. Foremost are the American Numismatic Assn., 818 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, Colo. 80903 and the Professional Coin Grading Service, P.O. Box 9458, Newport Beach, Calif. 92658, telephone (714) 250-1221.
But there are many other grading services available. Each works independently and the same coin submitted to different services could quite possibly come back with different grading. Also, the same coin resubmitted to the same service could come back with a different grading.
This means a collector's best protection is knowledge. Because grading is essentially a matter of opinion, the collector should have strong convictions when purchasing a treasured coin. It also helps to work with a dealer who will guarantee to repurchase a coin at the same grade at which it was sold. That, basically, simplifies the entire grading process.
As for the grading system you asked about, you're probably referring to Numismatic Guaranty Corp. of America. One of their dealer outlets is Renrob, 4 Cornwall Ave., East Brunswick, N.J. 08816.
Q: Help! I'm not a numismatist. I don't even go to church.
My mother inherited two gold coins we'd like to know more about. There's a 5 kronor dated 1894 (the "heads" side reads Oscar II Sveriges och Norges Konung), and 5 marks Deutches Reich 1877 (Wilhelm Deutcher Kaiser Konig V. Preussen, with a small letter B under the profile). Should we try to sell them or make earrings out of them?--B.B.
A: They'd probably make nice earrings, but they wouldn't match. If the coins are in nice condition, they have collector value; otherwise they're worth the bullion content. They're worth about $65 each and up, depending on condition. (P.S. In numismatic talk, we don't say heads. We say obverse. Tails is reverse .
A Soviet-American Peace and Cooperation Commemorative celebrating the spirit of glasnost , the first medal of its kind, has been produced by the Leningrad Mint at the urging of a Soviet immigrant. The 5-ounce silver piece (pictured) has an obverse crafted by the chief designer of the Moscow Mint and the reverse designed by American Tim Haskin. The inscription reads "Defence (sic) of Nature." Gene Czaplinsky, president of Americna Bullion and Coin of Malibu, spearheaded the project under Soviet auspices. There will be 10,000 pieces minted with an issue price of $195. Part of the profits will be donated to U.S. and Soviet children's funds. The distributor is Ronald J. Gillio Inc., (805) 963-1345.
Don Alpert cannot answer mail personally but will respond to numismatic questions of general interest in this column. Do not telephone. Write to Your Coins, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.