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Grading Services a Major Development of the '80s

June 23, 1988|DON ALPERT

Probably the most significant development in numismatics during the '80s is the emergence of coin grading services.

Grading is a key factor, since the price of most coins is determined by the grade. The higher the grade, the more expensive the coin.

Because dealers traditionally grade the coins they sell, they are often not perceived to be totally objective in assigning a grade. The price difference between a coin graded Mint State 62 and MS-65, for example, can be substantial.

Hence the development of coin grading services as a growth industry. They are intended to be impartial judges. Coins are submitted virtually on an anonymous basis and usually are studied by a panel that eventually assigns a numerical designation.

A Profit Motive

Even dealers submit coins, hoping for a higher grade. If they get it, they can make a bigger profit; if not, they can remove the coin from the grading service's holder and go with the original grade. All they're out is the $20 or so it cost for a second opinion.

Many coins now are offered for sale in the holders of the grading services. This way, the buyer knows the coin is certified by at least one group of experts.

It's important to realize, however, that even the experts don't agree all the time. The knowledgeable collector will rely on his own expertise. Characteristics to look for include contract marks, wear and friction, strike, toning and color, and eye appeal.

Leading services include the American Numismatic Assn. Certification Service, 818 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado Springs, Colo. 80903-3279; telephone (719) 632-2646; the Professional Coin Grading Service, P.O. Box 9458, Newport Beach, Calif. 92658; telephone (714) 250-1211, and the Numismatic Guaranty Corp. of America, P.O. Box 1776, Parsippany, N.J. 07054; telephone (201) 984-6222.

Differing Methods, Fees

Other grading services have come and gone, but the three named seem to have the biggest foothold. Each differs somewhat from the others, both in methods of operation and fees charged.

All are similar in offering an alternative to the grading bugaboo. Coins in ANACS, PCGS and NGC holders trade actively on the open market, and to a certain extent they have helped stabilize grading uncertainties.

On the other hand, grading services have complicated the market somewhat by adding another element to an already complicated procedure.

If certified coins fit into your comfort zone, compare the three services before deciding which is best for you.

NGC, incidentally, works only through certain dealers, and coins must be submitted through them. ANACS and PCGS accept coins directly. Check with various dealers regarding these services and also get opinions from other collectors.

Certified coins fill an important niche in collecting, but nothing should replace individual judgment.

Coin News

An Anne Frank medal (pictured) is being issued by Israel to honor the young Jewish victim of the Holocaust. The obverse depicts Anne Frank's face behind a half-open door with her name in Hebrew and English, and a menorah with one lit candle, a symbol of hope. The reverse features a stylized hand raised in protest behind a barbed wire fence. Within the six-pointed Star of David, which Anne Frank and other Dutch Jews were forced to wear, is the word Jood . Above is the Hebrew word for remember.

The medal, designed by Alex Shagin, is available in bronze ($12), silver ($22) and 18-karat gold ($110) from the Israel Government Coins and Medals Corp., 5 Ahad Ha'am St., P.O.B. 2270, Jerusalem 91022, Israel; or American Israel Numismatic Assn., P.O. Box 836, Oakland Gardens, N.Y. 11364. Philatelic-numismatic covers (which include Anne Frank stamps) are $29 and $49 plus $2 for shipping from the Israel Stamp Agency in North America, 1 Unicover Center, Cheyenne, Wyo. 82008-0006; telephone (800) 443-3232.

Coin Calendar

Friday, Saturday and Sunday--An auction of more than 800 coins will highlight the Newport Beach Coin Show at the Irvine Hilton & Towers, 17900 Jamboree Drive, Irvine. A proof-66 1895 Morgan dollar is expected to sell for more than $45,000. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. The auction is at 7 p.m. Friday. A seminar by William Gay on "Rare Coin Collecting and Investment" will be held Friday at 3 p.m.; Saturday at noon and Sunday at 11 a.m. A discussion by David Lisot on coin certification will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. Admission is $2.

Coin Letter

In a recent column, you responded to a question regarding "a greenish oily substance" that was found on some coins placed in a plastic protective sheet. As contributing editor on plastics for Industrial West, I think I should offer my comments.

The "oily substance" is most likely a plasticizer used as an additive to soften and make the vinyl plastic more flexible. Many such additives do tend to migrate. We would not expect most plasticizers to react with the coin under normal conditions. Accordingly, you should be able to remove this "oily substance" from the coin by wiping with a variety of common solvents that would not attack the coin.

Plastic films can also be made using non-migrating plasticizers. Such plastic films are available from a number of major plastics suppliers/manufacturers. It would appear that there is an opportunity for suppliers to coin collectors to offer a more suitable plastic film for the storage/protection of valuable coins.--GEORGE EPSTEIN

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