Don’t Say “DMPL” Unless You Mean It

Proxiblog has written about how to identify and photograph deep mirror proof-like coins, mostly Morgan dollars. Click here for an example. Or click here for an article about that. Because DMPL coins command such a large premium, we’re seeing that designation used in more Proxibid auctions. Problem is, the coins range from merely proof-like to just plain ordinary.

For the record, we have won 39 coins in the past year described as deep mirror proof-like, or DMPL. Only 9 earned that distinction when sent to top grading company PCGS, or a failure rate of more than 75%. Of the 30 that didn’t earn DMPL, 12 were prooflike, 15 grade-worthy and 3 altered or cleaned.

For a Morgan dollar to be DMPL, it must reflect readable type at a distance of 6-8 inches. Both sides of the coin must do that. While devices do not have to frosted, they almost always are, because DMPLs are associated with first strikes from a new die. On Morgan dollars, a DMPL has a watery surface. You can literally shave by it as if it were a mirror. When you see a high mint state example, you won’t forget it.

Of Proxibid auctioneers, the ones who have accurately designated DMPLs in the past year when their raw coins were sent to PCGS were Eddie Caven of Key Date Coins (2 out of 5 with 3 returned as proof-like), Dave Zwonitzer of Western Auction (3 out of 6 with 2 returned as proof-like and one mint state), Scott Strosnider of Scott Auctions (2 of 3 with 1 returned as proof-like) and Matthew Bullock of Matthew Bullock Auctioneers (2 out of 3 with 1 returned as proof-like).

Keep in mind that Proxiblog is bidding on these coins and not bidding on others described as DMPL, rejecting others with that designation because there was no chance of earning that distinction from PCGS. Even though we know our DMPLs, in more cases than not, we were wrong.

The ability to correctly identify a DMPL coin as judged by the most rigorous grading company, PCGS, is a true talent, so I have no problem with praising the auctioneers above. Moreover, they all use the term relatively sparingly, and when they are wrong, the coin is at least usually proof-like.

Here’s an example of a coin purchased from Matt Bullock that graded MS64 DMPL by PCGS.

Five other Proxibid auctioneers are batting zero, with one house claiming eight coins were DMPL in the past 12 months, only for us to see 5 returned by PCGS as proof-like and 3 mint state.

That just shows how difficult it is to designate a DMPL. However, to illustrate how frequent the DMPL designation has become on Proxibid, we won five coins in an auction described as such, for the sheer purpose of photographing them and documenting that they were just common Morgans with a cartwheel effect. Here’s a photo of the best coin (click to expand). Compare it to Matt Bullock’s above.

Several points here have to be made:

  • If you don’t know how to test for a DMPL, don’t use the designation. Do as Brad Lisembee of Capitol Auctions, John Leonard of Leonard Auction and Dave Weaver of Weaver Coin and Currency Auction do, using the word “DMPL” sparingly and preferring to call such coins Gem, Premium Quality, or High Mint State/Proof-like.
  • Don’t quote the DMPL PCGS value on any raw coin–or any coin not holdered by PCGS, for that matter–because such coins are truly rare, and chances are, yours isn’t when graded by the top slabbing company.
  • If your consignor says it’s a DMPL, quote the consignor (and if you know coins, correct him or her in that generous assessment).Larry Fuller of Silvertowne Auctions and Eddie Caven of Key Date Coins often make this distinction, earning bidder trust.
  • If you’re a bidder and want DMPLs, buy them from trusted auctioneers who know how to test for the grade and who use the term relatively sparingly in lot descriptions. Otherwise bid on DMPL coins in graded holders by reputable companies (ANACS, ICG, NGC, PCGS and, on occasion PCI and Numistrust Corporation).

Finally, all deep mirror coins aren’t beautiful. Because they have mirrored surfaces, they scratch easily and often, especially when they have been stored in certain coin albums with plastic separators. Sometimes it’s just better for auctioneer, consignor and buyer alike to treat all potential DMPLs as proof-like, which often are handsomer coins.

Proxiblog is an independent entity with no connection to the auction portal Proxibid. Our intent is to uphold basic numismatic standards as established by the American Numismatic Association and the National Auctioneer Association and to ensure a pleasurable bidding experience not only on Proxibid but also on similar portals such as iCollector and AuctionZip.


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