How to Grade Coin Lots

There are several sites that display condition. Our favorite is PCGS Photograde Online. However, before you can use a database like this, you have to know how to spot flaws, especially difficult on Proxibid because of poor or trick photos by too many houses, concealed further by hyped lot descriptions..)

The first rule on Proxibid is never bid on a coin photographed at a slant, which exaggerates luster that in turn conceals condition. Below is a prime example (click to expand photo).


The lot description states that this is an MS66 1881-S, worth almost $400. Worse, the auctioneer states “stunning luster almost flawless.” Yes, it has luster. That’s why it can conceal flaws when photographed at the slant.

Nevertheless, to a skilled eye, even this old numismatic trick can be deciphered. Expand the lot photo to the max and notice the slightest evidence of common flaws like dings, bagmarks and hairlines. We believe this to be a common MS63 Morgan worth less than $50. Expand photo below to see the flaws we detected.


To become familiar with types of flaws, be sure to play our regular “Find the Flaw” game on Proxiblog.

Once again, folks, never bid on coins photographed at a slant. Or if you must, stop bidding as soon as you spot the tiniest flaw. Chances are many more are concealed by the reflection of luster.

To train your eye to spot flaws, always begin at the rim and rove over the coin in a clockwise manner, gradually working your way to the middle of the coin. Or you can start at the middle and work your way counterclockwise to the rim. Note any anomaly as you inspect the lot.

Case in point: The auctioneer states the lot below is a “very nice” uncirculated trade dollar. It is not very nice. If you only look at the description and the middle of the coin, the lot may appear so. This is, in actuality, an ungradeable coin because of significant damage.


Did you spot that damage? If not, you had better bone up on grading. If so, kudos on your numismatic eye!

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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