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).

nobid_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.

1881-S_condition

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.

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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Grading Weaver Auction

weaver

We will run occasional grading checks on Proxibid auctions so you can see how we bid based on condition. These coins are from Weaver Signature Coin and Currency Auction’s June 9 session. We grade on PCGS standards as found on Photograde, admittedly more conservative than grading of most auctioneers but still the standard in numismatics. Click pictures below to expand.

We call a coin:

    choiceBU

    “Choice Brilliant Uncirculated” if will grade at NGC or PCGS at the MS63-64 level. Weaver calls Choice BU, but we see one too many bagmarks for that grade. We’d call it Mint State (meaning MS 60-62).


    choiceAU_agree

    “Choice AU” if will grade at NGC or PCGS at the AU58 level. We agree with this grade.


    au_agreebut AU50

    ALMOST UNCIRCULATED” if it would grade between AU50-58. We agree with the AU grade here, but think this may be AU50.


    agree_ef_cleaningquestion

    EXTRA FINE” if it would grade XF40-45. We agree with this grade and also believe there is a chance the coin may have been cleaned. Hard to tell on some Wheat cents. We’re a bit concerned with the upper left and right fields. (Click picture to expand and judge for yourself.)


    multiple_agree

    VERY FINE” if it would grade VF20-35. We agree with the middle grade of VF on the 1923-D Peace Dollar, which also has what look like cabinet rubs. We applaud Weaver for noting condition in a multi-item lot.


    fine_cleaned_agree_value

    FINE” if it would grade F12-15. Once more, an accurate grade here with a note about cleaning, a value-added feature in Weaver Auctions.


    verygood_value

    VERY GOOD” if it would grade VG8-10. We agree with this grade. We also agree that there is damage to this coin, as noted in the lot description.


    agree_good

    GOOD” if it would grade G4-6. We agree with this grade.


    VALUE ADDED” if the auctioneer discloses flaws or condition issues with any lot. As noted, Weaver Auction does this regularly, describing cleaning and rim dings:

    value_rimding_cleaned


    Generally, in our subjective but nonetheless expert opinion, we feel Weaver Auction is accurate to PCGS standards in almost all lots. This stands in stark contrast to the vast majority of auction houses on Proxibid. Weaver Auction has been top-rated on Proxiblog for three straight years.

    Grading is in part subjective, and is difficult to do via online photographs. Our designations are based on how we bid and why. Thus, the overall grade on Weaver Auction grading based on our criteria: A.

    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.

Improve Your Grading Skills!

This is a two-part article about the importance of grading coins properly in Proxibid auctions. Grading coins is part science, part art, but if Proxibid auctioneers are going to sell coins regularly, they might develop a deeper knowledge of grading.

There are ways to improve your numismatic knowledge, and doing so will increase your profits, consignments and return customers over time.

Although Proxibid may schedule 70 coin auctions per month, fewer than a half dozen houses accurately grade coins. A few houses know coins and hype lot descriptions, calling slider coins “gem” and brilliant uncirculated coins “deep mirror.” Don’t be swayed by extensive numismatic sounding lot descriptions if those descriptions don’t hold up to grading standards.

Here are ways to improve your knowledge of coins:

  1. Read numismatic magazines like Coin World or online ones like CoinLink or Coin Update News.
  2. Subscribe to CoinFacts whose photography and coin encyclopedia are the best numismatic tools on the Internet.
  3. Attend classes, seminars and educational programs by the American Numismatic Association.
  4. Learn how to submit coins to top grading companies, such as PCGS and NGC.
  5. Grade each coin in consignment by using standards as illustrated by PCGS Photograde Online.

Here are some things you should NEVER do:

  • Never list a consignor’s grade in your lot description without noting it is not your grade; rather, correct over-enthusiastic consignor descriptions especially when they exaggerate on flips.
  • Do not use PCGS Price Guide or Coin Values price data on coins unless they are graded by PCGS (for PCGS holdered coins) and Coin Values (for PCGS, NGC, ANACS and ICG).
  • Never hype coins, exaggerating details, scarcity or other intrinsic value.
  • Stop pretending that every coin in every auction has come from a safety deposit box of a recently deceased octogenarian.
  • Invest in a good digital camera, make sure you have proper lightning, capture luster and never alter a photo to make the coin seem better than it actually is.

In the next installment of Proxiblog, we will identify auction houses that graded accurately–so much so, that their raw coins graded at the same level or higher by PCGS.


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.

Identify consignor’s inflated grades

CLICK PICTURE TO EXPAND

Pet Peeve of the Week: This auctioneer knows coins and still goes with the consignor’s inflated grade. This coin is not GEM uncirculated but has hairlines and is not grade-worthy. We know photographing coins takes time. But we also know you can do better for the online crowd photographing coins accurately (especially when we can with a $199 camera). To top if off, we know you can grade as you deal regularly with coins. Given all of that, please correct consignor’s exaggerated claims in future auctions, or you’ll be losing regular customers.

Tip for other bidders: Compare your coins to what the consignor wrote on the flip, what the auctioneer wrote in the Proxibid description and, when you receive the coin, what you believe the true grade actually is. To help you in this exercise, go to PCGS Photograde Online.