How and How Not to Describe Bottom-Tier Slabs

John Leonard of Leonard Auction features some of the most accurate lot descriptions on Proxibid, especially when it comes to bottom-tier and self-slabbed coins. He is conscientious about grading them appropriately. A few other auctioneers, not so much. …

The rule concerning any unknown slabbing company is to treat the coin as raw and not to cite Redbook or PCGS values as to its worth. Here are three recent descriptions from John Leonard’s upcoming Saturday, May 18th, auction. (Click to expand.)


In the photo below, the slab states that this common silver dollar, a 1921 Morgan, is gem MS65 worth about $150. Leonard calls this an AU slider with details, and those are harsh cleaning and damage, rending this lot to silver melt, about $20.

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In the photo below, the slab states that this common silver dollar, an 1896 Morgan, is a super gem MS66 worth about $650. Leonard calls this choice BU, or MS64, worth about $80.

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In the photo below, the slab states that this common silver dollar, an 1885-O Morgan, is MS60 worth about $25. Leonard calls this an AU slider, rending this lot slightly above silver melt, at about $22.

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This auctioneer below is not as conscientious as John Leonard. He consistently makes two numismatic errors, hyping bottom-tier slabs (error 1) and citing PCGS values (error 2). See lot below. These are serious ethical errors in the coin collecting world, and this auctioneer who sells coins regularly and has some of the best consignments on Proxibid–featured on occasion in Coin World–knows, or should know, better.

hyped3

This is not worth $725 but probably $30 at low-mint state. The coin also may be cleaned, but we cannot discern that from the photo. (We see trouble spots in the right field at about 2:30 o’clock.) We would not bid on this, treating the coin as low-mint state or slider with details.

As a rule, PCGS and NGC are top holdering companies, but each does have different standards. Each company has its own values site on the Web. For ANACS and ICG, use CoinValues or Redbook values.

Some holdering companies, such as PCI, ACG, SEGS, and Numistrust typically grade a few points lower than PCGS or NGC; but it’s best to treat those coins as raw, too, learning about grading (see our regular “Find the Flaw” feature) and bidding on the coin rather than the holder.

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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Putting Lower-Tier Slabs in their Place

You’ve heard us in our “Boos and Booyahs” page compliment Larry Fuller, veteran numismatist writing Proxibid descriptions for Silvertowne Auctions. One of his trademarks is putting a realistic grade on those MS66 holders that often encapsulate cleaned, lower grade, or silver melt Morgans.

Grades by PCGS and NGC are the most consistent. ANACS and ICG are also reliable. Second-tier holder companies include PCI, SEGS, Accugrade, and Dominion Grading Service. NumisTrust is less reliable but occasionally gets a grade right. National Numismatic Certification is even less consistent. All others that grade MS66 or MS67 on every coin are unreliable when compared with grading standards by the American Numismatic Association.

In general, a good rule to follow is tout the grade in the lot description only if the coin is holdered by PCGS, NGC, ANACS, ICG.

Here’s a series of lot descriptions from the past several Silvertowne auctions, so you can see how Larry Fuller does it. (Click to expand picture and read Larry’s description in the lower left corner.)






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.

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.

Overgraded Coins Tarnish Reputation

Proxiblog believes reputation is the highest form of customer service. Nothing tarnishes reputation more within the numismatic community as an auctioneer selling overgraded and/or self-slabbed coins as is happening now with a Proxibid house whose name is being withheld out of courtesy.

Proxiblog also believes if you’re going to sell coins, and claim to know little about them, then stop quoting coin guides inappropriately, as does this example, citing the retail Red Book value of the coin as being over $23,500.

Of course the auctioneer adds that his house bears no responsibility and that the grade is determined by buyer and consignor. That’s too easy, especially for this house, which specializes in selling coins and has conducted more than 30 coin auctions in the past two months. Worse, some unethical consignors, including “coin doctors,” prey on houses that sell coins but claim to know little about them. So it is in the company’s interest here to pay heed to this post.

Whoever purchases this featured coin would be lucky to have it graded MS63, rather than the MS66 it is claimed to be, for a whopping $75. Even if the grade came in at MS64, the retail price would be about $130. Without even expanding the picture, one can see contact marks on the cheek and at 9 o’clock on the obverse.

Auctioneers who value reputation take to heart the National Auctioneers Association’s code of ethics.

Take the time to do a Google search on companies claiming to be coin graders. Input the company’s name with the term “coin” and “grading.” You can also go to eBay and do the same, as that company’s guides are particularly useful here.

These are the top-tier grading companies: PCGS, NGC, ICG, ANACS. Other reliable but not as consistent grading companies include PCI, Dominion Grading Service, Numistrust, SEGS, and National Numismatic Certification. It has been Proxiblog’s experience that these companies typically overgrade by 1-3 points above the top grading companies. However, with certain coins, as with the one above, a one or two point difference can entail hundreds if not tens of thousands of dollars.

To read more about self-slabbed coins, click here.

Proxiblog is an independent entity with no ties to Proxibid. However, Proxiblog is dedicated to making the bidding experience on Proxibid and similar auction portals as pleasurable and profitable as possible with respect to coins.