Can you advise me on a potential purchase without a picture?

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by Joe Campbell, May 15, 2019.

  1. Joe Campbell

    Joe Campbell Active Member

    Surely the answer is 'no' but we're going to take a spin at it anyways. I was at the LCS today and saw a 1940 PF Washington quarter for sale. It's raw, non-cameo and in really nice condition. Unfortunately I have no idea how to grade it. My best guess is it's mid-grade, maybe 64-65. Couple of issues with it - 1) it's slightly hazy. Not bad, but a little hazy. I think this is fairly normal and potentially correctable with an acetone bath or something. 2) With the loupe out I can see a carbon spot (I think) on the 4 in the date. Not really visible immediately with the named eye but not invisible either.

    Question - and keep in mind I'm super new at this and trying to learn - is how would those 2 issues, and the coin being raw affect how you personally would approach the purchase? I believe the price asked is extremely reasonable for the coin.

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  3. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    First, I would learn to grade silver proofs. Then, search out pricing for certified coins in the same grade, and try to buy below what those sell for.

    In this case PCGS PR64 books for $110, and auction prices seem to run $70-80. I would try to buy at the auction price or below.

    But, really, learn to grade before you start buying things like this.
  4. ldhair

    ldhair Clean Supporter

    With raw proofs of this value and age, be careful to study the coin for hairlines. It's a major part of grading these.
    Dave Waterstraat and Paul M. like this.
  5. jgrinz

    jgrinz Senior Member

    … Also haze and fogging are VERY common on these.
    Phone cameras take reasonable pictures why dont you quickly zap a few.
    It is not unreasonable to think the coin is NOT graded because it is in an ungradable condition ( Cleaned etc ) OR the grading of it would not be dollar effective to do so because of a low potential grade. Saw a nice beautifully toned PF66 go for $104.
    Kind of my thinking is if you do not know the "subject" buy an attractive coin to you already encapsulated by NGC or PCGS.
    Paul M. and Randy Abercrombie like this.
  6. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    The short answer is PASS. The Proof Washington Quarter from this era is a drug on the market. Mid grade ones like this are even less desirable. This is an area for bargain hunting for certified coins. Don’t even mess with the raw PR-64 ish coins.

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    Howdy Joe -

    I'll start off by saying I can't disagree with the advice already given. I myself have advised more times than I can count to never buy a coin unless and until you know what you're doing.

    But, that doesn't really help you does it ? What I mean is this, and it's a problem that almost all new to the hobby are faced with. Your desire is to collect coins, but you are reluctant to buy any because you acknowledge that you don't know what you're doing just yet. Well, that's a good thing, a smart thing - but that doesn't help you solve your problem of fulfilling your desire now does it ?

    So, when one is new to the hobby and lacking knowledge, how does one solve this problem ? That's really the issue isn't it ? Don't get me wrong, the questions you're asking are good questions. You're trying to find out how those more knowledgeable than you would address the two specific issues that you have raised when it comes to - should I buy it to begin with and if I do how does it affect the price ?

    Well, the answers you're given will help you with this one specific coin - but what about the next one ? And the one after that ? You can keep asking your questions about coins, one at a time - and that's a truly great thing to do. One ALWAYS wants to ask questions before you buy - not after you buy ! But, that makes collecting a very slow and painstaking endeavor doesn't it. And it does very little to help you fulfill your desires to collect the coins.

    So what else could you do that might be better than that ? What else could you do that would allow you to learn the things you need to learn, and at the same time allow you to fulfill your desires ? And the answer to that is also advice that I have given more times than I can count. Simply put, establish a relationship with a coin dealer, or 2 or 3 coin dealers. Now you can do that in person, you can do that via email, you can even do that via phone calls. The point being it doesn't have to be a local dealer. And it takes a bit of time and effort on your part. And on the dealer's part as well, but that's his business - that's what he does for a living. So he's used to it, he actually WANTS to do it.

    And when one or more of your dealers is one who lives far away from you, you still get to meet those dealers in person, face to face. And you do that by attending coin shows that they are attending. And you won't necessarily have to travel clear across the country to do this because they will. You'll only have to attend those that are closer to you. And with each coin show you go to, you're going to learn more, and more, and more.

    Your advantage is you form a relationship with someone you can trust, someone who already knows the answers to all your questions. Someone who knows why this coin is a good candidate and that one over there isn't. And he'll explain those things to you - and you'll learn along the way.

    Now eventually you may form relationships with a dozen or more dealers, learning a bit here and bit there from all of them. And before ya know it you'll know as much as they do and sometimes even more. And all along the way you'll be adding coins to your collection and fulfilling that desire that you want and need to fulfill.

    So this Joe is the very best advice I can give you. You have been led to the water, but it's up to you to decide if you drink it or not.
    Dave Waterstraat, Paul M. and jgrinz like this.
  8. jgrinz

    jgrinz Senior Member

    Case and Point -
    A person recently bought a numismatically desirable coin. Really didn't know the dealer or the coin series but just KNEW it was a desirable coin to have and it got the best of him. A 1942/41 Mercury dime he paid over 800 dollars for came back a whizzed coin ( Cleaned ) coin - his 800 dollars just evaporated to $200-350 depending on the buyers willingness to pay for a cleaned coin. Do your research, know your dealer, if you do not have the time buy an already certified coin as I stated above.

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    And that's a good answer, a good solution, but only to a point. And I say that because not all slabbed coins are equal, even when they are graded by the same TPG. Two identical coins, both graded exactly the same by the same TPG - but one one can be worth 50% more or even double what the other is.

    The unknowing collector, the collector without knowledge, will not know this. And odds are could never tell one from the other. But - a good dealer will know it, and he will steer the collector in the right direction ;)
    jgrinz likes this.
  10. TheFinn

    TheFinn Well-Known Member

    Is this something you want, or just interested because it seems like a good deal?

    Unless it is something that you might collect, save your money. These are not on everyone's buy list.
  11. Joe Campbell

    Joe Campbell Active Member

    Excellent feedback everyone, thanks.

    Finn - I really collect about anything that I think I'm getting a bargain on. I don't do it of the money or to amass a collection - I like the hunt of finding a $5 coin in the $1 bin. I don't need the $4 and I don't sell them, but I like the hunt. In this case I think I could immediately sell the coin for 2x what I'd pay for it, so generally those I coins I buy and hold. If they appreciate, cool. If not I should already be well in the black on them.

  12. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    When it comes to coins, looking for bargains often just gets you a bunch of dogs nobody would want to buy from you. Quality is definitely worth paying for in numismatics, but you need to be able to recognize quality first. Or, as I like to say, I’d rather pay a fair price for a great coin than a great price for a fair coin.
    Jaelus and TheFinn like this.
  13. TheFinn

    TheFinn Well-Known Member

    I've found some great bargains in bins - rare foreign coins and unmarked silver. Raw proofs? Never. Good luck!
  14. GDJMSP

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator


    Also true. However, that doesn't mean that you can't combine quality and bargains.

    For example, part of the reason that I used to love going to coin shows was so I could do exactly that. I'd walk the bourse carefully looking at everything whether it was something I liked or wanted or not. The goal was to pick out those coins that were of exceptional quality, I used to refer to them as coins for the discriminating collector, but were undergraded. Now the coins were most often raw, and graded by the seller/dealer, but slabbed examples were also carefully scrutinized.

    Say I saw a Frankie sitting in a display case, marked as MS63 and priced accordingly. But I knew for a fact that it would grade MS65, I'd grab it up and sell it to another dealer who also knew how to grade coins correctly - and sell it for a price 3, maybe 4 times what I had paid.

    Of course being able to do this, successfully, requires that one knows coins and knows the market - and make no mistake that's two different things. And each requires more than a bit of effort to accomplish. But when you do, life in numismatics gets a whole lot easier. The highest paid jobs there are in numismatics are for doing exactly the same thing. Big dealers and auction companies hire people whose sole job is to do what I used to do. The difference is, by working for a company you have company money behind you, so no matter how much the coin cost, you can still buy it. As an individual, well you gotta stay within your means. But, it can be done. You can combine quality and bargains ;)
    Paul M. likes this.
  15. Collecting Nut

    Collecting Nut Borderline Hoarder

    You have the best description you could but your description lacks detail and that shows you need to learn more about grading and what to look for on the surface of a coin. You did not mention the asking price, nor did you give any details about your LCS.

    Based on my above comments my advice would be to pass on this coin. That is what you asked for, my advice so now you have it. Best wishes.
  16. Joe Campbell

    Joe Campbell Active Member

    Thanks for the advice.

    I left the price out because at this point in the discussion I didn’t want to focus too much on it, really wanted to talk through the thought process. I can get the coin for $40.

    As for the LCS it’s a standard smallish LCS. They do a lot of business w/ bullion and generally use the grey sheet for any pricing decisions.
  17. Collecting Nut

    Collecting Nut Borderline Hoarder

    I think I'd still pass on it.
  18. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    I think either way, you're in for a $40 lesson.

    One thing you can do is buy it, take it to a coin show, and show it to a few dealers asking what they would grade it, but don't portray it as "I'm trying to sell this coin." (Consider buying something, even something inexpensive, from the ones that are generous enough with their time to do this for you.)

    Another way to go is to study the series, and particularly the early proofs, learn a little about proof grading from books and talking to dealers at shows, maybe buy a book or two. You might spend $40 on show admission and books going this route.

    Or, you can do both. Personally, I will buy just about anything from a reputable shop or dealer that I think is cool and costs under $50.
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