Grading? Why bother?

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by John Skelton, Oct 11, 2018.

  1. John Skelton

    John Skelton Morgan man!

    The following screed is, I should note, is JMO.

    I've read a lot of discussions about grades and how inexact it is. It seems that everyone has a different opinion on the grade a given coin should have. And this isn't a new debate. I picked up a book recently by Q. David Bowers published in 1992 called "A Buyer's Guide to the Rare Coin Market" and he takes a chapter to the subject. As has been regularly stated in these forums, he writes, "Grading has been, is presently, and probably always will be an art and a matter of opinion." And so we have a lot of discussions about what a coin should be graded, why it's graded wrong, and what the standards are. It appears a lot of grading is based on subjective opinions.

    There is a line in the book that I like. It goes, "To be sure, there are some elements of a science, such as the measurement of wear on a coin or the counting of nicks and scratches, but the final determination is a judgment call." He goes on to write that a computer can measure these things. So there can be an objective opinion for a coin. But the current grading system takes an objective opinion and combines it with a subjective opinion on looks into a single number.

    It seems to me a better way to grade coins would be to take a cue from ice skating competition. Each skater gets two scores, technical and artistic. Applied to a coin, the technical grade would give a collector an idea of the amount of wear and amount of dings, while the artistic grade would address luster and general eye appeal. Together, the collector should have a better picture of the coin.

    For now, I'm buying the coin, not the grade.
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  3. Randy Abercrombie

    Randy Abercrombie Supporter! Supporter

    Well thought out post. And I like your conclusion. Makes me appreciate that my collecting started long before TPG’s. As a result, I’ll never be a TPG worshipper. Always have and always will purchase what appeals to me. Graded or not.
  4. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    I've argued the same, only why combine wear and hits, or luster and strike/eye appeal? Give a separate number for each, and let each collector decide how to weight them.
  5. baseball21

    baseball21 Well-Known Member

    They already do, that's why purely technical grades sell low and the eye appealing coins sell for strong to record prices
  6. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    We've said it for years 'round these parts..........'buy the coin, not the slab'. We, in essence, are the 'final graders'.......
  7. PennyGuy

    PennyGuy US and CDN Copper

    I just bought a very hard to find CWT, it graded at $685.00.
    C-B-D, mikenoodle, longshot and 5 others like this.
  8. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    I always thought that it would be better if they graded each element of grading separately and listed those grades in small print on the reverse label. Since there is a premium on surface preservation, that would count for 40% of the grade while the other elements count 20%. This way, people could understand why the coin was market graded. For example, lets say we have an MS65 Morgan Dollar with dramatic rainbow toning and premium gem luster and solid strike. To achieve the grade:

    SP-65 x 0.4 = 26
    L-67 x 0.2 = 13.4
    S-65 x 0.2 = 13
    EA-68 x 0.2 = 13.6
    Total = MS66

    Instead, we currently use a system where everyone grades the coin solely on surface preservation and people simply claim the coin got a grade bump due to the color.
    mlov43 and Vess1 like this.
  9. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    I prefer to leave the slide ruler at home (do they even use those things anymore?). I've got an decent eye for quality, and I like what I pick.
  10. John Skelton

    John Skelton Morgan man!

    And I do the same, I buy the coin, not the grade.

    And I last used a slide rule in the late sixties, and bought one recently at an antique store.
    green18 and Taurus57 like this.
  11. John Skelton

    John Skelton Morgan man!

    Because wear and hits can be quantified and measured by computer while other elements are subjective. This is a point Bowers makes in his book.
  12. LakeEffect

    LakeEffect Average Circulated

    I had to buy a slide rule for math class my senior year in H.S. Last class to do so. Now they're "antiques". Life is cruel.
    green18, PlanoSteve and John Skelton like this.
  13. Pickin and Grinin

    Pickin and Grinin Well-Known Member

    Interesting approach. I like the fact that each category has been given a value.
    The problem is that each grading company values those characteristics different. They really don't want us to learn how to grade it doesn't fit their business model. It would put them out of business if the public could trade raw coins.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018
  14. Aunduril

    Aunduril Well-Known Member

    As others have said this just solidifies the idea of buying the coin not the holder/grade. Everyone has their own opinion on what they like. Many love toned coins and would pay a premium for them. I personally can't stand them. In the paper forum there is a post talking about liking circulated bills over uncirculated and how it is an unpopular opinion (though many seemed to agree). Take the grades for what they are, an estimate, buy what you like and what makes you happy.
  15. chascat

    chascat Well-Known Member

    When ANACS first began, they assigned a grade for both the obv. and rev. then photographed the coin then all info was printed on a card and the coin placed in a thin plastic capsule. The capsule and the card were then placed in an envelope then shipped. The card also had a serial # on it. This was a more accurate way to grade a coin but left it easy to switch coins with only a photo to identify with. I trust today's modern grading standards and encapsulation methods as graders average out both sides for the assigned grade, but I furthermore trust my own standards in addition to the opinions of others.
  16. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    OK, several of you guys have said that you buy the coin, not the grade. What exactly does that mean?
  17. John Skelton

    John Skelton Morgan man!

    But giving an objective grade based on the wear and number of dings would allow us to get a better, verifiable picture of the coin. Then a separate grade, based on appearance, would be a job for us to determine, or a TPG, just like it is now. With a technical grade measuring wear and dings, plus adding an appearance grade, you would have said better idea of the condition of the coin. If I see a coin with a 65/20 technical grade, I would know it has 65 bag marks or die clashes or some other physical thing, but low (20%) wear. Maybe you would not mind the dings because it shows little wear, but at least you have a better idea of what it looks like.
  18. LA_Geezer

    LA_Geezer Well-Known Member

    This would take the fun out of it, IMHO.

    My approach is to make an initial visual assessment, add those that pass to my watch list then go back to the semi-finalists for two or three closer looks. Even with photos of coins side-by-side, I would find it nearly impossible to assess wear and hits without contacting each coin seller with questions that I would hope he would answer satisfactorily and honestly. There's far too much variance in photo quality from sample to sample to trust visual cues from the sellers' graphics.

    Of course, buying one's coins from dealers who will allow returns would be an improvement to the assessment process, but that would mean I'd have to go to the hassle of returning bunches of coins that I thought might pass muster. And I simply wouldn't want to have a form I created with spaces for all of these numeric assignments I made on a clipboard where upon I would give Coin A a 5 and Coin B a 7 etc then tally the scores to arrive at some synthesized grading based on science and emotion. I like, instead, the "I like this coin better than that one" approach. YMMV of course.

    Edit: I have no need to send any of my coins — even the most costly ones — to a TPG.
  19. GDJMSP

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    I can't speak for them but I should think what buy the coin and not the slab means is rather obvious. It means that you ignore whatever the plastic slab says and buy the coin based on your own opinion of it.

    The problem is few people do that. Instead, they ignore their own opinions and what they see with their own eyes, and blindly place their faith the opinion of the TPG - even when the TPG's opinion contradicts their own.

    Now some will say that one has to trust the TPG because they know more than we do. And for a lot of folks that's probably true. But even when it is true, it's still not a good idea because one has to realize, and acknowledge, that the TPG has an agenda for doing what they do, for assigning the grades and comments they do. And that agenda is never, ever, intended to serve anyone, or benefit anyone, except the TPG !

    And any time you blindly trust the opinion of someone who has a self-serving agenda - it's pretty hard to say that it's not a mistake to do so !
  20. Pickin and Grinin

    Pickin and Grinin Well-Known Member

    This is all dandy and would certainly be beneficial to those who don't know how to grade, or if buying a coin from Photos that may be hard to read.
    But again, the TPG's make money by giving an opinion even if it is wrong.
    And doing as such would hinder their existence.
  21. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    And what do you say to the seller? "Hey buddy, PCGS doesn't know squat, that MS65 is actually an MS63, and I expect you to sell it to me for MS63 money" The inception of the TPGs was to level the playing field between buyer and seller. You seem to think that collectors are better graders than the professionals at the TPGs. THEY ARE NOT! You definitely think you are a better grader than the professionals at the TPGs. YOU ARE NOT! You live in a bygone era and object to the market grading principles employed by the TPGs, and that is your prerogative, but it also severely limits your ability to buy coins. On average, your grade is 2 full grades lower than those of the TPGs, nobody is going to sell you an MS65 for MS63 money. That means you could only ever purchase raw coins. But alas, you haven't actually collected coins in over a decade, which is the only reason you can push this fantasy of "buying the coin, not the grade."

    And of course, you have to include something in your post that is blatantly ridiculous. The TPGs don't have an agenda. They provide a service for a small fee. They don't have to change their standards to drive submissions and never have. Their revenue growth has been in the moderns and world coin market for over a decade now, and you know it.

    The entire model of the TPGs is based on trust. They aren't going to mess with that trust by arbitrarily loosening grading standards in order to drive a 10% resubmission rate.

    And before you comeback with some garbage about me being a slave to the TPGs, know that just yesterday, I was on this very forum, ranting about the inconsistency of NGC in relation to the star designation. There is nothing wrong with being selective about purchasing a coin. There are many ways a coin can achieve a specific MS grade in the current market grading system. Personally, I am willing to accept coins with surface flaws as long as the luster & eye appeal are off the charts. You would call that coin "overgraded" and say it got a bump for color. I would say, that is market grading.
    calcol, RonSanderson, Jaelus and 2 others like this.
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