How do I talk to a slab person about ancient coin grading?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by rrdenarius, Apr 1, 2019.

  1. rrdenarius

    rrdenarius non omnibus dormio Supporter

    I had an interesting talk about coin grading with a coin collector last week. He was upset that his US silver 3 cent coin was graded 62 when it deserved a 64. I looked at the coin, but in the vacuum of my understanding of 0 to 70 coin grading, I could not make an intelligent reply. I found a 62 & 64 in Heritage online. They are posted below. I would probably pick the 64 over the 62.
    ms62 3cent 2.jpg ms64 3cent.jpg

    I then showed him one of my coins. He quickly said the coin was nice, but could not be graded. It had been cleaned. At best the coin could be graded details / cleaned. The coin is bright white and has been cleaned since it was produced in 119 BC. There are no cleaning marks. The coin shows either high point wear, or less than full strike. The seller called it gVF, and I agree with the comment it is well centered and struck. It is shiny enough that I had trouble making a reasonable photo. Below are the seller's pic and mine.
    M. Tullius Cr 280.1 BFA 1.14.19.jpg

    M. Tullius, Rome, 119 BC. AR Denarius
    Obv - Helmeted head of Roma r. R/
    Rev - Victory driving galloping quadriga r., holding palm frond and reins; wreath above.
    Crawford 280/1
    RBW 1103
    RSC Tullia 1
    21 mm
    3.89 grams

    I am glad my coin came in a flip instead of a details slab!
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  3. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    rrdenarius, the fellow collector you were speaking with obviously doesn't understand grading of ancient coins, & his understanding of modern coins is suspect too. Nearly all ancient coins have been cleaned at one time or another, unfortunately some ancient coins have been over-cleaned, impairing their eye appeal. You will rarely see an ancient coin denied a grade unless it has been abusively cleaned to the point where it's authenticity is in question. NGC assigns a numerical Surface indicator of 1-5, giving a rough idea of surface evaluation. A coin with a natural surface that hasn't been over-cleaned will get a number close to 5, & a coin with a poor surface will receive a number close to 1. Your denarius would be close to 5, despite your poor photos which need editing.
  4. Eduard

    Eduard Supporter**

    From my experience, talking or communicating with a slab person about grading, if you happen not to be one, is not a easy thing.

    For the more extreme slab collectors, coins are objects which must be embedded in plastic and graded 'straight' in order to be worthy of being collected. The words 'details and cleaned' are two adjectives which suffice to make a coin completely undesirable.

    On the other hand, there are collectors who do not, as a routine encapsulate coins, who see coins primarily as historical, artistic, or in some other way appealing objects. We tend to be much more willing to be forgiving of imperfect coins.

    I know that what I am saying is obvious to many of us, and also that there are many other types of collectors, including some who are a hybrid of both types described above. To each his own.
    However, the above are the two ends of the collector spectrum.

    I definitely belong in the second category.

    For me, effectively talking about grade with a slab person is therefore very difficult. Our value base is just too different to broach the topic effectively.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2019
  5. TIF

    TIF Always learning. Supporter

    Save yourself the headache and just send him this article which reviews traditional grading of ancient coins (and separately, NGC grading). It will answer all of his questions and correct his misperceptions-- assuming he is willing to learn... which may be overly optimistic.

    Towards the end of the article there is a video of David Vagi talking about grading.

    My favorite part is the last paragraph of the article, a quote from a Forum Ancient Coins article:

    "For ancient coins, eye appeal is much more important than grade. Eye appeal really is whatever looks good to you! Every collector has the best possible skill in judging their own eye appeal. Nobody needs an expert or a number to tell them what they like."

    Here is the referenced FAC article on grading, which is more detailed than the article: Guidelines for Ancient Coins
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2019
  6. baseball21

    baseball21 Well-Known Member

    Has nothing to do with being a slab person or not and everything to do with just understanding the standards used for the coins in question. Plenty of "slabbed people" don't understand modern grading, or ultra modern grading, or gold grading vs silver etc just like plenty of raw collectors or ancient ones don't.

    In this case it sounds like the person just does not understand the differences with ancient grading and may not be able to remove personal bias from how grading is if they think their 62 should really be a 64.
  7. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter 3rd Century Usurper

    Grading ancient coins and modern coins is somewhat of a different animal. Probably with ancients it is more of a subjective art. For that matter, who in the heck would want to collect modern U.S. and world coins? B-o-r-i-n-g!
    KeviniswhoIam likes this.
  8. Finn235

    Finn235 Well-Known Member

    I tried to care about grading, but ultimately I just couldn't. No matter how many examples I saw or how much I tried to study the grading criteria, I couldn't learn what qualifies coins for a 62 versus a 64, nor why someone would pay exponentially more for a coin that is only more "perfect" under microscopic inspection. I especially couldn't wrap my head around how unattractive toning (dalmatian spots for example) don't detract from a grade or drive the price down.

    I do feel like there is a palpable difference between ancients that have been cleaned, and ancients that have just had the dirt washed off. I love my few silvers that show minty luster after their cleaning, but I would prefer a dull or cabinet toned look to the cleaned look.
    harrync, Alegandron and arizonarobin like this.
  9. Eduard

    Eduard Supporter**

    Objection, your Honour! : I collect ancients (over 30 years now), modern US (colonial to 1870's, i,e modern for me), and World Coins !

    All of them are very interesting - just in a different way and with different standards ;);)
    Sardar, CoinCorgi, PlanoSteve and 5 others like this.
  10. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I have absolutely no problem with the concept of grading but with ancients the main gradable features are not wear based as covered by the Sheldon scale 1-59 but such things as striking variations and surface quality as seen in the Sheldon 60-70 mint state separations. In 1997, I posted my grading pages

    calling the 'added' considerations "Conditions of Manufacture" and "Conditions of Preservation". At the time I considered suggesting a ten step numeric rating for those two areas but decided it was just too hard to balance positive things like patina against negatives like scrapes or centering against uneven striking. I ended up just posting a group of photos defining things seen on ancient coins other than wear which might affect eye appeal which is, after all, the only matter that makes any difference to my way of thinking. I am a strong believer in the fact that all ancient coins are cleaned but some are handled better in the process than others. Absolutely perfect ancient coins are rare and many coins are seen given grades appended by "for these" acknowledging that there are problems that have to be expected with some types.

    The problem I have with grading is the constantly expanding value scale between super grades (MS 66 and up) and what used to be just Uncirculated and the market prices that make microscopic differences sell for large multiples. I was fine with the concept when I started collecting that a VF was half the price of a perfect coin but I can not see paying ten times the MS 64 price for a MS 66.
  11. Volodya

    Volodya Junior Member

    I would think that by the time a person has been slabbed, their understanding of pretty much anything will be drastically impaired.

    Phil Davis
  12. Santinidollar

    Santinidollar Supporter! Supporter

    Grading coins is an imperfect process that leaves a lot of room for reasonable disagreements. I don’t care what the grade is on a coin if it doesn’t appeal to my eye — it ain’t coming home with me.
  13. Barry Murphy

    Barry Murphy Well-Known Member

    NGC will grade ancient coins that have been cleaned, as they nearly all have been cleaned.

    The Tullius would grade VF or CVF depending on how it looks in hand. Strike would be a 5. Surface probably a 4, perhaps a 5 if the coin looks better in hand, or a 3 if the cleaning is not great and there are lots of cleaning hairlines on the coin.

    Also, there's no such thing at NGC as an ancient coin in a Details holder. We straight grade just about anything that's authentic and not tooled.

    Barry Murphy
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2019
  14. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random guy on the internet

    Grading ancients is very inexact, and ancients collectors (usually) don’t pay crazy for minor quality improvements. Giving “exact” grades to coins just leads to price stratification and commoditization of the market, as can be seen in US coins.
    halfcent1793 likes this.
  15. tenbobbit

    tenbobbit Well-Known Member

    How do I talk to a slab person about ancient coin grading ?
    Answer - You don't.
    Reason for above answer - :banghead::mad::banghead::rolleyes:
    Victor_Clark likes this.
  16. Pishpash

    Pishpash Well-Known Member

    Complete waste of time to try and compare grading ancients against modern examples. Grading ancients is so subjective, so often I disagree with the "grading", especially when they try and impose modern coin standards onto ancients. Apples and pears.
    dougsmit and Alegandron like this.
  17. cwart

    cwart Senior Member

    For parts of my modern collection I am a slab person, either for verification of the coin's authenticity or just for some extra protection for the coin itself. But when buying a slabbed coin I still use the same criteria I would when buying a raw coin or an ancient. I am looking for a coin that has eye appeal. I am collecting Peace Dollars in MS64, that doesn't mean that I am looking for any old 64 though. It needs to looks nice for the grade (no milk spots, relatively few marks... etc).

    To me an ancient needs to have the same thing, eye appeal (well centered, most of the flan present, nicely struck, pleasing patina). I am still new enough to ancients that I can claim to not understand the first thing about grading them, but to me that's not important at this point. I am looking for those coins that interest me and appeal to me. For that reason (and the fact that I am collecting fairly low value coins) I am definitely in the no slab camp when it comes to ancients.
  18. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    At what point do most of us consider it cost efficient to pay for a slab and the expertise that comes with it? Is it worth $50 to encapsulate a $50 coin? ...a $100 coin? ...where is the line that you consider it not worth considering? Of course this assumes that you do not value the opinion of the person you bought the coin from (either due to his ability or his honesty). You can buy a plastic box to hold your coin for a lot less than the cost of service + postage and the same $1 box will hold a late Roman bronze or an aureus. I wonder what the median market value of ancient coins submitted for slabbing is. I guess I am talking about just NGC slabs and not the worthless off brand holders as likely to be wrong as right. I really hope no one here is paying a premium for opinions worth less than asking each other on Coin Talk.
    rrdenarius likes this.
  19. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random guy on the internet

    Another difference is that ancient coins stand on their own and are valued based on the coins themselves. Less wear? Higher value. Poorly centered? Lower value. And then each and every person decides how much the coin is worth to them and bids/offers/passes accordingly.

    Modern coins absolutely CANNOT hold their own when it comes to value. It must be entombed in a plastic slab with an expert’s “opinion”, and that opinion determines the value, regardless of anything else. If it grades higher at a later date, then its value increases, with no change in the merit of the coin itself. If it downgrades, then its value decreases, with no change in the merit of the coin itself. We see this all of the time, which proves beyond a doubt that much of the value of a modern coin rests in the holder alone. This is also seen in raw modern coins when they sell for peanuts compared to what they sell for in the plastic.

    That’s the difference between the two markets.
    TIF and Valentinian like this.
  20. David Atherton

    David Atherton Flavian Fanatic

    And might I add to this excellent post Doug Smith's pages on grading.


    If I had continued reading the other posts I would've seen Doug already posted a link!
    TIF likes this.
  21. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Grading is secondary, maybe tertiary, when it comes to an ancient coin's desirability. Depending on the issue and on the collector, artistic style plays a huge role, and rarity plays a huge role.

    Here's a common coin of Gallienus in a collectible grade, but the reason I paid far more for it than for another example in the same grade was because it had the finest representation of a tiger I had ever seen on the issue. STYLE was the driving force behind its eye-appeal. I didn't care the obverse legend wasn't full. I didn't care about the irregularly-shaped flan. I didn't care about the die-cud on the reverse (in front of the tiger). I bought it for the tiger:

    Gallienus LIBERO P CONS AVG tiger antoninianus.jpg

    Beggars can't be choosers when it comes to very rare issues. If you don't pick up a rare coin in suboptimal condition, you may never live to see a better example. Try to find THIS dupondius for sale anywhere. Did I care about the rough surfaces? Did I care about the illegible DIVA A in the obverse inscription? No. I knew that if I didn't get it, I would never have the opportunity again:

    Faustina Sr CONSECRATIO funeral pyre dupondius.jpg
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