I stopped grading (sort of) ... and enjoy collecting more!

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by calcol, Dec 4, 2023.

  1. calcol

    calcol Supporter! Supporter

    First, I'm not about to criticize collectors who enjoy grading or find it necessary. If they like it or find it profitable, then go for it! But for me, I've pretty much turned grading over to PCGS and NGC so I can enjoy other aspects of collecting. Doesn't mean I'm ignorant of grading. I've taken the PCGS grading classes at Long Beach, which were fun. And I may do the ANA classes as well. Grading classes teach a lot more than grading and authentication, and you meet some great folks.

    When it comes to US coins, I buy only PCGS or NGC certified coins and seldom buy anything more recent than 1942. The only exception is a rare purchase from the US Mint … these always grade 69 or 70. When considering a particular type, date, mint and variety, I look at recent auction sales and set a maximum to spend for a particular grade ... it can be fudged upward though. After that, it's pretty much a matter of eye-appeal ... toning, spots, strike, location of nicks and lines, luster, etc. Yes, some of these did influence the assigned grade. But I really don't get concerned whether the assigned grade should have been higher or lower. If the price is reasonable for the assigned grade and the eye-appeal grabs me, I go for it.

    Sometimes I'll look at a coin that is up for auction. Say it's PCGS MS64 and affordable to me. When I examine it, I'm rarely thinking is this really MS63 or MS63+ or MS64+ or MS65. No ... I'm concentrating on the toning, strike, location of nicks and scratches, luster. In some cases, determining variety or researching provenance.

    I’m not fooling myself by pretending I have the time, opportunity, experience or innate ability to grade with the skill of dealers and graders who handle hundreds or even thousands of coins per week. In addition, for most of the coins I buy, examining the actual coin is not feasible because the auction is far away. Grading via photographs is iffy. Lighting can be varied to change the apparent grade several steps. So, I have to rely on the TPG grade as well as photos and cataloger’s description. Occasionally photos from a prior sale or TPG website are available.

    I'm not especially concerned about gradeflation. Just means coins may have to be regraded at some point. And, yup, it will keep up the cash flow to grading services. If a coin is of a certain quality and grades inflate or the grading system changes, the coin will likely find the proper level when regraded. Ultimately, grading is ranking a coin amongst its peers and, barring discovery of hoards, that won't change much.

    What I really enjoy is talking to other collectors and dealers; researching history associated with my coins (present and future); going to shows and club meetings; learning about coin design and minting; checking my coins for varieties and dies; and just plain admiring coins ... mine and others. Grading ... not so much.

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  3. Lon Chaney

    Lon Chaney Well-Known Member

    Nice write up.
    Does PCGS still do coin grading classes? That'd be fun to attend.
    calcol and Kasia like this.
  4. Publius2

    Publius2 Well-Known Member

    I think that's a healthy attitude for a collector and it's one I generally follow.
  5. cwart

    cwart Senior Member Supporter

    I’m a third of the way there…. With my ancients I could care less what the grade is. I’m just looking for a coin I like and that appeals to me. Foreign, I guess I might actually be there too. I mostly do like 1 lb lots. I’m more interested in the countries in there than the value. As for US, it’s just still too ingrained in me. My peace dollar collection is pics MS64, IHCs are EF40. I can’t break headings hold for those.
    calcol likes this.
  6. Randy Abercrombie

    Randy Abercrombie Supporter! Supporter

    I too buy what I like. I hold quite a collection of prime pieces with problem labels and I couldn’t give a hoot. I love em.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2023
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  7. robp

    robp Well-Known Member

    I operate a 2 point grading system - acceptable and unacceptable.
  8. okbustchaser

    okbustchaser I may be old but I still appreciate a pretty bust Supporter

    I still like my daughter's grading scale from back when she was 5...

  9. calcol

    calcol Supporter! Supporter

    They haven't put them on in several years unfortunately. They were held in conjunction with the Long Beach show. I really enjoyed them and learned a lot in the two I took. Met some great collectors and PCGS personnel. Class included lunch with PCGS executives. Proof of attendance was a slab with a modern dollar and special label. I got to do only 2 of the 3 classes before they stopped them. Wish they'd bring 'em back. Videos of the 3 lectures are on youtube. But there was a lot more to the classes than the lectures, especially meeting other folks and the quiz slabs at the end.

    Lon Chaney likes this.
  10. geekpryde

    geekpryde Husband and Father Moderator

    Nice post.

    I have a similar sentiment on most of the areas you mention.

    With guidance of certain moderator here, I can definitely grade coins better now than ~11+ years ago. It's kept me safe (from myself) from buying certain coins I may have not have so thoroughly inspected prior to buying them when I was 100% dependent on TPGs. However, I still mostly lean on the TPG's and I sometimes break out in a panic sweat over "Guess the Grade" posts here on CoinTalk. I *think* I know the grade, but my confidence is not 100%. :bag:

    I dont sweat a point here or there, if I otherwise like the coin. Enough other collectors will pay-up for a nicer example with some special features like Pretty toning, or great strike, or cool older holder, CAC approved, etc. that even if the coin is slightly overgraded, it will still go for the "correct" market price. And bad or over-graded coins for the most part will still go for their respective "correct" price. To me, it all mostly works out as it should. :cool:

    Now that of course means I cannot mine the coin hobby for hidden gems, or make big money at this hobby flipping. If a sell a few coins a year, and make enough pennies to keep a free coin for myself, that's all I really need.

    I don't do much "talking" to coin people much anymore beyond here at CoinTalk, and I don't deep dive on the history part so much, but like you, I think I enjoy the hobby more by just staying in my lane, even after having really tried to get good at grading.

    I follow a simple (complex?) three part journey when bidding / buying a coin:

    (1) allowing PCGC, NGC, and CAC to narrow a coin down to -2 to +2 points, allow them to catch most of the damaged, doctored, cleaned, forged, etc problem coins.

    (2) ...And then I "look" :wideyed: over the coin myself and rule out ones that are in the "Ugly" category, the Rim damage category (that one really bugs me), Enough rub that it should have been a Masseuse category, and all my own personal likes and dislikes.

    (3) Once a coin makes is through that two tiered gauntlet, then I got to rule out another 90% of them because I simply cannot afford them and I get blown out on bidding.

    I dont reverse the order of this process as I like to see nice coins, and the more coins I see the more I understand what I like and don't like. That's why I don't start by price filtering usually. If I did that, I might well never get a coin through this gauntlet. :p I start with the TPG's, as I dont want to see all the dreck, as "ain't nobody's got time for that".

    TPGS, then me, then price = A pretty good chance I will be happy with a purchase without having an anxiety attack.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2023
    calcol likes this.
  11. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    While I commend your collecting style and think that it is cool how different collectors form their own set of guidelines to build their collections; my style is so different than yours.

    To me, grading coins and comparing my coins to those owned by other collectors is half the fun. When I started collecting coins seriously over 2 decades ago, I restricted myself to purchasing only PCGS and NGC graded coins to avoid to the pitfalls associated with raw coins. As the years passed and my knowledge grew, I found it much easier to both cherrypick dealer inventories as well as predict how the TPGs would grade my coins. You mentioned that you don't have the skill and experience to compete with dealers who handle a much higher volume of coins than you do. In my experience, the vast majority of brick and mortar dealers are essentially bullion traders and most can't grade true numismatic rarities worth a lick. Additionally, they have limited time to spend on each coin because of the increased volume which makes them prone to making mistakes. For example, my LCS listed this coin as a "1942 T1 Jefferson Nickel GEM BU" for $5:


    Turns out that it was a full step 1942-D premium gem worth near $100.

    It is the hunt for coins like this in the wild that really gets me excited. Knowing that my grading skills can turn a purchase of a few dollars into hundreds is exhilarating.
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  12. ewomack

    ewomack 魚の下着

    Are the TPGs still market grading? I would guess so, but I haven't really kept up with the topic in a few years. When I first found out about this difference, my interest in grading and slabs decreased somewhat. But, my confusions around why certain grades appear on certain slabs cleared up completely. If you don't know the difference between technical and market grading, it's worth learning about.

    There was a thread on this a while ago: https://www.cointalk.com/threads/technical-grading-vs-market-grading.30055/

    As for me, I've started buying mostly ancients. Concerns about cleaning, etc., turn into concerns about tooling and slabs don't have the following that they do for moderns. That comes with some risks, but I do prefer it. Plus, I really missed actually holding coins in my hand. Slabs definitely take that thrill away (but I understand the reasons why coins get slabbed).
    calcol likes this.
  13. CoinCorgi

    CoinCorgi Tell your dog I said hi!

    I use the binary system. The coin is either mine or it isn't.
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  14. Joshua Lemons

    Joshua Lemons Well-Known Member Supporter

    I am transitioning my collection to a mainly graded one and have learned to grade decently, though my collection is a world coin one. These days, I buy coins specifically in mind to have them graded. My weakness comes with mint state pieces. I am usually able to tell a lot mint state from a high mint state, but those grades in between, let's say 62-68 are the ones I normally get wrong in GTGs.

    I've had fairly good luck so far at NGC with interesting straight grades, but I do own a few details coins.

    Just recently I've begun to attend coin shows and interested with dealers, which is occasionally a hit or miss. I do an immense amount of time connecting with fellow collectors on Instagram and of course here in CoinTalk, which keeps me passionate about collecting and occasionally leads me to acquire a previously unknown piece. I think many consider numismatics to be a lonely hobby, but since I found coin forums, Instagram and coin shows this isn't the case!
    calcol likes this.
  15. Hiddendragon

    Hiddendragon World coin collector

    This is the problem with collecting U.S. coins in my opinion. There are only so many different coins, so instead of seeking something new people have to focus on getting better and better versions of what they have. I collect foreign and you'll never hear me mention a grade. The concept doesn't interest me at all. I own less than five graded coins and I hate them because I have to store them in a box I never look at instead of in albums with everything else.
    calcol likes this.
  16. robp

    robp Well-Known Member

    I too have a problem with graded coins as they are a very definite rectangular peg in a very definite round hole - see below

    Like Hiddendragon, I have a few still in holders. These are waiting for the trays to be expanded to accommodate my date order OCD and are also out of sight and out of mind in a drawer in the interim. If the coin fits the trays, then that is where they go, so a few dozen top pops and over a hundred one or occasionally two grades below top have been similarly treated. As posted earlier, they are acceptable of not, irrespective of what anyone else thinks - and it's not a p'ing competition.

    Not collecting US coins means I am disconnected from the competitive registry set fad where it appears to me that the coin is secondary to someone else's opinion on what number should be on the label - a weird concept that I can't get my head round. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate a high grade coin and this frequently equates to a decent coin in hand, but I don't think the tail should ever wag the dog
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  17. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    I no longer focus much on grading and leave that to PCGS and NGC. As long as the coin gets a straight (problem-free) grade, the Sheldon scale number doesn't matter so much to me. Of course I do have some grading knowledge to fall back on.

    Eye appeal is what counts to me. Descriptive grading was more important to me back in the old sight-unseen mail-order days, but nowadays, just show me a good set of photos and let me judge from those, if I don't have the coin in hand.

    It basically boils down to two grades for me: yes or no.

    The Internet really revolutionized my collecting, since I live in something of a numismatic backwater (no local dealer), and I don't get out to shows much. In the bad old days, even when one got a sight-unseen mail-order coin that was correctly graded, it still might be ugly.
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