Let's start a discussion for the weekend : What is a scratch?

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by Insider, Nov 13, 2021.

  1. Insider

    Insider Talent on loan from...

    Much of the comments above, especially from two members is EXACTLY what I had hoped to read. In the end the "perfect" definition needs to be short and all encompassing. That definition will tell WHAT a scratch is. Then we add "modifiers" to pin it down such as "die' scratch. Or we assign a different word such as "hairline." to name specific kinds of scratches. We can even describe its specific location once we define what a scratch is.

    Our definition CANNOT BE LONG, SUBJECTIVE, OR COMPLICATED. For example: There is no need to consider the length of the scratch once we add something like "of a certain length" to our definition so that a prick into the surface at one spot is eliminated. These are things that the author of that poor definition I cited above failed to do.

    I hope additional members will think about this question and take the time to post their thoughts. :happy:

    PS I don't have the answer yet in my mind (that's why my question) but I will continue to comment.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2021
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    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    And therein lies the problem. Of course you knew that which is why you did this. :)

    That said I can't blame ya for doing it because I write about the same kind of thing all the time. Definitions - it seems everybody has their own. And it doesn't really matter what the word or subject is, that still holds true as evidenced by what has been posted so far in this thread. Another example would this, The PCGS definition, taken direct from their website - https://www.pcgs.com/lingo/s

    A detracting line that is more severe than a hairline. The size of a coin determines the point at which a line ceases to be viewed as a hairline and instead is regarded a scratch; the larger the coin, the greater the tolerance.

    The first short sentence of that is the definition, the rest are merely qualifiers. And as I'm reasonably certain you will, I too find it lacking.

    Now I'm not saying that I disagree with your qualifiers for a definition, to the contrary, I do agree. But I said it is a problem because of the limitations such qualifiers inflict on the task at hand.

    Given all of that, using bits and pieces what has been said so far and combining them I do think we can arrive at suitable definition. But - there is one crucial point, that I believe must be included in the definition that no one has yet mentioned and rather than state it, I want to see if anyone else can come up with what that point is.
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  4. ToughCOINS

    ToughCOINS Dealer Member Moderator

    To comment further, in an effort to simplify as much as possible, I think the singular descriptor "linear" in my definition amply characterizes all reasonable L/D ratios without putting specific numbers to anything at all.
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  5. Insider

    Insider Talent on loan from...

    I'll take a guess. A mark into something (keep it general to include everything) can be described by its:


    But these all describe the mark. They don't define it. The only other thing is how it affects the thing that is marked (which still does not define it). So I'm stumped Grandpa.
  6. bradgator2

    bradgator2 Well-Known Member

    What about a vague definition by stating what it is not?

    An unintended score or mark, after the minting process, that is not caused contact with another coin (bag mark).
  7. ToughCOINS

    ToughCOINS Dealer Member Moderator

    I'll submit a revised version for your consideration, addressing both the nature of the cause, and making more generally applicable to all items, and not just coins . . .

    A scratch is a linear (straight and / or curved) depression in the surface, caused by abnormally high pressure, leaving displaced material above the pre-existing surface to either side of the depression.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2021
  8. ksparrow

    ksparrow Coin Hoarder Supporter

    thinking about other marks, like chops, baggies, test marks; it occurs to me that a scratch is due to pressure applied over time, whereas the others are due to a brief, nearly instantaneous application of force. Not sure how to incorporate that into a concise definition, however. I'll post a photo of a coin with hairlines on one side and a scratch on the other. Maybe that will provide some food for thought.
  9. Razz

    Razz Critical Thinker

    A scratch is a detracting edit: incuse line or linear mark on the surface of an object (coin) that is more severe than a graze and less severe than a gouge. edit to add: It is not original to the design or manufacture of the piece.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2021
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  10. ToughCOINS

    ToughCOINS Dealer Member Moderator

    While I don't like bringing this up, a scratch need not necessarily be distracting.

    Some of the re-engraved coins out there are rather well done, and are compositions based on artfully scratching the surface to make the pre-existing surface more appealing.

    Also, some scratches may be thin / shallow enough, or in locations where they are not detectable / distracting, yet they are scratches nonetheless.

    Moreover, a lot of jewelry is scratched into its final form before polishing.

    Consequently, I don't think a scratch necessarily has to be distracting.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2021
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  11. Razz

    Razz Critical Thinker

    But it is detracting to the original piece.
  12. ToughCOINS

    ToughCOINS Dealer Member Moderator

    Yes, but please note my mention of the pre-existing surface in my 2nd version of the proposed definition. I eliminated "original" from the first version because many objects are no longer original by the time they get scratched.
  13. Razz

    Razz Critical Thinker

    I dont think it matters when the scratch occurs as part of the definition of a scratch. It is a mark that is not original to the piece. You vintage coin or car is 50 or 100 year old and may be worn and only in fine condition but then it gets a staple scratch or someone keys your car. It still is a scratch...
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  14. ToughCOINS

    ToughCOINS Dealer Member Moderator

    I disagree . . . to define a scratch as being in the original surface technically leaves open to interpretation / argument that since a heavily circulated coin no longer possesses it's original surface (technically, as-minted), a recent scratch cannot be called a scratch. Thus, my replacement of original with pre-existing.
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  15. imrich

    imrich Supporter! Supporter

    That also defines a gouge without dimensions.

    A scratch is a shallow surface singular groove breaking surface continuity, unlike harsh cleaning "hairline" bunched/clustered grooves in the coins surface. Normally less than .030" deep, but of varying depth, width, and length from another. The scratch often is unapparent to the human eye or camera when the coin is 3 dimensionally moved.

    Last edited: Nov 14, 2021
  16. Razz

    Razz Critical Thinker

    You mis interpreted my comment. A scratch is added to the original piece after manufacture. Doesn't matter if still in the mint building or 50 year later in someone's pocket by a key ring on a worn coin. A scratch is something added to the coin at some point after it left the minting chamber.

    Edit: none of which is relevant to the actual definition of a scratch except as it related to the design or manufacture of the original piece. The original piece does not have scratches. It is an engraving that is transferred to a planchet to make a coin.
  17. ToughCOINS

    ToughCOINS Dealer Member Moderator

    My goal is to define a scratch more generally, and not as applies specifically to coins, as mentioned in post 26.

    By the way, another area we’ve not yet covered, but I think is suitably addressed by my most recently proposed definition is Adjustment Marks, which would be pre-existing, and would not exhibit the raised material alongside the depressions.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2021
  18. chascat

    chascat Well-Known Member

    Ask Meow.
  19. Mr.Q

    Mr.Q Well-Known Member

    A scratch is something you say "ouch" to and your mom fixes the booboo. Joke of the day!
  20. ksparrow

    ksparrow Coin Hoarder Supporter

    Let me try this, based on ToughCoins original def: "A form of post mint damage characterized by a linear or curvilinear mark into the surface of the coin, with displaced metal raised at its edges, visible to the unaided eye."
  21. Mac McDonald

    Mac McDonald Well-Known Member

    All this techno-babble definitions of what is/what isn't a scratch...assuming mostly for TPG/grade or "details"...is unnecessary if you think of it this way: it's a scratch if it's heavy/significant enough to appear intentional, and/or enough to alter, cover-over, obliterate/remove, etc, any defining part of a coin so as to make it hard-to-impossible to readily identify the coin. If it doesn't meet any of that criteria then it's simply a mark and shouldn't prevent it from receiving a straight, if net, grade. If you don't simplify it in such a way you'll be forever debating what is/isn't a "scratch" by size, width, length, metal moved...and by interpretation/opinion, etc, etc. The first/former example could be termed a "positive scratch" and the lesser, benign example could be termed a "negative scratch"...if you want to apply the "scratch" word to both. Think this would greatly help with more easily forming better opinions/interpretations by TPGs as to what coins get a fair grade/straight grade rather than being trashed to "details" for nothing more than a minor/benign "scratch." My two "sense."
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2021
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