My First Real Slab - Severus Alexander Sestertius in NGC Plastic - VG "Polished"

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Marsyas Mike, Apr 22, 2021.


Is the NGC grade on this slabbed sestertius of Severus Alexander Accurate?

  1. The VG grade is accurate

    7 vote(s)
  2. The VG grade is too low; it is better than that

    12 vote(s)
  3. The VG grade is too high; it is worse than that

    2 vote(s)
  4. The coin has been "polished" as described on slab

    11 vote(s)
  5. The coin has not been "polished" as described on slab

    4 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Slabs are something I mostly ignore when cruising the depths of eBay - I have nothing against them in general, but they always are priced out of range of my budget, the plastic adding a premium I am not willing to pay. Also, I like handling the raw merchandise.

    Over the years I've gotten a few off-brand slabs on the cheap, but recently I came across an NGC slab with a $50 "buy it now" price and a coin that I thought was quite attractive. In hand, I was impressed - NGC's plastic is hefty, crystal-clear and attractive. Again, I understand the appeal. Since I believe the value of the coin is probably enhanced by the slab, I have no plans in breaking it out.

    Here it is, with the seller's excellent photo at bottom:

    Severus Alexander - Sest. PAX AVGVSTI slabbed Apr 2021 (0).jpg

    Severus Alexander - Sest. PAX AVGVSTI slabbed Apr 2021 seller pic0.jpg
    Severus Alexander Æ Sestertius
    (222-231 A.D.)
    Rome Mint

    IMP CAES M AVR SEV ALEXANDER AVG, laureate, draped bust right / PAX] AVGVSTI S-C, Pax running left, holding olive-branch and sceptre.
    RIC 592c.
    NGC registration 3989483-030
    (57.32 grams (in slab) / 28 mm)

    In my opinion the VG grade is a bit too conservative - I'd go with "about Fine". This is one of the earlier ancient's slabs without the strike/surface grades, and this is the kind of coin that would benefit from that I think: full legends on a 3rd century sestertius is not all that common and the strike is nice and even, apparent despite the wear.

    I do not understand the "polished" designation at all - all ancients have been cleaned, and I have some stripped sestertii that are bright and brassy - they look far worse than this coin. There are some hairlines on the bust, so maybe that is where "polished" came from?

    I'd be interested to see other examples of NGC "polished" on an ancient slab. Any additional comments and opinions welcome too. Also, if somebody could tell me what the empty slab weighs, that'd be great - I'm curious about the raw coin's weight (again, these early slabs don't list the weight).

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  3. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    Mike, I think the grade is accurate & very conservative, so it might stretch to VG+. When you click the lower image for enlargement polishing marks are visible ;).
  4. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Its why I refuse to use them. One, they do not guarantee the authenticity of ancient coins, (the one real value I see modern slabs providing), and two, they apply modern coin grades and ideas to ancients. Ancient collectors developed their own grades and guidelines long before the first pilgrim shot a turkey. They have no right to use US coin grading on ancients.

    OP, I have no idea why the coin was slabbed, but I grade that coin F with no other comments. The centering makes up for a touch extra wear. Its an above average example of the coin, not "high grade", but a very respectable piece.
  5. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter Basileus Megalos

    I'd grade it fine as well. Nice coin.
    Marsyas Mike, Theodosius and ominus1 like this.
  6. ominus1

    ominus1 Supporter! Supporter

    it is a 'fine' coin...but nuttin' wrong with NGC...i trust & respect them all and have several coins slabbed by them....(@Barry Murphy) Galba silver denarius 003.JPG :)
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2021
  7. Theodosius

    Theodosius Fine Style Seeker Supporter

    I think most ancient collectors would give that a grade of Fine. Some maybe with a minus.

    Whatever the grade it is a very attractive coin and I think a good score.

    I would guess the coin has been polished with a soft brass bristle brush mounted in a Dremel. Look at the parallel but curved scratches on his forehead. These are characteristics of being polished using the said brush in a rotary tool. That is not the end of the world in ancient coin collecting for circulated condition coins. Some ancient coin cleaners would use a fine polishing compound to remove those lines. The coin cleaner might have done that to create the lighter highlights on the high spots and stop the coin from being one uniform dark color.

    I'm sure NGC looked at this coin under a microscope and observed other things that are not visible in a normal photograph.

    Last edited: Apr 22, 2021
  8. Theodosius

    Theodosius Fine Style Seeker Supporter

    The real value of NGC ancients is having two of the world's best experts give their opinion about whether a coin is genuine or fake. Most ancient collectors don't take the grade too seriously. Their strike and surface numbers can be useful to help you judge a coin you're only looking at through photographs. Expecting NGC to guarantee anything is just another carryover from US coin collecting.

  9. ominus1

    ominus1 Supporter! Supporter

    ..exactly sir...i was sitting here thinking that very thing as i read your post..
    Marsyas Mike and Theodosius like this.
  10. Theodosius

    Theodosius Fine Style Seeker Supporter

    That is why you are a cultured and wise gentleman. :)
    Marsyas Mike and ominus1 like this.
  11. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Yes, they are good, but not superior to others. I trust a CNG flip as much, and maybe a Sear cert more. Decent point, but can be achieved other ways like auction or dealer attributions.

    Not to take anything at all away from Mr. Murphy, whom an entire generation of collectors starting in the Moneta-L days owe a huge debt of gratitude for all he did.

    Btw, the "carryover" was intentional IMHO by NGC. They are the ones whom entombed them just like US coins, and to this day almost all dealers I meet believe ancients certified by them are guaranteed genuine, including major players. Maybe the highest end dealer in MN I had to prove to him in his office how the guarantee did not apply to ancients.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2021
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  12. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    @Marsyas Mike That is a lovely coin. The grade is immaterial to me. I look at this coin and ask if it has eye appeal. It certainly does. A very nice acquisition.
  13. thejewk

    thejewk Well-Known Member

    If it's VG, it's the kind of VG I'd be happy to have.
  14. Andres2

    Andres2 Well-Known Member

    Mike, I think mine is Very Good, your coin is about Fine

    P1150861 (2).JPG
    Theodosius, Bing, chrsmat71 and 6 others like this.
  15. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    I agree sir. Yours looks like a vg, the OPs looked like it had much more detail, (hair. lettering, right hand, etc.) Both are coins I would glad to have in my pile. :)
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  16. Spaniard

    Spaniard Well-Known Member

    Hmmm....Reasonably good detail left on the coin....Personally I dont use any kind of grading for ancients except for my own eye appeal...I'd break it out of the plastic and stick it on a sunny windowsill for a couple of years and it will be a cracker!
  17. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    I think it's a great coin and agree that it's around a Fine, although, like many here, I never think about my ancient coins in terms of what grades they are, even with the old-fashioned categories -- just whether or not I like them. I could find you lots of coins, not simply on ebay but on VCoins and MA-Shops, which look similar to yours but which the dealers describe as VF. Or VF+! There are dealers who will never describe an ancient coin as less than VF, and call VF coins AU. Which is one reason I don't pay attention. Even to what NGC says, because I consider it irrelevant even if it's generally accurate.
  18. ambr0zie

    ambr0zie Dacian Taraboste

    @Marsyas Mike, a very decent sestertius.
    Enough details remaining to make the coin enjoyable, good colors, good centering, full legends.
    Fully agree with the other opinions here regarding the grading in general for ancient coins.
    For me the coin is a Fine, it's attractive and a good addition for 99% of the collectors.

    Here is my Severus Alexander sestertius, a coin I like, but the grading from the auction house - "nearly very fine"- made me smile.
    Personally I think the traditional grading is not always relevant for ancient coins and what matters is how much you like the coin.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2021
    Paul Chouan, Theodosius, Bing and 6 others like this.
  19. Marsyas Mike

    Marsyas Mike Well-Known Member

    Thank you all for such interesting comments and for casting your votes - it was my first Coin Talk poll.

    I too find grading of ancient coins to be both complicated and for me not really relevant. Some of my favorite coins are in terrible shape grade-wise - "about VG with a huge gouge" or "G++ with green gunk" or "aVF but 40% off-center." Something about them - usually the artistry - makes them transcend their grade. Such appeal is subjective and probably un-gradable.

    In the case of my OP, I certainly was buying the coin and not the plastic - I think it is a really handsome, if low-grade, sestertius, one of the best in my collection. The color, strike, and overall artistry appealed to me. That being said, the plastic was an enhancement for me.

    My problem now is how to store it. I doubt many more, if any, slabs will come my way, so devising a storage system would be overkill. For now I'll prop it up on my desk and dust it occasionally.

    Thanks again!
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  20. Paul Chouan

    Paul Chouan Supporter! Supporter

    Why, I do believe this is what lordmarcovan would term a CircCam, or Circulation Cameo. It's a beautiful VG or F, too.
    Marsyas Mike likes this.
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