PL & DMPL designations — Different TPG grading standards for different years & mint marks?

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by daveg713, May 1, 2020.

  1. daveg713

    daveg713 New Member

    Do the TPGs grade PL and DMPL designations by different standards based on different years and mint marks? In other words, would the threshold for a PL or DMPL designation on, say, a 1881 S Morgan be more stringent because of how common they are? Conversely, would they perhaps be more willing to grant a PL or DMPL designation for a 1892 O Morgan because of how ultra-rare they are?

    I recently obtained a 1892 O Morgan with very good reflectivity, so this isn't a purely hypothetical question. And when I look at photos of Morgans sold at auction from years and mints with rare PL and DMPL designations, it seems the TPGs tend to grant something a PL that I feel would not get that designation in other years and mints.

    I'm still very much a newbie, so I look forward to any thoughts from all you more experienced than I am — and thanks in advance for any feedback!
    capthank likes this.
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  3. Robert Ransom

    Robert Ransom Well-Known Member

    daveg713 likes this.

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    The answer to your question is yes, in some cases, but not all. One example would be one of the coins you mentioned - the early S mint Morgans. Those specific coins are held to higher, tougher standards than other Morgans when it comes to overall grading, and the special designations of PL and or DMPL. This is not done because they are rare or common, it is done because the early S mint Morgans are known for virtually the entire mintage of them being of very exceptional quality.

    By the same token there are some other Morgans from specific date/mint combinations that are given more leniency when grading them and when assigning special designations. And again this not done because they are common or rare, it done because virtually the entire mintage is known for being of poor quality.

    Same kind of thing is true of a few other coins of other denominations, but not very many.

    That said, the TPGs are well known for giving way too much leniency to certain coins, both when it comes to overall grading and special designations. This typically happens if and when a coin has a certain pedigree, if a coin is exceptionally valuable, and if and when a coin has a certain degree of scarcity/rarity, and sometimes even popularity. Coins in any of these categories are often even given clean grades when coins of the same denomination and even type but much more common would be slabbed as problem coins.
  5. paddyman98

    paddyman98 Let me burst your bubble! Supporter

    I have no idea. :depressed:
    Robert Ransom likes this.
  6. Robert Ransom

    Robert Ransom Well-Known Member

    Big help you are. ;)
  7. baseball21

    baseball21 Well-Known Member

    Definitely true early S have a higher standard, it is also true though that the PL and DMPL standards have gotten a tighter in modern times
    thomas mozzillo likes this.
  8. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

    I think more significant than the variation in Date and Mintmark is the variation in date it was graded.

    To answer your first question - yes, some dates are known for deeper mirrors and will be judged more harshly than others. Some dates are nearly unknown in PL and will thus be given much more leeway.

    To expand your question - yes, some series are judged differently than others. I know you're asking about Morgans, but I collect PLs from all series and all countries. A Bust Half with mirrors will be given a PL designation, but a Morgan with that same level of mirroring will not. A Seated Dime is more common with PL and will generally need deeper mirrors than a Barber.

    To answer the question you didn't ask - the "standards" for PL have evolved over the years. PCGS has published their standards (they didn't designate PL on anything other than Morgans for a long time, so their acceptance of non-Morgan PLs is quite new). NGC has never published their standard. However, you can compare old slabs and new slabs, and there is a noticeable difference. I've studied and collected PLs for almost 10 years now, and I can tell you there have been periods where it was very tough to get them designated, and slabs from other eras where even the slightest mirror would be designated (the old, white, solid slabs from the late 90's and early 2000s are the worst in terms of mirror quality).

    The new competition from PCGS has been good for NGC - they've tightened up a bit. However, I've been somewhat disappointed by the depth of mirrors designated as PL by PCGS.
    thomas mozzillo likes this.
  9. Jaelus

    Jaelus The Hungarian Antiquarian Supporter

    Yes, this is absolutely accurate for how the PL/DMPL designations are assessed for Morgan dollars by both NGC and PCGS.

    A year/mm that is known for prooflike strikes will have a much higher bar than a year that is not known for them, creating a scenario whereby you might have a DMPL of one date/mm that is not even good enough to get a PL designation if it was of a different date/mm.

    I think it is absolute nonsense that they do this. If a particular date/mm has a lot of PLs, then it has a lot of PLs. End of story.

    Take a look - here's a PL Morgan from my collection. I can see with my own two eyes that it has a DMPL obverse and PL reverse. But it is an 1880 S, so it doesn't even make the cut for PL. PCGS MS65.


    It is primarily Morgan dollars that they play this PL game with. For most other series it is fairly consistently designated. There are some exceptions though, for example, some types where PL coins are fairly common yet they don't designate them at all for some reason.
    Last edited: May 1, 2020
  10. BlackberryPie

    BlackberryPie I like pie

    Would it makes today's cut... Maybe not...
    FB_IMG_1543897209231.jpg FB_IMG_1543897213093.jpg
    capthank likes this.
  11. messydesk

    messydesk Well-Known Member

    If you're talking only about Morgan dollars, which have had those designations available forever, then, yes there are subtle differences between dates and mints as to what's required for PL/DMPL. The bigger differences, as indicated by Jason, is the fluctuation over time as to what was considered PL/DMPL and what was not. The vaunted rattlers, OGHs, and NGC fatties that have coins in PL grades are quite often far short of today's standards. I've seen many older NGC slabs labeled DPL that wouldn't even get PL today. Much of this is a result of the market and an ill-defined, difficult to apply standard chasing each other until the standard itself converges on something that is stable.

    For this reason, when buying PL coins, make sure you look at a lot of them and feel comfortable with the designation given and price being charged.

    Another difference among the various dates and mints is luster. Don't let this difference cloud your vision of what a PL coin should look like. Coins normally found with crappy luster, like a 1903 Morgan, can have PL or DMPL surfaces despite the overall lousy luster. They're not common, though, and they'll never have the bottomless depth of a killer DMPL 80-S or 83-CC.

    Finally, the slab itself can make evaluating the depth of a PL difficult since you have a reflection off the slab you have to read through to see the depth of the mirrors on the coin alone.
    thomas mozzillo likes this.
  12. bradgator2

    bradgator2 Supporter! Supporter

    Love me some PL Morgans. Some of the mirrors can cause normal marks found on a MS64 and lower to really stick out like a sore thumb. Almost like the coin was ran over by a car.

    Dont the TPG put emphasis on both sides? Another words, both sides have to meet “their” expectation? I have several slabbed Morgans where the obverse is deep mirror PL, but no mirror on Reverse. Obviously the label is normal. But I have bought an ANACS Morgan with “obv PL”..... and I thought the reverse was clear PL as well.
  13. micbraun

    micbraun coindiccted

    Yes, both sides have to have PL/DMPL surfaces. ANACS used “obv PL” or similar designations in previous years, not sure if they’re still doing it. I prefer Morgans which are toned on both sides or are equally proof-like on obv and rev and basically ignore coins with one “superior” and another “not-so-special” side.
  14. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

    Yes, you are absolutely correct. ANACS did label if it was just a one-sided PL.

    NGC does not explicitly label these sorts of coins, but this is when you'll get a Star. Usually if the obverse is PL and the reverse isn't, it will get a star. If the obverse is DPL and the reverse is only PL, it will be labelled as PL *.
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