Question About "Smoothing"

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by kevin McGonigal, Oct 13, 2018.

  1. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    I have an opportunity to pick up an ancient coin, viz. an 80 drachmai of Cleopatra VII. The coin, which I presently do not have, (sorry no photo) is in a sealed plastic container and is certified by one of the common certifying and grading firms. It is graded VG with a 4/5 for its strike and a 2/5 for surface and the notation "smoothing". The portrait of Cleopatra looks quite good and the reverse eagle and inscription is not too bad, either. It also has what looks like a nice patina but I am wondering if this is the product of the smoothing process. What I am tying to determine is what kind of a price is consistent with the "smoothing" notation on the coin. I have a pretty good idea what the coin would go for in this condition, if it were not for the smoothing part. What would a normal discount for such a coin be with that smoothing notation? I am not going to purchase this coin with the idea of selling it later for a profit. Because of the image of Cleopatra I like the coin but don't want to take a bath on this if I have to sell it a few years down the line. I must admit to being somewhat baffled by the smoothing process and not entirely familiar with how it is done and how it affects a coin's value, especially when it looks like it has a patina to it. Any help on how smoothing affects a coin's value would be much appreciated. Thanks
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. iamtiberius

    iamtiberius SPQR Supporter

    I'm not sure if you'll get a strong opinion without a photo. It seems there are several examples, Cleopatra right / Eagle left, that have been smoothed, but still command a decent hammer at auction.
    CNG 2005, $2300 hammer "slight smoothing"

    CNG 2005, $1500 hammer "some smoothing"

    CNG Coin Shop, $1250 "light smoothing"

    Most of the examples I've seen have been smoothed; so I would understand paying a decent premium when the coin has been described as such. It's the tooling I'd stay away from; but depending on the condition, it may be difficult to tell which have been tooled or not. For example, the above coins don't mention tooling at all, but it's hard to say they haven't been. Especially the middle example.

    A large amount of large bronze coins have been smoothed and is nearly required during the cleaning process. Bronze/brass reacts so poorly with water and oxygen that you tend to get a raised, inconsistent, bubbly surfaces over time. That's the reason and the part they smooth the surface. If your coin doesn't look tooled and the condition to price ratio is a better deal than the coins above; I'd say go for it. The name of Cleopatra alone tends to command a decent price, regardless of condition.

    Naville Auction 38, 2018, $1085 hammer (obviously not smoothed)

    ominus1, Ryro, dadams and 2 others like this.
  4. IdesOfMarch01

    IdesOfMarch01 Well-Known Member

    The most benign definition of "smoothing" is that it's the removal of surface encrustations that were not originally part of the coin, but rather deposited on the coin after minting but prior to discovery. This type of smoothing is considered acceptable by most collectors, dealers, and auction houses.

    If a coin has become pitted due to burial or other destructive forces, more aggressive smoothing will make the coin's fields more even (flatter) by removing some of the coin's metal around the pitted areas. This type of smoothing, while common, is less acceptable to most collectors but in many cases doesn't affect the coin's saleability.

    My personal observation is that phrases like "some smoothing," "slightly smoothed," etc. are actually euphemisms for "tooled." From the above post, this coin (below) certainly appears to my eye to have been tooled in addition to smoothed:


    The sharp edges around this coin's devices and reverse legend aren't just aggressive smoothing -- those edges probably weren't there when the coin was discovered -- and have been enhanced by "smoothing" the areas surrounding the devices and legends.

    To make a real judgment on the OP coin, it would be valuable to have a picture of it unencapsulated.
  5. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Here's my "budget" example. Neither smoothed nor tooled. Barely identifiable, actually.

    Cleopatra VII 40 drachma.jpg
  6. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

    I agree with IdesOfMarch, the term "smoothing" is used very loosely by coin retailers instead of "tooling" because it appears less harsh & makes the coin easier to sell.
    Roman Collector likes this.
  7. Silverlock

    Silverlock Supporter! Supporter

    Kentucky and Gary R. Wilson like this.
  8. Al Kowsky

    Al Kowsky Supporter! Supporter

  9. IdesOfMarch01

    IdesOfMarch01 Well-Known Member

    I would argue that benign smoothing ("...the removal of surface encrustations that were not originally part of the coin, but rather deposited on the coin after minting but prior to discovery...") is not the same as tooling.

    Tooling creates features that weren't present on the coin when it was discovered, and may not even have been present when the coin was originally minted. E.g., if a coin becomes worn due to circulation, features become less sharp and even disappear. If these features are recreated by re-engraving the coin, that's tooling. For me as a collector, this is completely unacceptable.

    However, if a coin has lain undiscovered in the soil for millennia, and as a result has built up encrustations on its surface that were not present on the coin when it was buried, removing these encrustations via smoothing is not tooling. It's simply restoring the coin's surface to its condition when it fell out of circulation.
  10. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    Agree and this reflects how the two terms are used in actual practice and the terms are not synonymous.
    Andres2, Gary R. Wilson and TIF like this.
  11. Kentucky

    Kentucky Supporter! Supporter

    So, if I have a coin that I use a dental pick on to remove some encrustations, it becomes a "smoothed" or "tooled" coin?
  12. Silverlock

    Silverlock Supporter! Supporter

    I believe the terms are based on what is done to the original coin metal, not the equipment used. If you remove some original metal it is tooling or smoothing, depending on where it is. Removing foreign substances from the metal is cleaning.
    Kentucky likes this.
  13. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    Well, here is the coin out of its container and you can see what it is and perhaps why the grade is given as VG. It can be gotten for well, under IMG_0527[1384]cleopatra obverse.jpg cleoptra reverse.jpg $1,000
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page