Rainbow Toning's effect on price

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by Lehigh96, Jul 29, 2008.

  1. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    I would like to start a discussion about the effects that rainbow toning has on price. Many collectors can't fathom paying 5X-10X-20X bid for a coin simply because it has pretty toning. I completely understand that point of view, but I would like to share some reasons why collectors of these coins are willing to pay these seemingly ridiculous premiums.

    Let us start with Morgan Dollars which have an abundant amount of coins available and some really beautiful toned examples. Bag toned Morgans are undeniably attractive and the toning patterns/color schemes are predictable. For the purposes of this discussion, I will focus on what are considered monster toned coins that provoke an emotional response when first seen. These coins are usually completely toned one side and have incredible vibrant colors. My first example is my avatar. This coin is an example from the Battle Creek collection and is graded 1886 NGC MS64*.


    We all understand that coin prices are based upon supply and demand. Morgan Dollars are very affordable due to the massive number of uncirculated examples available for the common dates. Even though this series is probably one of the most popular of all United States coinage, the number of uncirculated examples is so large it is able to satisfy the demand with relative ease. However, the monster toned example of the common date Morgan is not so common.

    I researched the last 500 1886 MS64 Morgans sold by Heritage in their permanent auction archives and could only find 5 examples that would fall into the class of a monster toned Morgan dollar like the coin pictured above. This simple process leads us to think that only 1% of all Morgans for this date are monster toned. Using this rationale, this coin is much more rare than the bright white counterpart that sells for $50. If the overall population of an 1886 MS64 Morgan is 69738/35474 then it stands to reason that the population of the monster toned 1886 MS64 Morgans is about 697/354. We now need to ask ourselves, if we would pay $50 for a coin with a population of 70K, what would we pay for a coin with a population of 700. Well, the 1886 Morgan in MS67 has a population of 779/11 and costs over $1,000. The problem with this theory is that although the supply has obviously changed, so has the demand, as not every collector is a fan of rainbow toning.

    So what is the coin really worth to a rainbow toned collector? There seems to be some unwritten rules in this regard. Monster toned coins with bid price under $100 usually retail for 10-20X bid depending on the appearance of the coin. In this case the coin should be between $500-$1,000 and infact I bought it for $600 (12X bid). The real answer is that there is no set price and that the individual collector must decide how much the coin is worth to him/her without the help of an established price guide.

    However, the higher the bid price, the less the rainbow toned coin will sell for in relation to the bid price. Let us now look at an 1886 NGC MS65* Battle Creek Morgan.


    The population of the 1886 MS65 is 29061/6413. Using the 1% model, the population of the monster toned 1886 MS65 Morgan is 290/64. The lower population raised the price which at auction was $1,380 (9X bid). Notice how the mulitple of the bid price has now fallen below the 10X bid price. With regards to these coins, you are really not paying for the grade of the coin, rather you are paying for the toning irregardless of grade. It is not uncommon for the MS64 & MS65's to sell at the same price levels.

    Before everyone thinks that paying these prices is crazy, think about some other areas where collectors pay huge premiums. Strike related features like FH on SLQ's and FB on Mercury Dimes are an example where huge premiums exist. A 1945 Mercury Dime MS65 goes for about $20 but the FB counterpart is over $10,000. That is a 500X premium. Why do collectors pay that premium, because the coin is rare and supply is low. This is the same condition that exists with rainbow toned coins, but instead of strike, it is in relation to eye appeal. The only real difference is that the rarity is estimated instead of documented leaving no official price guide to fall back on.

    I know this was long and I apologize, but I hope you found it either interesting or informative. If you agree or disagree with my philosophy, please don't hesitate to reply. I look forward to a good discussion.
    Jason Hoffpauir likes this.
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  3. Arizona Jack

    Arizona Jack The Lincoln-ator

    I had a boatload of the Battle Creek and Great Falls NGC 64 and 65 *star* coins, I sold them about a year ago, but many are posted here on CT in other threads. All brought decent premiums, but non even approaching 10X sheet.

    Here is a cpl nice toners from my collection of Lincolns

    Attached Files:

  4. Harryj

    Harryj Supporter**

    Personally I like toning but will not pay a large premium for it. I have a framed US 20th Century coins display of mostly proofs and AU's. The obverses of the coins are normal, however the reverses are toned from the cardboard backing. The Frankie, Washington Quarter and Roosevelt dime have monster blueish toning while all the others show at least some toning as the have been in the display since the mid 70's.
  5. gocamels

    gocamels Learned Blockhead

    I'm with Harry. I like toned coins, but I don't really pay a huge premium for it. I will pay a small premium for attractive toning, but not anything approaching 10x list for it.
  6. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast


    Those are very nice Lincolns. Didn't you place a bid that was 10X sheet on an ANACS graded peace dollar in January?
  7. Arizona Jack

    Arizona Jack The Lincoln-ator

    I reached pretty deep for one, but I do not remember the details, and I did not win it.
  8. coleguy

    coleguy Coin Collector

    Paying a preium for a good strike versus paying one for toning are two completely different aspects of a coin's worth and appeal. Not all coins have a great strike, but all coins will eventually tone over time, as it's nothing more than a chemical decomposition withing most metals.

    I like some natural toning on occasion, but would never put it in the same importance as a good strike or natural coloring. Why pay extra for a coin that in a sense is in the mid stages of rusting?
  9. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    You value strike and would pay a premium for it, others value eye appeal and would pay a premium for rainbow toning, I fail to see the difference.

    And to insinuate that if you just leave any coin around long enough that they will look like the two coins posted in this thread is ludicrous.
  10. Hobo

    Hobo Squirrel Hater

    Toning is a highly subjective. It is a matter of eye appeal. You either like it or you don't. There are no "rules" that define what is "monster toning".

    Strike is more quantitative. There are definitions for "Full Head", "Full Bands", "Full Bell Lines", "Full Torch", etc.

    In other words, you can measure strike (in these instances) but you cannot measure toning.
    Jason Hoffpauir likes this.
  11. Harryj

    Harryj Supporter**

    Well said!!!!
  12. rlm's cents

    rlm's cents Numismatist

    I am not a major fan of toning. I like the subtle toning rather that the bright rainbow. AJ's Lincolns are not too bad.

    Here are a couple of mine. As most have seen, I like my 1917- (for more that just the toning). The 1922-D (reverse) is a nice coin, but the toning doesn't do much for me. The 1958 is just different.

    Attached Files:

  13. Arizona Jack

    Arizona Jack The Lincoln-ator

    The Battle Creek Collection and the Great Falls coins have been said to fade.....but they have some real beautys. I never really looked into the fade thingy, but I do remember reading about it a while ago.

    I will always regret selling a cpl of them, but it was one of them offers you could not refuse.

    One of these days, I'll spring for another primo toner I'm sure, but it will have to grab me at a show, I won't be looking and it will yell at me thru the glass. That happens you know?? I want an S mint strike and DMPL toned surfaces. Going to be an expensive coin.

    Right now, I am looking for a VDB to match my 09-P posted above, the 66
  14. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast


    Nice (Litte to no Premium)

    Nicer (2x bid)

    Much Nicer (3-5X bid)

    Spectacular (5-7X bid)

    Monster (10X+ bid)

    Hobo, maybe you can't measure toning, but I can. Like you said, it is highly subjective and thats what these coins are worth to me. However, if you don't believe me, do some research and see how much rainbow toned coins bring at auction. You will see that this crude little scale is in line with what you find. I promise.
  15. Hobo

    Hobo Squirrel Hater


    Can you write down a set of guidelines for measuring toning? They should be written so the results are reproducible from grader to grader (within a small margin of error).
  16. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    Thanks Jack, you just provided us a very good definition of monster toning. When you are not looking and it yells at you through the glass, that is monster. Like I said in my original post, monster toning needs to provoke an emotional response when seen. However, if you don't like toning, that will probably never happen. But for toning aficionados, the monster will speak to you and make you stop and stare.

    Jack, this is the best I could do photographing this coin, but it sounds a little like what you are talking about. Great Falls Collection MS67 with semiprooflike surfaces.

  17. Lehigh96

    Lehigh96 Toning Enthusiast

    One of the founders at the TCCS (Toned Coin Collectors Society) already tried this experiment.http://www.tonedcoins.org/Articles(3).htm

    However, I have already stated that I agree that toning is subjective and that not everyone will classify each toned coin in the same category. This will explain the phenomenon of bidding on a toned coin at auction with what you think is a good bid and then realizing at the end of the auction that your bid was half of the hammer price. Obviously, in that case, someone else classified that coin in a higher catergory.

    Also, this is not something that the graders at the TPG's would handle. NGC makes an attempt by giving the star designation, but that does not really help as every coin I posted in my scale has a star. Hobo, if you contend that you can't see a progression of toning as it relates to eye appeal from my series of photos, then I very politely suggest that you make an appointment at your local optometrist.

    With respect to the coins I posted and the scale proposed by Ron Sirna, it would go like this.

    Nice (B-)
    Nicer (B)
    Much Nicer (B+) or (A-) depending on personal preference
    Spectacular (A-) or (A) depending on personal preference
    Monster (A+)

    Let me know what you think.
  18. Aslanmia

    Aslanmia Active Member

    Question for you, Jack...

    Did your toned Lincolns come back as Red or Red-brown? I'm curious how PCGS treats toned copper.
  19. Treashunt

    Treashunt The Other Frank

    There is an interesting article on toning in the August, 2008 Numismatist.

    It is a must read.
  20. Arizona Jack

    Arizona Jack The Lincoln-ator

    All toned Lincolns come back as RB, and yes, the Numismatist article is a good one !!
  21. 900fine

    900fine doggone it people like me

    Non-collectors often fail to understand. Sometimes, non-collectors of coins can't understand why someone would pay more than 10c for a dime. Similarly, folks who aren't interested in toned coins don't understand tone premiums.

    I'm not a toned coin collector, but I can certainly understand why they sell for a premium !

    One word - desirability.

    As you stated so well, it's all about supply and demand. Low supply !

    Yes, I did. Thanks. Very well said.

    I truly appreciate your numerical analysis. It reminds me of Sheldon's attempt to create a "science" of pricing for Large Cents, from which we get the 70-point grading scale.

    It didn't work for him, or anyone else. It never will.

    Yes, there is a lot of strong science-style thinking around here, and that's great. But sometimes we forget the enormous impact of the purely aesthetic and emotional, which are dominant factors in the collector mindset. It's not rational, so sometimes science and math do not model us very well !

    Coins + Science + Math + Art + Emotion = Numismatics

    It's a complex blend.
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