Thoughts on cabinet friction from a professional grader.

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by TypeCoin971793, Apr 26, 2019.


    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you, and if I am then please correct me. But based on your comments it sounds like you are thinking that it is being proposed in the article linked to that technical grading be used and market grading done away with. Am I correct ?

    If I am, I have to wonder why you are thinking that because what I got out of the article was definitely not THAT !

    For example, this is a direct quote from the article -

    "Technical grading was not suitable for the coin market where strike, friction wear, and especially eye appeal are very important."

    Now reading that, how could anyone ever think that Mike is proposing a return to technical grading ? I mean he's flat out telling you that technical grading, when used all by itself, simply doesn't work !

    What he is saying is exactly what I said in post #8 of this thread. And he himself confirms that in post #11.

    And none of this is anything new, it's been around for over 30 years ! It dates back to 1986 when the market grading system was created. Short and sweet, he's reminding everybody that the market grading system is a combination of the aspects of technical grading combined with quality of luster, quality of strike, and eye appeal. It is not just one or the other, market grading is a combination of the aspects of technical grading with additional aspects added to it. And that when grading coins, we cannot forget to use ALL aspects, ALL grading criteria.

    That's what the article is all about !
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  3. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody who doesn’t know anything...

    The strongest advocates for market grading argue that the surface damage caused by slight friction should be commensurate with surface damage caused by MS-63-level contact marks. They argue that a coin with wear (which would otherwise be given an AU-58 grade) should not be graded lower (and thus valued lower) than a beat-up ugly MS-60. This is because the TPGs know that most collectors are not advanced enough to recognize when something is more valuable than other similar and higher-graded coins. This is all built on the fallacy that higher grades HAVE to be worth more, which is promoted by points awarded in the TPG Registry Sets.

    The main problem with this is that, for most people, they either don’t know about market grading or don’t know when it has been applied. Say you have a coin that is a technical MS-65 that is market-graded to MS-67 due to insane eye appeal. Then someone gets caught up in the insane eye appeal and assumes that is is a premium MS-67 and pays a premium on the already-inflated grade. I see this happen all the time, and I believe that a practice that encourages double-dipping on the eye-appeal premium is dangerous and should be abandoned. My stance is that supurb eye appeal should just a requisite for a gem grade, not an excuse to bump up the grade. If the eye appeal is exceptional for the technical grade, then specialists would naturally bid it up to premium prices (since it is a premium coin).

    But that will start with correcting the fallacy that an AU-58 coin does not have to be worth less than an MS-60. That would be difficult to implement, but I guess it could start by awarding MS-62/63 points for AU-58 coins in a Registry set. Or maybe adding the designation AU-58+ to indicate that it is such a premium AU that is would be worth 62/63 (or more) money. But these are fundamental changes that would be extremely difficult to implement in the current market.
  4. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    As this is far outside my areas of expertise or interest, I will offer my opinion. Though apparently dating from 1986, I never knew the term "cabinet friction" until I worked at Coin World (1999-2000). With ancients, I was never in the markets for coins where it mattered. (I mean, we dig them out of the ground, right? Some come from known and famous collections, but that only means they were dug out of the ground a long time ago.) Anyway, I was told by another page editor, sotte voce and not to be repeated, that "cabinet friction" is used by unscrupulous resellers to push About Unc coins as Uncirculated.

    That would be especially true with the invention of holders, commercially sized storage boxes, plastic flips, plastic cases, and all the rest. "Cabinet friction" smacks of an old collection in a wooden case with felt lining. Very nice. But it does not apply to 20th century coins.

    As the article said:

    “An uncirculated coin is a newly minted coin that finds its way into the usual trade channels, after having passed from the mints to the Federal Reserve banks and respective member banks. Moreover those coins, originally new but handled down from collector to collector through generations and which, after years of numismatic handling, acquire “cabinet friction” are considered as uncirculated.”

    The first part of that would apply only to coins minted since the invention of the Federal Reserve System and its superposition over banking in the wake of the Great Depression. It would not apply to the next part, which does describe Bust Half Dollars, Seated Quarters, Civil War Tokens, and much else of great interest to collectors of American coins.

    Again, the phrase "cabinet friction" makes it sound as if this Bust Half Dollar was in Mickley's cabinet and then Beistle's cabinet but not Overton's (because he did not have an actual cabinet) and now it is for sale. In fact, unless you can prove otherwise "cabinet friction" should be called "collector wear."

    The quote above does touch (to make a pun) on an aspect of the phrase and the hobby. We pass coins from hand to hand, albeit in holders. But, eventually, as with "toning" wear is something that must happen to any object that leaves its time and place of origin. I am a writer. But my degrees are in criminology. (Today, I write for a protective agency.) Locard's rule says: "Every contact leaves a trace." In theory, with the right instrumentation, you could find every place that every nominally Uncirculated coin with so-called "cabinet friction" has been... every hand, every box, every flip, every TPG tomb that wore it down
    just a little bit...
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2019

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    Again, this line of thinking is what I see as a large part of the problem. And I'm not trying to pick on you here, I'm merely trying to point something out.

    It's as if people, on both sides of this issue, are stuck on the idea that market grading and technical grading are both 2 different grading systems currently in use. That is NOT the case ! There is only 1 grading system in use, and there has only been 1 grading system in use since 1986. That grading system is market grading ! And for the record, I'm a strong advocate for market grading - and always have been !

    But what it seems that people can't get through their heads is that technical grading is a part, a big part of market grading. Technical grading is fully 50% of market grading. You cannot have one without the other.

    What you are talking about is over-grading, plain and simple. It's not about using a different grading system, it's simply grading coins higher than they deserve to be graded - based on established grading criteria. But the grading system itself, it is still the same grading system that is always been - market grading.

    People need to understand something, it's not about just calling AU coins MS. It's also calling VF coins XF, and G coins VG, and VG coins F, and XF coins AU, etc etc. But all of it, every bit of it, is still market grading.

    Lemme see if I can put this a different way. Prior to 2004 the TPGs graded the vast majority of all coins correctly, in other words based on established grading criteria. But prior to 2004 they were using market grading.

    After 2004, they're still using market grading, but they changed the grading criteria, they loosened the grading criteria, they made them more lenient. But before and after, they were still using the same grading system - market grading. As I said, it's the only system that has been used since 1986.

    Everything I'm saying here, it's the same thing that Mike is saying here -

    "As the students become experienced, they will need to decide for themselves just how much friction they will tolerate on an “uncirculated” coin before it becomes their personal AU. It is something we all do. When a dealer seeks my opinion on a coin, I’ll often tell him it is an AU; yet I would sell it as an “MS-something” and sleep like a baby because that’s the commercial grading system. Easy right? Examine a coin, like a Morgan dollar for example, look at the eagle’s breast and the hair over the ear and if it has full luster it is MS if not it’s AU."

    In his last line, he's giving us his personal definition. And it's a definition I agree with, but I would word it slightly differently. I would say a break in the luster anywhere on the coin relegates that coin as AU, not MS. And that's the way it was prior to 2004. And every bit of it was market grading.
    TypeCoin971793 likes this.
  6. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody who doesn’t know anything...

    So what I’m against is overgrading being disguised as market grading?
    Insider likes this.
  7. Insider

    Insider Talent on loan from...

    I'll add something to stir the pot.

    Most folks have no clue what TRUE Technical Grading actually WAS! ANACS just adopted the name when they bastardized it in the ANA grading guide using it at the SECOND grading service in CO. They had no clue either!

    You see, true technical grading (no longer around except for "details" grades) has nothing at all to do with the VALUE or EYE APPEAL of a coin. It described the condition of preservation of a coin better than a single number ever can.
    TypeCoin971793 likes this.
  8. Insider

    Insider Talent on loan from...

    TypeCoin971793, asked: "So what I’m against is overgrading being disguised as market grading?"

    When you think about it, there is no such thing as over grading or under grading. These things can ONLY refer to two different things:

    1. Obvious mistakes.
    2. The grade assigned by an individual or organization based on their PERSONAL or COMPANY STANDARDS that reflect the status quo as they see it.

    Therefore, if I think a TPGS coin graded MS-62 is actually an AU, it may be by my personal standard but not by the commercial market that the TPGS's are trying to protect/follow/maintain/and strongly :vomit: influence.
    TheFinn and TypeCoin971793 like this.
  9. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody who doesn’t know anything...

  10. desertgem

    desertgem MODERATOR Senior Errer Collecktor Moderator

    Bring back G-F-VF-XF-AU-BU-ChBU-GemBU like when I started. :) Jim
  11. ToughCOINS

    ToughCOINS Dealer Member Moderator

    I'll throw in my two cents here regarding the difference between lightly circulated coins and truly uncirculated coins having either cabinet friction or stacking friction.

    Stacking friction and cabinet friction generally result from coins sliding against another coin or a flat surface, removing material only from the high points . . . Generally the tops of the central devices and the rim.

    Circulation involves contact with more than just the high points, and invariably causes some level of wear in the wide open fields.

    When on the border between circulated and not, it is the presence or absence of wear in the fields which I use to decide which category the coin belongs in . . . The only exception I make is for gold, which is a different animal unto itself.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2019
  12. Insider

    Insider Talent on loan from...

    You mentioned something that I neglected. Loss of luster on a surface due to "stacking" (downward pressure) IS and LOOKS different from a luster loss due to friction wear. Stacking is not "cabinet friction." Cabinet Friction is light abrasive wear.
    Stevearino and TypeCoin971793 like this.
  13. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody who doesn’t know anything...

    Stacking “friction” looks more scuffy than worn. I find that acceptable for a low-MS coin.
  14. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody who doesn’t know anything...

    That seems to be the metric that the TPGs use as well.
  15. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody who doesn’t know anything...

    I think this system would calm a lot of nerves when it comes to grading.

    Or how about this: a coin gets graded “genuine and problem-free” with no other metric for the state of preservation, and the market grades and prices for itself. What a heretical concept! Nothing like that could ever work!!! *Casually glances over at ancients/medievals*
    Stevearino likes this.
  16. ToughCOINS

    ToughCOINS Dealer Member Moderator

    I've broached this idea more than once, and been ridiculed for having done so.

    Personally, I think it is the most sustainable solution.
    Stevearino and TypeCoin971793 like this.
  17. TypeCoin971793

    TypeCoin971793 Just a random nobody who doesn’t know anything...

    Let’s take this coin for example. I can’t find any trace of wear, so I will call it uncirculated. Even if it did have a touch of wear, you would probably have to search far and wide for a single person who cares. If it was significantly worn, yes it would be worth less, and naturally so. It has also been cleaned, as expected from being pulled from a hoard excavated from the ground. The cleaning is not at all distracting (just light hairlining) and, again, you probably will spend a long length of your life before you find a single person who cares. What does matter, however, is the centering, strike, style, and no distracting problems (large hits, scratches, bends, etc.), and this coin has high marks for each of those categories.

    The dealer merely guaranteed its authenticity and spoke nothing of its grade. It still sold for the going rate. Crazy.

    Paul M. and kaparthy like this.
  18. longnine009

    longnine009 Most Exalted Excellency

    Why not? Sooner or later the market is going to grade and price the coin anyway in accordance with its prevailing whimsy rather than "WOW!!!" stickers or claims of exquisitness.
  19. GDJMSP

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    The point I was trying to get across is that, at least in my eyes, it seems as if people are calling the gross over-grading of the TPGs - market grading. Or, to put it another way, attributing the gross over-grading to market grading, as if market grading were the cause or reason for it.

    But that's not the case at all. The problem, the reason, for the gross over-grading is not with the market grading system. If it was, then all the coins from '86 -'04 would have been over-graded as well. But since they were not over-graded, we know the market grading system is not the problem, not the reason.

    Some others seem to think that the valuing of coins, the TPGs assigning grades based on the value of a coin - is what defines market grading. But that's not the case either. Because if it was then all the coins graded between '86-'04 would have also had grades assigned based on value. Since they were not, we know that is not so.

    No, the problem, the reason for all of it is very simple. It's because the TPGs have changed all the grading criteria for each individual grade. They haven't change the grading system - they've changed the individual criteria the system is based on. And that's not the same thing as changing from one system to another.

    All the coins graded from '86-'04, all of them were graded using the market grading system based on quality of luster, quality of strike, eye appeal, the number of contact marks and their severity and location, hairlines, scratches, and wear. The very same things that all the coins graded after '04 were graded based on.

    BUT - after '04, the number of contact marks allowed for a given MS grade, increased and greater allowances (leniency) were given for their severity, same for the number of hairlines and scratches, the quality of luster required for a given grade was decreased, the quality of strike required was decreased, the quality of eye appeal required was decreased, and wear was suddenly allowed - AU coins became MS coins - when wear had not been allowed before.

    That's the problem, that's the reason for the over-grading - changing criteria. It's all still market grading, it was market grading before '04 and it was market grading after '04.
  20. Insider

    Insider Talent on loan from...

    ToughCOINS and Desertgem liked going back to AG, G, VG, etc.

    It sure would make grading much easier, faster, and more folks would be able to agree on a grade. Example: VF rather than needing to split four levels of VF. Unfortunately, it will never happen.

    GDJMSP, posted: "That's the problem, that's the reason for the over-grading - changing criteria. It's all still market grading, it was market grading before '04 and it was market grading after '04.

    That's why many coins in decades old holders get cracked out and regraded at a higher grade.
    TypeCoin971793 and Stevearino like this.
  21. Morgandude11

    Morgandude11 As long as it's Silver, I'm listening

    I will simplify the issue greatly. Cabinet friction= storage. It is no different than Morgans making contact with each other, and causing marks. The coins haven’t circulated, therefore, they are MS. The whole spiel overcomplicstes what I see as a very straightforward issue.
    Lehigh96 likes this.
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