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British Matte Proofs - Does Anybody Else Think PCGS and NGC are Clueless On Grading These?


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I am going to give posting pictures a try Monday, but in my opinion they have trouble telling a 60 from a 66 (okay maybe 63 from 66). I would include the 1902 issues in silver and gold right on through the satin 1965 Churchill.

 

This is a pet gripe of mine, but have seen coins high and low in my esteem and think the consignor is able to "pull" grades. The1902 Edward VII 5 sovereigns is one where rub and original hairlines are allowed on some and not on others. This is also true of the crown of that year where some very fancy prices have been based IMO on the TPG grade as opposed to appearance (this same phenomenon seems to occur with non-matte coins of this year and also the Victoria 1893 coins as well so not just an isolated occurance with the mattes IMO) Also, the non-standard very rare patterns and other coins are just not predictable. As readers will know, it is generally thought that Royal Mint workers gave coins a swipe with their apron or towel to "improve" appearance.

 

I would say this could be written off as a personal bias but have mini-experimented and have submitted one coin that came back 60 and then resubmitted came back 63. Also, I have seen several "61" graded specimens that had NO hairlines or rub that I would have given a "64" or 5 to.

 

The recent Goldberg sale had a pretty fair number of 1937-1953 matte coins and virtually all were 65 or 6. These absolutely were no better than the 63 graded ex-Norweb specimens of 1937 that were sold about two years ago; the latter had been submitted and NOT designated as such for evidently a not well-connected consignor and likely cost him or her.

 

One that I have personally is the 1965 Churchill in satin specimen - PCGS graded it 65, and I would challenge the viewer to find anything to mark it down from a 67. That one I will try to find a picture but is up on the PCGS site, don't have the cert. number at the moment.

 

The point for me is that this is one area that is so very subjective for them that it appears to defy logic, and that buyers should beware. I would be interested to hear what others think.

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Yes, I want to show a Matte61 1951 halfcrown that looks definately as good as the recently sold 66. Crazy, beautiful coin with NO hairlines or rub under magnification, no rim or edge defects and very nice muted lustre with no toning issues. I would really like to hear the grader on it.

 

I will add another disillusioning bit: a friend submitted a 1905 halfcrown to PCGS and it came back "58" despite it being one of the very nicest I had seen. I wrote a letter along with the resubmit before that was an official option and it came back "63". That was probably fair, but even a 4 might have been appropriate.

 

I think the point behind this is that their grading is very subjective. Can you imagine submitting a modern US and trying to fathom how they pick between a 69 and a 70? Sometimes you can find a pinpoint lustre break and other times not, be it the 69 or 70 (usually a bit less frequent on the latter, but I have definately seen 70 pieces by BOTH services that are problematic).

 

And people pay huge premiums for these differences as well! I really would hate to see the repeat at 70 grade for resubmissions.

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Except that if you saw coins like in the 'Millennium Collection' you would see that with a big enough consignor they DEFINATELY let some hairlines go in some circumstances....

 

Also, hairlines are visible to me as well and even more glaringly under 30x power....

 

Subjective is what I'm saying...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Frankly, MS61 is a grade I don't really understand - and it seems to me that sometimes MS60 is used for a really nice looking AU58.

 

Conversely I've seen MS60 coins that were horrible, and AU58s I'd rather own. Those 60s are coins that are, technically speaking unworn (i.e., "Mint State") but really undesirable for some reason (lots of bag marks, a really unsightly spot of toning, etc. You almost wish they could assign an "MS-50" grade to them. Conversely it seems some AUs look vastly superior to MS-63s in many ways, you are trading unsightly bag marks (e.g., a ton of acne on Liberty's cheek, for Morgan dollars) for just the teeeny-tiniest bit of rub, or perhaps lots of "chatter" in the fields because someone long ago put the coin and a key in his pocket for an hour. That's a coin you wish they could grade as an AU-63.

 

I guess what I am getting at, is if PF can be a parallel designation (you can theoretically have PF-3 if it's really, really worn) to the Poor, Fair, AG, G, VG, F, VF, XF, AU MS sperctrum, why shouldn't MS be such? MS would then mean only that a coin is not worn but may have suffered some extreme other type of damage; Poor-AU would mean the coin shows signs of at some point having been out in the real world. You wouldn't have a coin being hideous but bumped up to a numerical 60 just because it has no sign of wear, nor a beautiful coin knocked down to 58 because it does. That solves the problem of a line being drawn through the specturm because one specific type of damage is arbitrarily NOT permitted above a certain number, but any other kind is.

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  • 4 months later...

I agree from what I have seen they can be very harsh on grading proofs I don't own any but check national antique center online they have lots of coins from the slabbing companies that they say are undergraded and lots of them a British proofs.

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Conversely I've seen MS60 coins that were horrible, and AU58s I'd rather own. Those 60s are coins that are, technically speaking unworn (i.e., "Mint State") but really undesirable for some reason (lots of bag marks, a really unsightly spot of toning, etc. You almost wish they could assign an "MS-50" grade to them. Conversely it seems some AUs look vastly superior to MS-63s in many ways, you are trading unsightly bag marks (e.g., a ton of acne on Liberty's cheek, for Morgan dollars) for just the teeeny-tiniest bit of rub, or perhaps lots of "chatter" in the fields because someone long ago put the coin and a key in his pocket for an hour. That's a coin you wish they could grade as an AU-63.

 

I guess what I am getting at, is if PF can be a parallel designation (you can theoretically have PF-3 if it's really, really worn) to the Poor, Fair, AG, G, VG, F, VF, XF, AU MS sperctrum, why shouldn't MS be such? MS would then mean only that a coin is not worn but may have suffered some extreme other type of damage; Poor-AU would mean the coin shows signs of at some point having been out in the real world. You wouldn't have a coin being hideous but bumped up to a numerical 60 just because it has no sign of wear, nor a beautiful coin knocked down to 58 because it does. That solves the problem of a line being drawn through the specturm because one specific type of damage is arbitrarily NOT permitted above a certain number, but any other kind is.

 

Not sure how I missed this, but yes, I must agree that yes, there are many MS pieces that it is indeed too bad in some ways that they can't be graded lower than 60.

 

While really unsightly pieces are one thing, the ones I laugh at are weakly struck buffalo nickels - I've seen more than my share of pieces that based on detail, were probably MS-20 at best.

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Indeed. A real problem as per the OP is that the grading is INCONSISTENT, and not just harsh. I have seen some bits graded 64 definitely inferior to others graded 61. In the case of the 1951 matte proof halfcrown, a 61 every bit the equal of the other graded 66! Yikes, that is problematic and by inference to some degree condemns some of the rest of their grading.

 

Let us not go there with the outrageous "First Strike" or "First Release" designations.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Strike, luster, wear and surface quality (i.e. hairlines, scratches, etc.) are all used by the major TPG companies to arrive at a grade. In addition to hard factual issues such as detecting a bit of wear by the loss of luster at the high points of the design, there is, as as been commented upon, a great deal of subjectivity involved. In the end, it all goes back to eye appeal. That's why you might hear references to the "technical grade" as opposed to the "market grade." The technical grade corresponds to what the TPG publishes in terms of the degree of wear, number and position of marks, degree of strike weakness, etc. The "market grade" is more or less about eye appeal; that's why you might find a beautifully toned coin with a tiny bit of wear but great luster showing up as a MS62 instead on an AU58. This reflects the grader's opinion that the coin will bring "62 money" rather than AU money. Some TPG tilt towards technical grading and some towards market grading, and it can vary from coin to coin. In addition, each grader brings his own preferences along, so there's a degree of variation for any coin. That's why there are supposed to be at least two graders involved with a "finalizer" if each grader's opinion is different. Also, my experience has been that the TPG are a bit looser, i.e., more forgiving for extremely important or valuable coins, again reflecting their opinion about the market value of the coin. Additionally, some coins transcend the grade, they are so rare - they look "better" in an MS holder than an AU or EF holder. I'm not excusing anything, it's just the reality that I've seen over the years.

 

In addition, if any attribute of the grade component is particularly prominent and beautiful, such as toning, luster, strike, etc., graders often bump up the grade a bit, again a reflection of their estimation of eye appeal.

 

And due to the many subjective components of eye appeal, it is almost impossible to compare coins, perhaps with the exception of modern mint products which are more a commodity than a numismatic object. As for determining the cause of an MS/PR69 versus an MS/PR70, the TPG service know the price differential and therefore look for any microscopic hairline or mark to make the cut. I recently purchased the reverse proof Buffalo from the mint. When I looked at the coin closely with the naked eye and with a 4x glass, it appeared perfect. However, when I put it under my 40x stereo microscope, a few very, very fine hairlines jumped out at me which I then saw, knowing where to look, with my 4x glass, so I sent it back. It's replacement, which I again inspected, looked perfect. I sent it to PCGS and it came back PR70.

 

Another case in point: I bought a gorgeous full red 1862 GB half penny with immaculate surfaces. Fully struck on the obverse, the reverse had a flatly struck head. I sent it to PCGS, and it came back MS65red. I'm convinced that with a better reverse strike, it would have been a 67. The PCGS grading guide states that a 66 must have a good strike (i.e., not full) whereas a 67 must have a full strike. So strike quality is important.

 

WRT walking liberty halves from San Francisco, many of the dates come poorly struck on both sides in the center resulting in Liberty's hand showing no detail, and the eagle's leg feathers on the reverse not struck up. I would guess that none of these would grade better than 66, but the TPG services might make an exception since these NEVER come fully struck, so again it's a market based grade in essence.

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I don't mean to sound presumptive but I think that you are presenting objectivity which is as it should be. They overall IMO do a decent job, but point being is that on this series of matte proofs, both PC and N have done abysmal jobs and whoever does the grading of these is (obviously IMO) not quite clear on what they are. BTW, I think they do not use past 10 power as is described somewhere on their site...

 

I can readily (but am piss poor at posting) cite examples of especially the 1902 coins with one graded "60" being every bit the equal of another graded "64", let alone 62s versus 64s. This date is a bit easier to cite as the proof and patterns struck in satin or matte are very scarce and so there is not a lot of population to use for comparison.

 

I have also seen the satin specimen/proof 1923 threepence that is struck in nickel with two known and can categorically state that the coin graded "63" is every bit the equal of the other struck, now graded "66". Many other examples...

 

Going to related but different series, I know of a gentleman that submitted a 1905 half crown some years ago to PC that was clearly one of the finest known, only to be disappointed by it coming back "58". He was rather incensed by recall and sent it back demanding an explanation - low and behold, it came back "63" and possibly under graded at that!

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