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Has NGC altered their grading standards?


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While perusing January Heritage catalogue I noticed something I have not seen before: auctioneer added the words "perhaps lightly cleaned in the past" to the description of several coins that had received numeric grades from NGC. Typically, these words are a euphemism for hairlines and are reserved for coins that do not receive a numeric grade. See link below as an example.http://coins.ha.com/itm/russia/world-coins/anna-rouble-1733-au50-ngc-/p/3038-218009.s

 

 

Wondering, whether this is the case of improper grading, or NGC is beginning to assign numeric grade instead of details grade to cleaned coins.

 

 

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Interesting and Heritage is a reliable house. I wonder what they saw on the coin that led them to the "cleaned" statement.

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In my experience they have some of the most accurate descriptions in the industry. Unfortunately, they provided only scans of the coins in question.

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In my opinion, it's all a question of degree. I've followed Russian coins at auction for 10 years. It seems to me, anecdotally at least, that NGC is a bit "softer" on hairlines in the circulated grades and for 18th century and earlier coins. In reality, it's a miracle to find a 250-year-old coin that hasn't been wiped ("cleaned") at some point. If the lines are very evident, then the coin may come back in a "details" holder, but even then, perhaps not if the coin is an important one. If the TPG details-graded for even light hairlines for 200-300 year old circulated coins, perhaps collectors wouldn't send them any coins of those eras, and there goes the income stream. For unc coins, they're a little more rigorous in my opinion, but even there, I've seen MS63 coins with a some significant hairlines. In fact, the PCGS guide lines permit hairlines on unc coins to a certain degree. A tiny patch is even permitted for MS65 and 66 (tinier patch).

 

If any coin is blasted with deep and pervasive hairlines, then they become "scratches" and then most probably it will be details-graded.

 

So it boils down to the opinion of the graders. But that's what grading is, right?

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It's good to remember that hairlines on the coin can come as part of the minting process and do not necessarily indicate a cleaned coin. They may be from a cleaned or improperly polished die.

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Die lines on a coin are not hairlines. Because lines resulting from wiping a die are incuse, i.e., they cut into the die's surface, the resulting lines on the coin struck from a die that's been wiped are in relief, i.e., they stick out above the surface of the coin. True hairlines cut into the surface of the coin. So while die lines may at first look like hairlines, they are not and are easily distinguished from hairlines with a good glass. In general, the grading companies do not downgrade a coin due to die lines. I have seen proof coins from dies that have been lightly wiped, and there are fine lines projecting abouve the proof surface, but the coin can still be highly graded unless of course the die lines are so evident and massive that eye appeal is affected. If this is the case, then the coin may be downgraded since the grading houses factor in eye appeal (in their opinion) a great deal.

 

Die lines, then, are part of the original surface of the coin whereas hairlines are damage added after the coin has been minted. This is an important distinction for the grading companies.

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The link to an article on hairlines from NGC site: http://www.ngccoin.com/news/viewarticle.aspx?NewsletterNewsArticleID=511

IgorS, thanks a lot for this article. It is an eye opener. This is a revelation:

 

"Easily seen hairlines are tolerated and even expected for grades of MS 63 and lower."

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Die lines on a coin are not hairlines. Because lines resulting from wiping a die are incuse, i.e., they cut into the die's surface, the resulting lines on the coin struck from a die that's been wiped are in relief, i.e., they stick out above the surface of the coin. True hairlines cut into the surface of the coin. So while die lines may at first look like hairlines, they are not and are easily distinguished from hairlines with a good glass. In general, the grading companies do not downgrade a coin due to die lines. I have seen proof coins from dies that have been lightly wiped, and there are fine lines projecting abouve the proof surface, but the coin can still be highly graded unless of course the die lines are so evident and massive that eye appeal is affected. If this is the case, then the coin may be downgraded since the grading houses factor in eye appeal (in their opinion) a great deal.

 

Die lines, then, are part of the original surface of the coin whereas hairlines are damage added after the coin has been minted. This is an important distinction for the grading companies.

There is also 3rd kind of lines -- traces of planchette preparation prior to minting. Not as easily distinguished from hairlines as die lines...

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Perhaps you're referring to adjustment marks? This was common before about 1840 when planchette preparation was not as exacting as it became in more modern times. When coin planchettes were sufficiently over weight, the weight was "adjusted" by removing material from the planchette with a file before striking. In some instances, the marks left by the adjustment were not obliterated by the striking process showing up on the finished coin. Underweight planchettes were re-melted to start over. With experience, adjustment marks are relatively easy to distinguish.

 

Here is a good article on adjustment marks: http://coins.about.com/od/coingrading/f/adjustment_mark.htm

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Interesting. So as late as 1923, they still could not make accurate planchettes? During the late empire, wasn't the St. Petersburg mint supposed to be as modern and up to date as any world mint? The late gold imperial 5 and 10 roubles look pretty good. Did something happen to that technique when the Soviets took over?

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