Weekly World Numismatic News for February 3, 2019

Sorry for being late, but there was this boring football game on. And the commercials stunk, too!

A story that resonated with me was from the American Physical Society that discussed research being done in Germany that could digitally examine coins.

Currently, the research is using ancient coins stored by their local heritage society. The purpose is to aid in the identification of the coins and to maintain an accurate description of these coins.

Although there have been similar attempts including smaller programs, this appears the first attempt to use computer imaging on a large scale to analyze the characteristics of coins. If it is successful, the imaging can also be used to determine the grade of coins.

Images borrowed from the original article.

Yes, I am saying that computers can do the grading of coins and probably do a better job than humans.

Computer imaging has come such a long way that it is an enhancement to almost everything that requires visual work. Nothing is more impressive than the system that uses medical imaging to virtually recreate a surgery scene so that a doctor and team can practice the most delicate surgery before cutting open the patient. Imaging can see beyond blood, organs, and even ordinary body fat to guide instruments through the body allowing for minimally invasive surgery.

Those of us with a smart telephone in our pocket that was purchased within the last three years has a device with the imaging capabilities and computing power that is equivalent to those used in those medical situations.

We can perform medical miracles, detect people from satellites thousands of miles in space, and even capture clear images of someone committing a crime with a phone from your pocket but the numismatic industry pedantically resists the use of computer imaging to grade coins.

The problem is that computer imaging will disrupt the status quo and make the grading services nearly obsolete if it was an acceptable way of analyzing coins. Dealers would lose their advantage of being the experienced eye looking at coins.

The result will be a consistency in coin grading that is not available today.

Think about it. There would be no need for crossovers, crack-outs, or a fourth-party sticker service that is nothing more than an arbitrage system to drive prices up. Collectors would be in control. Take out your phone and scan the coin. It will tell you the grade. And it will be the same grade whether I do the scan or if you do.

Computers do not like. Computers do not have emotions. Computers do not have an agenda. Take the picture, analyze, and provide a result. It puts the power in the hands of the collectors.

Of course, putting the power in the hands of the collectors is not what the dealers want. It is not what the grading services want. Computer imaging will disrupt their business.

And now the news…

 January 29, 2019

During school field trip, student finds coin bearing the inscription "King Agrippa."  → Read more at israelnationalnews.com


 January 30, 2019

At the same time, the number of fake banknotes has dropped.  → Read more at spectator.sme.sk


 January 30, 2019

The County  → Read more at thecounty.me


 January 31, 2019

The massive medallion, made of the purest gold bullion ever refined and worth $5.8 million, was stolen from the Bode Museum in Berlin—and has never been found  → Read more at macleans.ca


 February 1, 2019

A new exhibit at a landmark Vermont museum showcases the work of a renowned artist who calls New England Home. In his Windham County workspace, Johnny Swing transforms quarters, half dollars, and other…  → Read more at nbcboston.com


 February 1, 2019

Countless historical coins that differ from each other only in details are in storage at German state museums. Unlike paintings, these archaeological artifacts may not be labeled, marked or barcoded. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF developed a scanner and analysis software in collaboration with the Saxony-Anhalt State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology, which digitally capture the visual features of coins and describe them exactly in a matter of seconds. The scanning system can be used to identify and recognize coin finds.  → Read more at phys.org

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More ways to entomb your collectibles

1996 Olympic Tennis Commemorative silver dollar “X” cancelled die encapsulated by NGC (Image courtesy of NGC)

Earlier this month, the Numismatic Guarantee Corporation announced that they will certify and encapsulate canceled dies. Dies will not receive a grade but the label will identify the coin the die struck, note that it is an “Official US Mint Coin Die,” and note the type of cancellation.

Fees for this service range from $20 for a defaced die to $50 for a die that was canceled with an “X” to $100 for a die that was not canceled.

The holder appears to be similar to those used to encapsulate rolled coins. It will hold a die up to 40.6mm wide and 59.6mm tall, likely the largest die that the U.S. Mint would use to strike coins. The holder will be too small for the dies that would have struck 3-inch medals.

NGC does not say how the holders would keep smaller dies in place.

NGC will accept coin dies from any country.

Since I found coin dies interesting, I bought a few. Two Lincoln cent dies were ground down except still have a small part of the design visible. The other is a 1994 half-dollar obverse die. The one cent dies are on my desk at home and the half-dollar dollar dies is in my office.

Having the die sitting on my desk is a great conversation starter. Visitors will ask what it is and when I explain they have the same reaction that I had when I bought it at the 2018 World’s Fair of Money: “ooo, neat!”

I am not sure how I feel about this news for the industry but I will not be submitting my dies for encapsulation. I do not think the die’s industrial look would look good entombed in plastic.

Weekly World Numismatic News for September 23, 2018

David Hall
(PCGS Image downloaded from the Internet Archive)

Although this weekly posting tries to cover the news that does not appear in the numismatic media, this week there has to be something said about a bombshell reported by Coin World.

In a surprise announcement, Collector’s Universe, Inc. (NASDAQ: CLCT) announced the termination of David Hall as president and CEO as of September 18. No reason was given for his termination.

Hall remains on the Collector’s Universe board of directors.

Hall was one of seven co-founders of Professional Coin Grading Service in 1985. In 1999, PCGS expanded to Collector’s Universe to provide grading and authentication services to other collectibles. Professional Sports Authentication and PSA/DNA are considered the gold standard in the sports collectible industry. He has held several leadership roles in PCGS and Collector’s Universe over the years.

When contacted by Coin World, Hall did not provide additional details.

In the article, it said that Hall plans to remain prominent in the industry and will be more active with David Hall Rare Coins, a firm he founded in the 1970s.

We here at the Coin Collectors Blog wish Hall well as he begins the next phase of his professional life.

And now the news…

 September 17, 2018

Rock musician Rory Gallagher represented the “very best aspirations of our republic”, President Michael D Higgins has said. Mr Higgins was presented with a €15 commemorative coin featuring an image of the late guitarist who died in 1995, aged just 47.  → Read more at irishtimes.com


 September 17, 2018

THE Royal Mint is selling a GOLD Kew Gardens 50p coin which could be worth up to £800. Only 1,000 of these rare coins were made and only 629 of them were actually bought by the public, making them even more valuable to collectors.  → Read more at thesun.co.uk


 September 17, 2018

Law enforcement officers are urging the public to be on the lookout for scam artists trying to sell fake coins in the Cameron, Missouri, area. The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office issued an alert showing plastic sleeves of old coins that were passed off as valuable silver to one business.  → Read more at newspressnow.com


 September 22, 2018

The Royal Mint has increased its production of collectible coins in an attempt to appeal to a wider market as the use of cash declines across the country.  → Read more at telegraph.co.uk

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Time for the olde guard to wake up to new technology

SinoTech Stereo Microscope with USB interface

I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people who have been in the numismatic industry and has been responsible for keeping alive and solid over the last number of years. Their knowledge of the art and business of numismatics are invaluable. I wish some would write more about what they know.

However, the area where they are lacking is the science of numismatics. The part where technology has been able to automate to perform mundane work and do the finest details that many factories have increased output while reducing the workforce. It is their inability to grasp new technologies that have been holding back the growth of numismatics.

Recently, someone with great numismatic credentials said that you cannot teach grading using computers.

When I was working in non-civilian agencies, we would call that BRAVO SIERRA (from the phonetic alphabet meaning “B.S.”).

It used to be that video technology prevented images from being shown in detail. This goes back to the day from the old television standards were the picture was 525 scan lines (the number of passes the across the screen it took to form the picture) drawn about 30 times per second (the frame rate). This was different from early computers that drew fine dots on the screen. At the point color monitors entered the market, most were 640 dots wide by 480 dots tall which was a little smaller than your standard television screen.

Technology has advanced beyond what we had with the old cathode ray tube (CRT) television and monitor. Now, you can buy a monitor that attaches to your computer that has the same resolution as your television. What we call “4K High Definition” is 4096 pixels wide by 2160 pixels tall or over six time the size of the old monitors.

The iMac I am using has a display that is 5120 pixels tall by 2880 pixels wide and the iPhone 6 Plus in my pocket has a display that has 401 pixels per inch resolution. Think about that for a moment… every square inch of an image will use 160,801 individual dots to display on a device that fits into my back pocket!

These monitors are not only larger but the pixels are denser, meaning they are smaller and closer together. When in the old days you can look into the television and see jagged edges, you closeup look now shows smooth lines.

Go look at the specification of the smartphones and tablets that are on the market. They make television that was being sold as little as 10 years ago look like something out of ancient history.

Cameras are also better. Most smartphones can shoot images of over 8 megapixels up to 20 megapixels with image sensors that surpass what was on the market as late as 5 years ago. The amount of image data these cameras can capture are remarkable!

Can you guess the grade?

There are a lot of industries that use this technology for critical image analysis. The growing telemedicine field uses the imaging to allow a doctor to examine patients from anywhere including some of the most rural parts of the world. A nurse in the middle of a jungle can draw blood, put the slide in a machine that will take images and perform other data analysis and send it back to a doctor thousands of miles away to help diagnose illnesses.

Manufacturers of parts for your automobile and the airplanes you fly us this image analysis to check for imperfections in metal parts including difficult to spot stress fractures to prevent breakdowns. That should be comforting driving down the road at 60 MPH or 30,000 feet in the air.

Even the food industry uses this imaging technology to prevent foreign substances from being packaged and landing on the grocery store shelf. Remember the opening theme from Laverne & Shirley where they are on the bottling line watching for bottles without caps? That job does not exist anymore. Computers with imaging technology not only watch for those bottles but can spot one that is not filled correctly and if something other than beer was placed in the bottle.

If we can trust the imaging technology for medicine, vehicle safety, and food integrity, why can’t we trust imaging technology to grade coins?

Images taken with an iPhone 6 Plus

This is not to suggest that we can start grading coins by computer tomorrow but we can start soon. Programs have to be written to support the type of image analysis that would be required to determine an MS-69 coin from an MS-70. In fact, we may see fewer MS-70 coins using computer image analysis because the closer we look the more flaws we will find.

Professional Coin Grading Service provides the tip of this iceberg with the PCGS Photograde app. Whether you use the online service or one of the mobile apps, detailed imaging, and high definition displays can show you the details necessary. In fact, in a video PCGS produced about Photograde, they note how you can see the scratches on the imaged coin.

Images from PCGS Photograde App on the iPhone

If you can use the high definition images to see the details of coins, then the first step would be to use those images and the knowledge of grading to grade coins. Digital images can be transmitted anywhere there is a connection using the proper teaching platform.

With all due respect to the numismatic expert that said to me that you cannot teach grading using the computers, it is time to evolve from the early 2010s and see how technology has evolved to make it possible.

Credits

How the iPhone X can help numismatics

On September 12, Apple opened the Steve Jobs Theater on their new campus in Cupertino with an announcement of new hardware. There was the new Apple Watch 3, Apple TV-4K, and two new iPhones.

Outside of the tech press, everyone is focused on the iPhone X, “X” for the Roman numeral 10, a marvel of engineering but will cost $1,000. Breaking that $1,000 barrier is a big thing because it makes the iPhone X the most expensive smartphone on the market.

But I see another story that can be more important to a lot of other markets than the price of the device. It is the technology that can be industry altering.

Both the iPhone 8 and iPhone X have dual-lens cameras that are designed to enhance the use of photography. The new cameras have larger sensors that pick up more pixels of information with a processor that can better process the image.

It is the image processing and the iPhone’s ability to use the detailed images to map the terrain, textures, and to use augmented reality (AR) to enhance what the camera sees.

An area where this technology can help numismatics is with computer-based grading.

Computer-based grading was first tried in 1991 using the technology of the day. While it was a good start, the technology was just not ready for the ability to grade coins.

Apple proved that the technology is ready to try again.

Human-based grading has led to an environment of mistrust amongst the grading services. It is the failure of humans to be consistent in grading that leads to religious-like arguments as to which grading service is better. These failures have led the creation of verification services to check up on the ability of grading services to do their job.

The ability for the imaging process to visualize and analyze thousands of polygons on an image, the way imaging technology visualizes the three-dimensional surface, in such a way to allow for real-time expression processing and rendering can be used to assess the surface of a coin.

Another problem that can be resolved is the crack out game. Some people will crack coins out of their slabs to submit them to the grading services multiple times to play on the failure of humans to be consistent to try to have the coins graded higher. The information created based on the surface analysis of the coin will result in digital data that should be unique to each coin. Minute scratches and other environmental factors can help distinguish one coin from another in the same manner that there are subtle differences that can detect on identical twin from another.

Creating a digital signature for each coin will help prevent theft or help law enforcement use the information to track stolen items.

Imaging analysis can look at the surface to find alterations like the use of a chemical that would change the surface. Rather than using the “sniffing” technology that Professional Coin Grading Service has pioneered to find chemical additives, a surface analysis can detect chemical-based alterations to the surface.

Altered surface detection can also be used to detect unnatural toning. It will require teaching the imaging systems to detect the differences between natural and unnatural toning, but the long-term benefits to the hobby will be tremendous.

Device that could metallic analysis of a coin below the surface

Aside from grading consistency and the ability detect altered surface, it is possible to expand current technologies that will help detect the use of plated or other metal counterfeits. Devices that are able to visualize a few microns under the surface of the coin to detect the metal content along with the new visualization technologies will make it more difficult to pass counterfeit coins.

In the short term, this will not put the third-party grading services out of business but it will change their business. They will not be grading and regrading coins. The computer will analyze the coin, provide the owner with a report, and that report will be consistent regardless of the imaging process used. Otherwise, the coin was altered and you would know about it.

Counterfeit U.S. coins in counterfeit PCGS holders (Photo courtesy of PCGS.)

Eventually, this could eliminate the plastic slab that has been counterfeited. The coin itself becomes its own identifier and reduces the reliance on the slab.

This technology will eliminate the verification services. There will no need for a human to verify the human-based grading. After all, the fourth-party verification process is artificially driving up the costs of collector coins because of blind trust placed in humans verifying humans.

Although I spent nearly all of my adult life in the technology industry, I am not for technology completely taking over all aspects of our lives. There is a level of trust in the hardware and software that must be earned to have me feel comfortable with things like self-driving cars or even maintaining personal information (see the recent Equifax breach).

However, I am for the use of technology where it can solve a problem. Technology can solve the problem of inconsistent grading. Technology can solve the problem of coin identification. Technology can solve the problems with counterfeiting. Why not use technology to increase the trust in the numismatic market by fixing these problems?

It is now time that technology was put to use in the numismatic and collecting industries in order to create a level of assurance for the collector that their item is genuine and the condition is what the collectible is being represented as.

Credits

  • iPhone X image courtesy of Apple.
  • Niton scanner image by the author.
  • Counterfiet PCGS slabs courtesy of PCGS

Adding Collecting Guides

Over the last few weeks, I have been working on a few writing projects that include primers about collecting numismatics. While some of these articles have allowed me to repurpose blog posts, I have had to create some content not posted before.

In the past, I posted a few including the series on small dollars and about Seated Liberty Dime Varieties. They were posted as regular articles because I thought they would be of general interest.

A few may not make for exciting reading but could be used as a reference for those interested. Last week, I added one of those articles rewritten for the blog and posted it under the Collector’s Reference menu.

A Collector’s Guide to Understanding U.S. Coin Grading” is a simple overview of coin grading. It starts with a short narrative that explains the origin of coin grading and its standardization. It is not an extensive overview. It is just the basics to give a collector an idea of the evolution.

This is followed by three tables:

  • Coin Grading Scale correlates the words with the expected grade that might be printed in an advertisement or on a grading service label along with a definition of what that grade means. These definitions were adapted from The Official American Numismatic Association Grading Standards for United States Coins edited by Kenneth Bressett. I own the 6th Edition but I am sure it has not changed much between then and the 7th Edition!
  • Strike Quality is the attributes of a coin that signifies the strike and the wearing of the dies. Each of these designations begins with “Full” like “Full Bands” or “Full Steps.”
  • Surface Quality is those grade attributes assigned to the quality of the coin’s fields. These are for proof coins designated as “Deep Cameo” or a business strike exhibiting “Proof Like” surfaces.

It ends with a section on a summary of the “eBay Coin Grading Policy.” There are aspects of their grading policy I did not know until I read eBay’s rules carefully.

If you find these types of write-ups helpful, let me know. I can convert some of the other guides into posts for the community.

Image courtesy of the American Numismatic Association.

NGC Adds to its Numismento Line

NGC slab featuring the U.S. Mint 225th Anniversary Label

Going through my email, I found a note from Numismatic Guarantee Corporation announcing a new label for the 10-coin 225th Anniversary Enhanced Uncirculated Coin Set. The label has the image of “Ye Olde Mint,” the mid-19th century picture of the original U.S. Mint building in Philadelphia.

Funny thing is that the outrage of putting a building that has been long demolished on the label of a slab is non-existent.

I wonder why?

I am not begrudging NGC for creating new labels for their products or anybody buying them. But the argument about the subject matter of one label versus another shows the hypocrisy by some of the people in this hobby.

When NGC announced that reality television star Rick Harrison would be featured on an NGC label, the umbrage by some was deafening. Notes that I received about the Harrison numismentos were so profane that I had to force a few people to apologize under the threat that I would publish their uncensored words and email addresses!

It is not a secret that I am not a fan of slabs. To me, there is something antiseptic about a coin entombed in a slab.

It is also not a secret that I am not a fan of these special labels. They are a gimmick to make you buy the slab and not the coin.

I am not going to argue with anyone who likes the labels, slabs or anything I am against. No! If this is what drives you to collect, then have fun. I welcome those who enter the hobby to collect whatever they like.

HOWEVER, I am not a fan of inconsistent arguments. If you are in favor of these labels, then you have to take what you like with what you perceive as the bad. If you want NGC, Professional Coin Grading Service or any other grading service to use special labels, then you have to accept all of the labels these companies produce regardless of the subject.

I am not saying you have to add one to your collection. You can ignore the ones you do not like. But if you are in favor of the grading services creating the labels you like, then you have to accept the ones you do not like, too.

As an aside, NGC produced a label autographed by former U.S. Mint Director Edmund Moy. The same person who was in charge of the U.S. Mint when they were caught flat-footed when there was run on American Eagle coins, especially the silver coins. This caused the U.S. Mint to have to break the American Silver Eagle Proof series in 2009 because of his incompetent leadership.

If you are going to get upset that a reality television star was added to a label, I am going to call having a label that features an incompetent politician even worse for the hobby.

Of course, this does not include my feelings about the “Early Releases” and “First Strike” designations. These bogus designations are far worse for the hobby than who is featured on the label.

Slab image courtesy of NGC

A Signed Slab Label is not what is hurting the hobby

Sample NGC Holder with Rick Harrison signature label

Anyone who is a member of Facebook and part of the Friends of the Coin Show closed group, you might have read an interaction between me and a dealer from the west coast regarding the Rick Harrison numismento being produced by Numismatic Guarantee Corporation.

I defended NGC’s position to produce the numismento not because I am interested in purchasing a slab with Harrison’s autograph, but because I do not see a problem with having it as part of the hobby. There are other issues that the hobby should attend to rather than worry about a reality television star and pawn shop owner signing slab labels.

However, my online correspondent, who I will keep anonymous but can respond to this post with an identification, was against the slab not because it will hurt the hobby but because of hidden meanings. When pressed on the real issue, my correspondent brought up a story of an elderly couple being taken advantage of by a company with an alleged A+ Better Business Bureau rating (although there have been questions raised about the Better Business Bureau’s ratings practice). The couple bought coins at a significantly inflated price with promises of a future gain only to learn that the coins were not worth what was promised.

About “The Coin Show”

The Coin Show is a podcast that is periodically produced by Mike Nottelmann and Matt Dinger. Matt owns Lost Dutchman Rare Coins in Indianapolis and is sadly not a fan of modern coins. If you are looking for a numismatic-related podcast, I would recommend The Coin Show. There are enough back episodes to keep you occupied until they produce their next show.

Unfortunately, this type of practice is not only pervasive in numismatics but there are all types of schemes where elderly are sold goods and services under fraudulent circumstances. Whether it is inflated prices of gold, the deflated prices of the hotel room gold buyers or the sets of State Quarters that are not worth thousands, these hucksters represent a problem that should be addressed.

Rather, my correspondent took the frustration of the situation on NGC and Harrison because Harrison does not represent the industry. He represents the pawn industry which does not have a high favorability rating.

My correspondent’s anger is misplaced. Rather than embrace the opportunity to use these slabs as a teaching moment and work with the industry to better educate the public, the response was to complain that this was not good for the industry because of what it allegedly represents. It is looking at the problems through a narrow prism, which is worse for the hobby than a stupid autographed slab. The perceived problems are not because a reality television star signs a slab label, the problem is that this industry has not properly represented itself and allowed those with less than moral character ruin things for everyone. The industry has let itself be denigrated by not properly getting out its message and allowing others to define the message. Industry Council for Tangible Assets (ICTA) has worked hard for the benefit of the industry the issues move faster than ICTA can keep up.

With the dysfunction in Washington lobbying efforts are turning to the state capitals where they can have a significant impact with less of a spotlight. ICTA needs help in nearly every state including California where my correspondent is from. Rather than kvetching on Facebook, I wish my correspondent and others would pick up a phone and join the battle.

Conflating the signing of slabs to the problems of an industry is myopic. If you want to fix the business problems then get look beyond the autograph to the real problems. Although I have never met NGC Chairman Mark Salzberg, his well-deserved reputation leads one to believe that he would not do anything detrimental to the business of numismatics, something he has dedicated his life to.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling that if someone walked into the shop that my correspondent owns and asked to buy the slab autographed by Rick Harrison, the business would find a way to allow the free market to reign and sell the customer what they asked for.

Sample slab image courtesy of Numismatic Guarantee Corporation.

Autographed Slabs and other numismentos

“Pawn Stars” Rick Harrison

Recently, a number of people wrote to me asking what I thought about the announcement that the star of the History Channel’s “Pawn Stars”, Rick Harrison, was autographing the insert for Numismatic Guarantee Corporation holders.

I do not believe there should be a problem with this.

Previously, I wrote about something I called “numismentos,” mementos created from numismatic items. It was prompted when NGC announced they struck a deal with Edmund C. Moy, the 38th Director of the U.S. Mint and currently the last full-time director, to autograph labels. I also noted that NGC also had autograph deals with Elizabeth Jones and John Mercanti, the 11th and 12th Cheif Engravers of the U.S. Mint, respectively.

You can see the list of available NGC Signature Labels here.

But NGC is not the only one in this game. Professional Coin Grading Service has had similar promotions including Philip Diehl, another former Director of the U.S. Mint and a long list of Baseball Hall of Fame inductees who signed labels used in the encapsulation of the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins.

A Goodacre Dollar encapsulated by ICG

Famously, Glenna Goodacre, who was paid $5,000 for her design of the Sacagawea dollar, asked to be paid in the new dollar coin. She sent the coins to Independent Coin Graders to be encapsulated with special labels. Goodacre then sold the coins at a premium. She did not sell out of these coins. Later, about 2,000 coins were acquired by Jeff Garrett who submitted them to PCGS. The coins were encapsulated with a special attribution on the PCGS label and included an insert with an autographed by Philip Diehl.

ICG also had some of the designers of the State Quarters autograph labels.

Does anyone else remember when the original PCI was still in business and they hired J.T. Stanton as company president and they had him autograph labels of coins he graded?

Although all of the grading services include special attribution for coins, NGC and PCGS have special labels that they use for certain coins.

In all cases, these grading services are creating these numismentos for customers interested in having the label be significant to their collection.

The only problem I have with the label designation is the “First Strike” or “First Strike” labels. There are questions as to the validity of these designations that causes an unnecessary premium to be added to these coins.

Besides, If I took any other stance, I could be accused of hypocrisy. In a few cases, I have purchased numismentos. My collection includes a pair of ICG holders with 2001-P and 2001-D New York State quarters autographed by designer David Carr that is part of my New York collection.

As part of my Bicentennial Collections, I own a Bicentennial PCGS Signature set. The set consists of the three proof coins with the special bicentennial reverse in PCGS slabs with the autographs of Jack L. Ahr, Seth Huntington, and Dennis R. Williams, the designer of the coins. There is a business strike version of this set but I find the proof coins more appealing.

1976-S Silver Proof Bicentennial Autograph Set

The only reason that there appears to be some umbrage taken with the autograph by Rick Harrison is that he is a relentless self-promoter whose style is not welcome by everyone. Harrison is not the first non-numismatic-related celebrity to autograph inserts but may be the most controversial to some people.

As I have previously suggested, we can call these types of numismatic-related collectibles numismentos. Numismento is a portmanteau of numismatic + memento.

I suggest the name to distinguish collecting the coins from collecting the slabs, show-related ephemera, buttons, or anything else that is not numismatics.

If collecting numismentos makes you happy? Enjoy yourself!

A lesson in how not to compare grading services

Every so often I will read something and even though I agree with the premise and possibly the hypothesis, I disagree with the method. This is what happened when I read “How do late ANACS slabs stack up with modern PCGS?” This article by Michael Bugeja at Coin Update is not the first of its type on that site but is the latest of what I consider using faulty data to prove a hypothesis.

I submitted comments about my problems to the article. Since whoever is moderating comments has chosen not to publish them, I am using my own platform to call them out on this.

In Bugeja’s showdown of old ANACS versus new PCGS, he found six coins, which is where I begin to have problems. With a potential sample size of thousands or even millions of coins, six coins is a rounding error. And not only did he use six coins but from different dates, mints (Philadelphia and San Francisco), and grades. Anyone who has any knowledge of the scientific method knows that he has just introduced too many variables that will allow anyone to argue about the differences in the metals, machinery, and environmental factors.

The next problem with the experiment is that he uses damaged coins. Every coin Bugjea used was toned. Toning of the coin is a chemical reaction with the metals that cause a change in the original metal that makes it different from the original minted coin. While some consider toning acceptable, it represents a chemical change to the surface making it damaged.

How does one compare one damage to another? Do we know how these coins were damaged? Did the conditions that caused the toning of coin change the surface differently than the other? Did the damage caused by the environmental factors change? How do we know that the old ANACS holders were not sealed well enough to prevent changes in the toning from when they were originally graded?

I will not argue whether something happened to the coin that could have caused damage when it was cracked out of the original ANACS holder. Since there are so many questions about the coins, we can leave this argument off the table. I do hope Bugeja reported the serial number to ANACS so that their population reports can be appropriately adjusted.

Even if the test was to be limited because of the potential cost. A proper test would be to find six coins from the same year and the same mint that were not toned (or damaged). All six coins should be around the same grade or even a grade lower that it would be possible to pass for the higher grade. Once you have taken the variables away then you can test and determine the probability of proving or disproving the hypothesis.

Bugjea concludes that the early ANACS graders were more generous based on information that is so flawed that if that article was sent to a peer-reviewed journal it would be rejected.

He then goes on to warn, “Bid cautiously on early ANACS coins.” How about you bid cautiously on any coin you are not sure about. There are problems with coins in every holder and there are gems found with coins in every holder. Just because a coin is graded does not make it worth the plastic it is encased on.

The ONLY statement in the article I agree with is “Rely on your grading acumen rather than the age of the holder.” In fact, I would rephrase it to “Rely on your grading acumen rather than the holder.”

Translated: BUY THE COIN, NOT THE HOLDER!

Now tell me, does it really matter what holder these coins are in? These coins are so cool that a holder might detract from their beauty!
NOTE: I did not include images from the original article because I do not have permission.

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