Numismatic Coin Grading Methods

There are several numismatic coin grading methods with which the eager coin collector can become familiar. These methods are fully described in coin collecting manuals published by professional numismatic organizations in the U.S.A. These grading methods are quite extensive and cover every possible description imaginable, so that collectors have some kind of standard against which coin can be judged for value on the collector market.

There are a variety of coins on the market. However some are more valuable and desirable than others. For example, modern bullion coinage such as the Canadian Maple Leaf and South African Kruggerands are not as desirable as old or scarcely available currencies. Modern coinage is desirable as immediate investments, as in using them to fund IRA accounts, or to buy and sell on the market, taking advantage of the high's and low's of stock market prices. These uses do not appeal as much to collectors, since collectors are interested in buying coinage that is in excellent shape and is very old. Numismatic gold coins of interest would range in years from 1793, when the U.S.A. began minting its own currency, up to the early to mid-nineteen hundreds. Numismatic gold coins are highly desirable over other types of precious metal coinages, because gold does not tarnish easily, and the price of gold keeps going up in value. For this reason, Numismatic gold coins present or show better than other metals.

Grading methods did not come into existence until the mid-to late 1970's. Before that time, collectors decided for themselves what value or grade was assigned to the coinage they bought and sold. However, not having a grading method or standard presented difficulties in the marketplace. No one could agree on the grade of the specimen under consideration, and so it made deciding on a selling price difficult and wearisome. Gradually, professional numismatic organizations formed from seasoned groups of collectors. These organizations began grading U.S. coins only, and over the years have included most other coinage ever minted. Now collectors have a standard against which to value their collections. God grades people, not on our value in society, but on our acceptance of His grace for our sin. "For by grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast"(Ephesians 2:8,9 KJV).

How grading accomplished? Well, there are many aspects to numismatic coin grading methods to consider. One must consider what kind of lighting is applied, and what magnification is being used to view the piece. Correct lighting is critical for the ability to view abnormalities and wear. The incorrect type of light can obscure scratches or wear marks, creating the illusion that the piece should be of a higher grade than it actually should be. In general, incandescent lighting is best, and the item should be viewed in this light with no other lighting in the room. The correct magnification should be about 5 times magnification. If the magnification is too strong, even the very best specimen can appear marred, and so would be graded much lower than it should be. For example, a numismatic gold piece that is considered to be an MS-64 grade, viewed under a 10x magnification may be downgraded to an MS-60 grade. The difference could mean the price may be lowered by many thousands of dollars for a rare specimen.

Other Numismatic coin grading methods are consideration of the characteristics of the dies used to strike the currency. There may be defects in the die that of course, transfer to the piece when struck. If the die is rusted, it would create an imperfect result. The collector would most likely pass on that purchase opportunity for one that is more superior without the defect. A die may strike off-center, creating pieces where part of the design is lighter or less detailed on one side than on the other. Also, if the die begins to become worn from many thousands of castings, then this too will create less than perfect design results.

After the currency is minted, it is handled by the public, shifted about in bags and boxes, and comes into contact with any number of hard objects that can mar the surfaces and designs. All of these contacts produce some type of marking on the coinage that tends to lessen its value in the hand of the numismatist. Some collectors try to clean their collections, and this too leaves markings on them that may not show up for several years after it has been done. On Numismatic gold coins, aging can produce differences in color due to the types of materials and/or fabrics with which the money comes into contact. Some of these gold pieces can eventually show rainbow colors on them, and this is a desirable quality that collectors look for in the natural aging process.

Numismatic coin grading methods consider the various types of marks and colorings when the system was established. These markings are grouped by whether the coinage was minted specifically for collectors, as in Proof sets, or whether the coinage is largely uncirculated, as in AU, or "About Uncirculated" quality. Other grades are MS or "Mint State", VG or "Very Good", VF or "Very Fine", etc. The third from the very lowest grade available is "Good" or G. The last grade is P for "Poor". There are detailed descriptions under each of these categories which assist the collector in making the proper determination for the grade of the coinage under consideration. To do well in buying and selling coinage for collectors, no collector should really consider anything below the VF or F grade. The rest below this grade are too worn or not worth collecting.

There is a great deal more to learn about numismatic coin grading methods as well as Numismatic gold coins, and the time taken to learn is well spent for the serious collector. The knowledge gained will only add to the collector's ability to continually improve the overall quality of the collection, and this could mean the difference between retirement and working the remainder of one's days.

Beginner Coin Collecting

Few people realize that beginner coin collecting can take them down a long, fascinating history-laden road. One cannot look at many coins without seeing the face of a famous historical leader like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, prominent Native American Indians, as well as national monuments. Ever wonder how historic faces got onto the fronts of coinage, where they were produced and when they were made? Stay in this pastime very long, and all of this will be revealed.

To get started in this interesting hobby, few tools are needed other than a strong light, a magnifying glass, and a container for the collection. A collecting book that gives all the instructions will be needed to discover the varying types of defects, designs and delights inherent in not only our nation's, but also in the world's coinage. The local hobby shop can provide little acid-free envelopes in which to store various pieces, and trips to local shops will provide introductions to other collectors, who can pass on volumes of knowledge for those new to the hobby. The coin collecting book will not be the only reference at this point. Most likely, these people will become valuable resources when pricing information is needed, when information is desired about when numismatic shows will be scheduled, and when the collector wants to network with other numismatists in the area. What is a numismatist? Why a coin collector of course! Sounds like a cerebral hobby, doesn't it? Well, it is.

Rather than simply a pastime for a rainy Saturday afternoon, this hobby can become quite lucrative for those who decide to collect year upon year. For the serious collector, the coin collecting book becomes a veritable encyclopedia of all the coinage in the collection, and also contains the history, place of minting, condition and value of each piece. If very old or rare specimens are found in excellent condition and kept for many years, they can be taken to auction and sold for hundreds to thousands of dollars. At this point, the hobby is no longer beginner collecting, but investing. This is the point at which collecting becomes very lucrative and financially beneficial for the studious and careful. Collections have even been put into family wills and trusts to be handed down from generation to generation.

Beginner coin collecting will also reveal that money wasn't always in its present form, but years and years ago, glass beads and even cocoa beans were used as forms of currency. Early peoples of the world like the Romans made currency of baked clay and iron, and as the centuries passed, more and more sophisticated means were used to manufacture coinage. Early in American history, small and large denominations were made of gold which was stored in the nations treasury. During World War II, pennies were made of steel so that the copper and silver could be used in support of wartime industry. Also, the designs on the reverse sides of coins have changed throughout the decades. Paging through a collecting book will reveal various values for each type of design minted. Today, pennies are made of an alloy center with thin layers of copper on each side. Nickels are manufactured using this method also, only instead of having a coat of copper; they are thinly coated with silver.

Someone new to beginner coin collecting should familiarize themselves as much as possible with the terminology used in the study of coins. Then when it comes time to visit coin shows, attention can remain focused on hunting those precious coins currently missing from the collection, instead of wondering what all those terms mean that are written on the outsides of the coin covers, boxes and that are used by professionals and long-term collectors. Perhaps it would be a good idea to bring along that valuable coin collecting book.

One of the quickest ways for those in beginner coin collecting to become familiar with a large variety of coins is to learn to grade them. Grading is the simple process of matching the coin to a picture of it in the coin collecting book in order to discover its condition. Also, the collector can focus on one particular denomination of coin, like the quarter or the rarer 3 cent pieces used earlier in American history. Coin shops stock card books with coin-shaped slots in them where one can store various types, sizes and denominations, so that they wont get soiled or damaged. Collectors obviously go to great lengths to ensure no piece to the collection is ever lost. In the same way, Jesus cares for humanity, only on a much grander scale. In the book of Luke, chapter 15, Jesus discusses the parable of the lost sheep and about how valuable people are in His eyes. In verses 8, 9 and 10 He says "Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doeth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and neighbors together, saying, rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repenteth".

If the numismatist desires, he can venture out to other establishments that sell old pieces, like antique shops and flea markets. Who knows, perhaps that elusive vintage denarius has been lurking in a crock of coins in a corner somewhere! Many people have taken old collections to pawn shops when they needed money to pay off debts. These types of stores could be a great place to search for collections someone else has carefully and lovingly put together over the years, and all of the searching has already been completed. Now all that is left is for the beginner coin collector to learn how to say numismatic ten times fast without getting tongue tied!

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