Greetings! Welcome to the August edition of CoinWeek FAQ’s Q & A with Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker.
Each month, we take some of the more interesting questions from the reader mailbag and answer them in our unique, analytical way.
If you have a question for us, email us at [email protected]
Q. I’ve acquired over 600 proof sets and now I’m at a crossroads. Are these things worth holding onto?
A. Well, we guess it all depends on what your goals are. 600+ proof sets must take up a lot of space, not to mention that proof sets require special care so as to not ruin the coins. Our guess is that you probably don’t have 600 19th century or pre-1955 proof sets, so in all likelihood, your proof sets aren’t going to be in-demand collectibles for some time.
So here’s our suggestion: If you want to sell the sets, the best way may be to join a local coin club and offer them at auction. Live auctions at local clubs will bring you top dollar for common items. You won’t have to pay eBay fees, you won’t have to ship the coins to someone you don’t know, and you’ll get paid cash on the spot. This last week, Charles attended a local coin club to give a presentation and saw three common Kennedy half dollar clad proofs sell for $12 each. That’s an unbelievable price.
We might also suggest that you refine your collecting goals. There’s nothing wrong with accumulating coins – lots of people do it – but if you want to challenge yourself to put together something truly special, consider taking the money you’ll earn off your sets and use it towards the purchase of something memorable. Our advice? A proof for proof swap. Sell most of your 600 sets and put the money into 19th century minor proof sets, which are cents, three-cent nickels, and five-cent nickel coins. These are so much more fun and have better upside for the future.
The best part? They aren’t that expensive right now.
Q. How does a coin go from MS-66 to MS-67? Isn’t that grade inflation? I am a registry set collector and I see this all the time.
This is a touchy subject and we understand your concern. Listen. There’s no denying that grade inflation does exist. It’s more noticeable in some series (such as classic gold) than others. And while this is a great topic for a whole article, we’d like to touch on two ways outside of grade inflation that a MS-66 coin becomes a legitimate MS-67 coin.
For starters, the MS-66 very likely could have been undergraded all along. Coin dealers love to spot high-end coins in slabs and resubmit them. This newfound arbitrage adds to their bottom line and keeps their inventories fresh. This is one of the main reasons why on-site grading at coin shows is so popular. Dealers come to the show with a box of MS-66 Morgan dollars, say, and if a few of them upgrade, then they’ve increased the value of their inventory tremendously. The cost of grading at shows is tremendously expensive, but these are professional dealers, many of them topflight numismatists. They know their material and the market well.
The MS-66 could also have been correctly graded when it made 66. It could have been a really strong coin that was held back by one or two technical deficiencies that the coin later overcomes when reviewed by the graders again.
Case in point: let’s say a coin has gorgeous color, beautiful luster, looks fresh and original… but has a thin hairline scratch on the reverse that’s mostly concealed in the devices. The coin graders the first time through could have thought Yeah, this is a nice coin, but the scratch holds it back, what a shame. The second time through, the graders could look at the coin and say Wow! This is fantastic coin. Yes, it has that scratch – but it doesn’t detract that much. We don’t get coins this nice in this series… and there you have it, the coin is now a MS-66+ or a MS-67. We’ve seen CAC sticker coins like this in the low and high grade holders, believe it or not.
As for your registry set, the best advice we can give you is buy the coins you really like. If you want the best coins, buy the best coins and not the coins with the best grades. Sometimes these two factors converge, but often you’ll find a stunning “tweener” that can go either way but has unstoppable eye appeal. These coins are the real winners in the long run because collectors love standout material.
Q. If you had a time machine, which date would you go back to to pick up coins?
Hmmm, well… never mind that our strange modern English would be radically out of place not even one hundred years ago, you’d also have to consider that unless you plan on committing some brazen time crime to get the coins, you’d actually have to buy them… with money! So, given that our contemporary money might not pass muster in the distant or not-so-distant past, we came up with a plan.
We’d travel to the mid-1950s, taking as many Red Seal 1953 notes we could find and patronize the great coin dealers of the day (as advertised in vintage issues of The Numismatist), buying up all the rare date Morgan dollars we can. We’d avoid the 1903-O, of course!
Well, that’s it for this month. Got any questions? Want our opinions about any pressing numismatic matters? If so, drop us a line at [email protected].