Greetings, and welcome to the Winter edition of CoinWeek FAQ’s Q & A with Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker..........
Each and every month (or thereabouts), we take questions from you, the reader, and answer them in the way only we can.
Got a question that’s been bothering you? Brave enough to ask? Email us at email@example.com
I just bought a set of Satin Finish State Quarters off of eBay graded by SGS. Even though the grade on the labels says the coins are MS-70, they are scratched up and some are even corroded. How is this possible?
Travis, Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Good Lord. Well, the good news is that you aren’t the only collector who has questioned the products from seller Aboncom and rumored partner Star Grading Service.
Aboncom is the internet personality of Abon Cards & Coins, Ltd. of Mansfield, Ohio. Star Grading Service (“SGS”), on the other hand, is registered to David Sparks of Bellville, Ohio. It receives mail at a P.O. Box, also in Bellville. Bellville is a 30-minute drive from Abon’s Mansfield store.
SGS is not considered a “real” grading service by most professional numismatists. Several senior graders we know from the leading services have never heard of SGS, and since coin graders form such a close-knit family, one might assume that somebody, at some time or another, would have worked there.
Star Grading Services also earned an “F” rating from the Better Business Bureau for failure to respond to three complaints against the business.
We reached out to SGS using their corporate email, asking them to tell us the name of their senior grader, whether their staff includes members of the ANA or PNG, and what their connection with Abon Coins & Cards, Ltd is. So far, we’ve received no response. If we ever do, we’ll let you know.
Normally, we don’t single out particular eBay sellers for selling spurious material, but some companies have built quite the business foisting basement-slabbed merchandise on unsuspecting collectors. In fact, we’re not even sure that some of these service actually “grade” or inspect the coins they slab, or if they cynically print the number of required MS-70 labels and fill them with the piles of coins on hand. We can only speculate.
It’s due to such practices that eBay has tightened their rules for selling numismatic material. This rule tightening, unfortunately, has led to some uncomfortable business relationships between eBay and the grading services, which you should be aware of as a coin collector or potential seller.
As far as we know, eBay has shown little willingness to ban sellers responsible for proliferating dubious coin slabs, but they are committed to improving the eBay experience for collectors, so this may change in the future. One can only hope.
Since Congress is so concerned about wasted government expenditures, why has no one seriously put forth legislation ending the production of the cent?
Niles, Fullerton, California
It certainly seems that there’s no issue too small for politicians to make a fuss over. When it comes to our nation’s money, it looks like virtually everybody – from Mint officials to legislators, and even our Chief Executive - thinks its best to stick with the status quo. In one of our first articles for CoinWeek we put most of the blame on Congress, as any change to our coinage system requires a Congressional Act.
We talked to former Mint Director Ed Moy a few months ago and asked him if the Mint, while he was there at least, had any plans to future proof their product. Moy’s answer didn’t give convince us that they do, and it’s clear by the few coins that circulate AND generate profit for the government that the United States will eventually have to face the consequences of an obsolete monetary system. If you want to see the Mint’s future now, take a look at the United States Postal Service.
How something as important to the United States (and required by the Constitution) could be run so poorly belies good government. The cent is obsolete. The nickel requires a composition change. The half dollar and dollar coins are produced for the sake of collectors…
We’re not opposed to the privatization of cent production. That’s how it was done in colonial times (so there’s precedent to learn from), and even 19th century metallurgist and coiner Lewis Feuchtwanger proposed as much when he submitted his “German silver” Feuchtwanger cent to Congress.
Congress rejected his plan and the United States has never granted private companies the right to manufacture coins. It’s time to change how we think about the cent. We should no longer think of it as money. Instead, we should use it as a unit of account. Something that makes it easier to work out our taxes and balance sheets, but not something we actually carry around in our pockets and purses.
Do you see a repeat performance of the 2011-D Army half dollar for the 2013 Five Star General issues?
Bryan, Blacksburg, Virginia
If by past performance you mean dealers and wholesalers buying up thousands of pieces and cashing in when collectors-at-large find out that the 2013 issues sold poorly, then yes. There’s nothing new under the sun.
But the thing we always like to get across to collectors is this: If you don’t want the coin now and won’t buy it any time soon, then why pay a stiff premium for it later just because you found out that they only made 23,000 half dollars and 4,200 gold fives?
If you’re lucky, your heirs might get back every dollar you put into the modern commemorative series when they inherit them. However, there’s no guarantee of that. The coin programs themselves can be inspired at times, but they’re mostly banal and characterless. We like them, for some reason, but certainly not from the perspective of investing in them. We don’t even care for MS-70 or PR-70DCAM collecting because subtle shifts in grading standards are clearly visible in the population reports. That, and the difference between a MS-69 and a MS-70 example is so slight that there really are no bragging rights to be gained by having the better example.
We wouldn’t mind seeing a radical overhaul of the commemorative program. By way of sales figures, most collectors feel the same way... as long as you don’t ask them in the first month of next year, when they are scrambling to buy those newly unavailable “key dates”.