Hot Topics

Journal entries from the founder of Legend Numismatics, Laura Sperber, help you stay current with the real happenings of numismatics.  A former ANA Board Member, Laura has handled close to $1 billion worth of rare coins to date and has assembled many of the greatest collections ever. Her views and opinions are as "inside" as you can get. Warning: ALL her Hot Topics articles are pretty blunt!

The Future Is Today

WHAT IS WRITTEN HERE IS SOLEY THE OPINION OF THE AUTHOR. THIS IS WRITTEN AS AN OPINION AND HAS NO INTENTION OF MARKETING!

WHY CAN’T YOUR DEALER GRADE COINS?

I was horrified when I took a walk down the isles of the Baltimore Show and looked at just about every table who had certified coins. I looked at the what was in the cases and I looked at the individual who owned the coins. I had realized that MORE then HALF of the dealers who’s cases I viewed did NOT know how to grade.

How can I make that comment?

I saw how several were looking at coins. Shockingly they did not look at the coins-they only looked at the holders and a computer for pricing. I did not see a single dealer use a glass or use a halogen light (let alone look at a coin under a light). The coins in most of the cases generally were low end or over-graded. I saw dealers-including one major buyer who even does crack outs have probably the worst inventory on the floor. I saw all the West Coast wannabes who think any white dollar is a GEM with coins that had horrible hits and poor strikes in their cases.

Yes, I am absolutely saying I am completely superior in grading to ALL of these people. A blind monkey is too. I’ll bet using a blindfold I can grade a raw coin as good as they can (or even better)! They think they are all dealers but in the end because they can market coins-they absolutely can NOT grade them! One dealer I know won’t buy a coin unless its CAC’s-because he can’t grade. How ridiculous is that? ! There is no barrier to entry anymore in this field if you want to be a dealer. You would be shocked if you knew which of your favorite “name” dealers can NOT grade (hint: if they don’t offer FULL descriptions on their web sites there is a reason).

It has finally happened. The coin market has been “dummied down”. Its one thing not to know how to grade, BUT, what many of these dealers and younger up and comers are learning from-is the dreck that’s left and is out there at shows. They are NOT learning how to properly grade and are hurting the market and the future of the market. The old days of really knowing coins is gone. Inserts and coins encased in plastic have taken away the most critical needed to know aspect of coin collecting-grading.

When I started 40 years ago (yes 40), if you did not know how to grade not only would you have no respect but the sharks on the floor would chew you up and spit you out like bad gum. Back then we all learned by trial and error. I guess back then we also had more access to nicer coins. More important, we had raw coins to learn from. We were taught to remember coins and learn all their nuances. Today, its just a matter of does the coin come close to the grade on the holder and is it pretty. My favorite way of testing today’s dealers is to watch their faces when they pull out coins I bought from them that now are say cameo and they just do not remember a recent coin! Come on people learn something!

As time goes on, fewer dealers will really know what a GEM 1795 half should look like or what a real DMPL is for a certain date. We have to hope gradeflations slows-but it is impossible as newer dealers know less and less. They are the root cause of pushing the line even further off base. Imagine this-they are teaching others how to grade-while they have no clue!

Of course this is where the great PNG fails again. As the “ultimate dealer organization”  they should have role models, have strict guidelines for its membership in terms of abilities, and be very vocal about the topic of grading. I had been hoping to change the ANA and force them to be pro collector consumer advocacy but that was a pipe dream. Something needs to be done.

I have watched as this ‘dumming down” of abilities has progressed over the years. This past Baltimore Show I just saw way too much trouble. Selling someone a coin and saying its nice vs knowing why its nice and all the coins characteristics are two completely different issues. This is a situation that needs advocacy now. The future is today! What will coin dealers really know in another 10 years when all the original grading experts are gone? What will the coin market be like then if you own anything less then a top tier rarity (no that’s not me swaying anyone to buy only those coins)? How much will the new generation of collectors really learn?

I’ll bet most dealers will say I’m a blow hard on this topic. If they do-count them in the group that can’t grade! I fully accept being a blow hard if I can help this hobby. Why subjects that re so critical in this hobby (like this ) are so taboo to everyone makes me sick. This is a topic-like coin doctoring that MUST be addressed some how and soon. Of course no dealers ever want to speak up publicly about anything.

Let me make this clear, this rant is NOT about the dealers who handle collector coins. Nor is this about the grading services (I see the chat-room weenies are already distorting this article). There are absolutely MANY dealers who DO know how to grade. The value of what a dealer handles has NOTHING to do with the topic I am discussing. Its all about lack of abilities and the lack knowledge today s new crop of dealers have. Sadly, this group has grown pretty large. In a few years the “blind leading the blind” will be an under statement.

Send all comments to: lsperber1@hotmail.com

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