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!


Sorry I have not been able to write a Hot Topics in a while. Been too damn busy and a bit under the weather. Here is an issue that bothers me deeply I had to make my comments. I doubt it will ever be addressed nor will it change.

One of the reasons I started an auction company is I saw it would be the future of selling coins. After running the company now for nearly 5 years, I know my instinct was right. It has nothing to do with a lack of younger people entering the business as there are plenty. It even has nothing to do with people loving to bid in auctions. Its not even a millenial issue.

The biggest problem-gradeflation has created such a toxic culture most people are either in denial or are just so used to the “the game” of resubmission.  At the Baltimore Show I saw about a dozen, yes a dozen what I call baby dealers set up. I’d say most of them are in their 20’s. EVERY one of them was doing nothing but crackouts. They all seek instant gratification. Not one seems to be on any path to be a dinosour like me and  build a long term retail coin company. I even talked to one to possibly to work with, but he is tied to a backer for his crack outs. Another I know  just wants to sell big coins and move on. He too does many crack outs. I’m not so sure these kids really know how to grade either. They are being brought up on standards where the line has slid nearly a point and half. They never had the pleasure of grading raw coins or even knowing what a certain coins should look like. They grade via the holder and the look. Bad for the future too.

My concern isn’t so much about crack outs-I know PCGS and NGC have both gotten tighter. Its the fact I can’t see many collectors ever having the chance to build “old time” relationships and work one on one with dealers in a few years. It a very dangerous and sad situation. Of course my fav worthless group the PNG probably has no clue about this nor would they care. The grading services do not care so long as their submissions are strong. It is of my strong opinion, someone has to care. I have tried to talk to a few of these kids but they want the easy hassle free money.

You could be buying all your coins in a few years from auctions with no dealer interactions. You really want that? Next time you go to a show and see a baby dealer with his back turned at his table grading coins, talk to him. Let him know there is another world out there he can deal in and make money from. Start discussing this top more in public, it could just spark a kid or two. I would hate to eventually fully retire knowing I could be the end of an era. My group-what we all call the class of 59 (at least 20+ dealers today were born in 1959) is clearly ready to fade out. This is a such a great hobby with great opportunities and the youth are headed in the wrong direction-in my opinion.

I have received several emails from younger dealers today 10/29. I guess I hit a nerve. One asked me if I do crack outs. YES, I do. However, my crack out rate is maybe 10% of my business vs 85%+  of what these kids do. That is NOT what this article is about! 

This article is about the fact I sincerely believe we will have a horrible shortage of true retail dealers in the next 5-10 years. It is my strong opinion that WILL hurt the market. Making coins and throwing them up on ebay is NOT really retail. Sitting in an office educating people,   doing shows, transacting with the public , and  building collections etc is what I do NOT see these kids even thinking about. The money is too quick and easy doing crackouts (although that is coming to an end). 

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I have to kind of agree with this article. As a young collector myself, a lot of what I see from young dealers involves either a) cracking out the majority of their coins for potential upgrades, just on the chance that the coins might upgrade EVEN IF the coins don’t deserve it, or b) selling toned coins, often possibly artificially toned coins, for extremely high prices when those coins would otherwise be worth basically melt value. I recently saw a vibrantly toned 1980?-S cent in NGC PR69UCAM sell for $900 on Instagram. Without the toning that’s a $5 coin. I see minimal basic knowledge of how to grade coins or how to detect artificial toning in either young buyers or young sellers, creating an environment where people who only care about the number on the holder and the colors on the coin (AT or not) are able to make insane profits off of other people who also only care about the number on the holder and the colors on the coin (AT or not). In regards to cracking out and resubmitting, it has become essentially a lottery with certain people – they don’t care whether the coin deserves the grade it currently has or not, they just know that if they crack and resubmit the same coin 20 or 10 or 5 times (or less with the inconsistency of grading I’m seeing all around, and the subjectivity of “eye appeal” that is now a heavy factor, if not the most important factor, in modern TPG standards) then there is a good chance that at least one of these times the grade will be a point or so higher. It’s pretty frustrating to watch from the perspective of someone who does not like dealing with coins that have any grade other than the one they deserve, and who shuns any remotely potentially artificially toned coins as much as possible, to see people making literal thousands off of simply knowing and/or caring less about what they are dealing with.

The worrying thing is that there isn’t really a way of dealing with it. If the buyers and seller don’t care about these things, no one can really make them, and there’s no realistic way that TPGs can combat crackouts. Even if computers scanned every coin that entered the grading room to see if it had been submitted before, it would be unable to detect coins that had been conserved, doctored, artificially toned, naturally toned, or submitted at another grading service. There are only two real ways I can see this going: either a) nothing happens and this just continues being the norm, or b) it backfires and people stop trusting holdered grades altogether and revert to judging values by eye alone, and learning the proper techniques to do so. Unfortunately the second option is not a plausible one and things will probably just continue as they are.


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Correction: there is a third option, which is that eye appeal is removed as a standard from the grading process, and left to the buyers and sellers to determine value. Grades will then be mainly based on technical condition which will limit “gradeflation”, grading inconsistencies in general, and the ability of coins to be cracked and and resubmitted for higher grades.

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Thank you for your opinion.

I have been around way too long to know this is a serious problem developing. In 5-10 years I know I ‘ll be saying I warned everyone and now look….

Not every young dealer has to do all crack outs. Just like today, I don’t have to do crack outs to live.


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Agree 100%.
The authorities must investigate the grading services and stop the Ponzi scheme
I estmate perhaps 70% of their revenue is from submissions looking for pluses or upgrades. Many coins are sent two to ten times if not more.
Is this legitimate? The same coins have already been graded. Half of the coin dealers would be out of business if
Upgrades were not given often. For the most CAC coins are graded correctly.

It is sad players don’t care as they make money from the charade, Grading is basically pay to play.
The grading services must continue the game or,revenue would drastically fall.

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