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!



I want to make it clear this is not a self serving Hot Topics. I am writing this based upon several negatives I see happening. As many of you know, I tirelessly fight coin doctors and dealers who shill for them. For awhile, things chilled. Lately, I do not like a lot of what I see starting to happen again. The public needs a little reminder.

One thing I can proudly state-Legend and Legend Auctions do NOT deal in doctored coins. Legend Numismatics sells ONLY CAC beaned coins to its customers for a reason. Legend Auctions has myself, Greg Cohen, and George Huang always on the look out for bad coins. I assure you, we reject more coins than ANY auction house in the biz today. I can not stress enough how critical CAC is for people who can’t grade. While some experts may disagree with CAC on the grades (every one sees coins differently), one thing you will NOT get-a doctored coin.

If you notice, all the Internet Auctions today have NO descriptions. Why?  The Internet Only crowd and Ebay dudes are NOT true numismatists and can NOT grade. Many (especially on Ebay) are trolling for victims. I am stymied how people think seeing an image with NO description is safe. Images LIE. You are NOT getting any bargains buying a bad coin-no matter how cheap you pay! The big auctions houses at least have people on staff who can tell you if a coin was doctored (they will only tell you if directly asked though).

Use common sense! If a coin is NOT CAC today, ask why. Any dealer worth their salt will have their coins CAC’d. Simple: they bring the most money (a MORE than proven fact). There are legitimate times when a coin no beans because of an opinion and the grade is off by 1/2 point. Those coins I green light. However, there is a higher % that have been messed with -and you need to stay away. Gold is the worst area-especially Saints and Early Gold. I have yet to see any Internet Auction house mention anything about funky toning or what ever-because they do NOT even do descriptions! I saw one place this weekend selling a $10,000.00 doctored coin (yes I did say something about it).

How do you know what is good and bad (does not matter if it is an auction or direct sale)? If you have no way to get a real opinion, do NOT buy the coin. Always question why a coin is not CAC. Ask the seller to send it to CAC. If you can have someone represent you-or even ask if the coin can be sent to you. Representation WILL save you from many disasters. For the monies you spend on coins, you should be careful. Coin doctoring is slowly creeping back into the forefront of grading issues. Auctions clearly are the docs #1 route to sell these days. Be vigilante of dealers too who prefer NON CAC coins. Its time to cut off the money to the coin docs and the dealers who support them (again).

If you have any comments, feel free to email me:

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2 Replies

Kudos on your article. I look at your website and I see coins that earned the CAC stickers and agree with each of them. You guys always seem to offer the nicest stuff on the market.
Coin doctors are not good for numismatics-all they do is damage the integrity of the hobby.
I am writing to get your opinion (mostly, I think I am just venting!) on another area of the hobby that seems to be a problem. That problem is Gradeflation. I think the standards for grading have declined in the recent years. I have one specific example that I wanted to share with you. I purchased an 1880-CC 8/low 7 Morgan that I sent to PCGS and PCGS graded the coin MS 65 PL (approximately three years ago). I sent the coin to CAC and the coin received a Green Sticker. I opted to sell the coin recently in an Auction (one of newer firms that is not the Biggest, but I have had decent results from them in the past) The coin sold at the auction (on 9/11). I was happy with the results, and I felt the coin was no better than an MS 65 PL and the realized price was accurate. The coin is now listed at the same auction house and now resides in a PCGS MS 66 PL with a CAC sticker. The coin still looks like a 65 in a 66 holder ( I am surprised that the coin CAC’d at the MS 66 PL Level- i was worried that the coin would not CAC as an MS 65 PL.)
I am torn-I don’t know if I am more upset at the thought I left a lot of money on the table or with the fact that coins are being “Cracked Out” of holders and assigned an inflated grade that will in turn harm the hobby in the long run. When collector buy the holders and does not pay attention to the coin invites disappointment. I see a lot of coins that are not worthy of the holders, and I agree with your terminology – “DRECK!” I see this happening too often in the coin marketplace and because of this, it is hard to find worthy coins.
I think I am venting more than anything else, but I just needed to share this situation with a company that values and appreciates the integrity of the hobby and knows what how quality looks in the marketplace. Thanks for any points of view you may have on this area. Thanks for listening!

Joel M Del Campo

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How frequently do you believe PCGS lets a doctored coin “get by them” and the coin is certified?

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