Monday, July 19, 2010

Coin Monday (Written on a Friday): Two Minus One

July 19, 2010
Written by John Dale

Writing this on a Friday, because I’m going to have a busy Monday, and today’s topic is one of the reasons…

Boys lie. So do statistics.” – anonymous math student

I’m not that student; I’m more “Numbers don’t lie; people do.”

I don’t know if that makes me an idealist about numbers or a cynic about humans.

Maybe numbers don’t lie, but they can be wrong. In the case of certified coin populations, such as the NGC Census Report, there are a couple of ways the numbers can be wrong. Clerical errors are easily corrected, but another source is more insidious: the re-submission.

Imagine a coin in an AU55 NGC holder.

For whatever reason, the owner thinks it’s undergraded. A relatively common practice (best left to professionals) is to remove the coin from its sealed holder, voiding the service’s guarantee (also known as a “break-out” or a “crack-out”), and then submit the coin to NGC again. Resubmissions can be costly, but when a difference of one grade point can mean tens of thousands of dollars in added value, there is plenty of incentive to try.

A negative to re-submissions is that each one is logged in the grading service’s records, and one AU55 coin, for example, could be resubmitted a dozen or more times in the hopes of getting that better grade. The result? One coin, one person, but a dozen extra AU55-graded coins in the Census. Bad times.

The antidote is a system wherein the paper labels (or tags) from inside the holders can be sent to NGC later. A label without a holder means that the holder must be broken. The coin may still exist, but the whole package — that is, the NGC-certified coin in that particular holder with that particular serial number on the label — no longer does.

The system works most of the time, but even it has its glitches…which brings me to one of the most beautiful coins of the upcoming August 2010 Official ANA U.S. Coin Auction in Boston. It is an 1883 half eagle, graded MS67 by NGC with the Star designation for exceptional eye appeal.

We had offered the coin before, in November 2004. It was in a different holder then, the finest example of the issue by two points with a Star designation on top, absolutely a killer coin, the best imaginable. How could any other 1883 half eagle match it?

It came around again for Boston, with a new owner…and a new holder. The coin had been re-submitted, and there were two MS67 Star coins in the Census. The two coins were the same; the cataloger was sure of it. Everything matched, from the color to the small flaw below the eagle’s left wing. The Census, couldn’t be ignored, though. There’s a world of difference between one coin and two. He had to acknowledge the two entries.

I got good news today, though. The second entry in the Census was still in there by mistake, and it’s going to be removed. The change should show up when the Census updates on Monday. I’m hoping that when I get in on Monday, the update will be in place, and I can change how the description looks online.

It’ll be yet another task on a busy Monday morning, but I’ll be happy to do it.

Sole finest, royalty among coins restored to its throne…that’s something to celebrate.

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-John Dale Beety

1 comment:

  1. I am an auction lover. So every news related to the auction makes me very happy. Thanks for keeping us updated.