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Graded Silver Quarter
Should Coins Be Certified?
Certifying a coin means that a third party, an expert, has looked at the coin and graded it. Certified coins are then sealed in a case called a slab, and the grade and any important information should be noted. This means that in the opinion of an expert grader the coin is the quality stated.
While this might seem always beneficial, it is not. The use of a certifying organization comes with great expense. The price might be reduced if you submit in quantities, but even when discounted the price is high. It would seem improper to have a penny worth one dollar slabbed at a cost of twenty dollars. And then there is the added expense of postage in both directions. Even coins sent in as a group might be returned one at a time, so return postage can be high. And if the coin is valuable, insuring it is problematic. The United States Postal Service has restrictions on insuring coins, so a more costly carrier may be needed.
Expensive coins should be slabbed, but less expensive coins probably should not.
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How Good Are Coin Certifications?
First, if it is a top grader the chances are it is good, but not always. Grading is inexact. There is often inconsistency among the experts. But, it is a good indicator.
Coins can change after being certified. Coins can deteriorate years after exposure to bad environments, and that exposure would probably not show up at the time of grading. So, an encapsulate coin can alter in appearance.
Remember there are two sides to a coin. A coin may have a MS-70 obverse, but only a MS-69 reverse. This is a dilemma for the person doing the grading.
Check the grading organization! Look for PCGS and NGC as a safe way of having a good chance the grade is accurate.
Are All Organizations That Slab Coins Equal?
No. There are many organizations that claim to be grading experts and slab coins, but very few are respected by numismatists. The American Numismatics Association is affiliated with NGC. Another respected organization is PCGS. In fact, eBay will only allow these and a few others, ANACS, ICG, NCS, and PMG if you claim to be offering a certified coin.
Slabbed Canadian Coins
Canadian coins dealers use different grading services serving Canada.
Check the grading organization!
Are There Advantages to Having a Coin Graded?
The obvious advantage is the coin has been examined by an expert, and the opinion given is unbiased. You might look at a coin as though it were the absolute best of its type if you owned the coin, but that third party always submits an unbiased opinion.
The encapsulation protects your coin from further exposure to the environment. The hard case also protects your coin from inadvertent touching, and even from damage if dropped might be lessened or eliminated. So, coins in slabs have extra physical protection.
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Misleading Certificates of Authenticity
Boxes and certificates of authenticity rarely remain with the original coin when it is graded and encapsulated. Some dealers sell the empty boxes, and even the certificates of authenticity. They can be then paired with another coin. A mint box and certificate of authenticity for an American Eagle might have started out with a proof coin, been sold, and a business strike coin placed in the box and offered for a premium. Buyer beware. Mint certificates of authenticity can move from coin to coin.
Are All Coins Encapsulated in a Slab with a Reputable Organization’s Name Safe to Buy
Unfortunately, some people in China have found a way of making counterfeit slabs. The slabbing organizations keep hiding subtle things in their slabs, but their locations cannot be kept secret. How can you know a certain hologram should be there if the information is not public. And new cases do not mean old one are being replaced.
One thing you can do is check the serial number. If that serial number was assigned to a Morgan silver dollar, and the slab contains a Trade Dollar, consider it counterfeit.
Are Certificates of Authenticity Good Substitutes?
No. A certificate of authenticity often accompanies a numismatic coin, one intended to be collected, from a mint. This usually has the specifications such as size and metallic content, and even might have the mintage, stated on it. Unfortunately, it only attests to the fact that the coin is authentic.
The best certificates of authenticity are on mint cards that also house the coin. Others can be separated from the coin and paired up with another coin.
Unfortunately, certificates of authenticity get lost much too frequently when a coin is certified. It should remain with the coin.
Slabbed Foreign Coins
Check the grading organization!
How Bad Can It Get?
There was a seller on eBay selling slabbed coins. While eBay has restrictions against calling the coin certified, showing the photograph of the coin in a slab is not against the rules. We won several silver dollars over a few weeks. We got two of the same year, so I tried to take one to a dealer I trust. He looked at the coin and said it was not even uncirculated. We sold that one to him at a loss, and he immediately broke and removed the slab to avoid misleading his customers. We went to remove the remaining slabs. One was accidentally dropped, and the slab opened. We checked the others and none were sealed. Either the person who did the grading was dishonest, or someone swapped coins after grading.
All graded coins should be sealed. You should never be able to open the slab.
The Grade Can Still Be Wrong
even a good grading service can make an error, but probably not by many grades. Grading services use humans. Sending the same coin in twice could get two different grades.
Aside from the fact that the people doing the grading make mistakes, another problem is much more serious. Although the coin is sealed, if the surface has had a substance on it that reacts slowly, and over time the coin can deteriorate. The grade given was a valid grade for the coin at the time of it being graded, but is not valid after the damage has shown up.