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Guess the Grade

Originally published on April 8 2018

At the Baltimore show, GFRC submitted a group of raw coins for show turn grading. Show turn grading is expensive at $65 per coin therefore being certain of the outcome is warranted else any profit potential being wiped out by a mistake. The following 1834 Capped Bust half dime was submitted on behalf of Jim Poston. We knew this piece was tough to grade due to the obverse strike and hopefully PCGS grader would inspect the reverse. Now it is your turn. Please guess the grade of this piece and send to me via email or text. I'll report on the inputs and the PCGS determination on Sunday morning.

1834 Capped Bust Half Dime


Daily Blog Grading Responses: VF30 (1); VF35 (1); EF40 (2); EF45(2); AU50 (1); AU53 (4); AU55 (3); AU58 (2); MS64 (1)

This 1834 LM-1 Capped Bust half dime was consigned by Jim Poston within a group of 40 or so pieces. Since I was submitting coins to PCGS at Baltimore, we decided to add this lovely piece to the show turn lot. Show turn grading is expensive at $65 per coin but PCGS guarantees to have ready by show closing time on Saturday. If not, they will ship back to you for free. Jim questioned if we should try this nicely toned 1834 Capped Bust half dime that offered strong luster. We both graded the half dime AU53/AU55 strictly on a wear and luster basis. Yes, the obverse strike was weak at the center hair curls and clasp. The 1834 LM-1 comes with strong denticles and rims and softer obverse strikes. Checking the obverse rim, stars and cap revealed little if any wear. If one only had the reverse by which to determine grade, then arriving at an AU conclusion would be straight forward. Jim and I believe that the PCGS grader would look at both sides of the coin when grading and reach the same conclusion; AU53/AU55.

Well, we were wrong and disappointed. PCGS assigned an EF40 grade. I suspect the grader did not bother to check the reverse as in a hurry to get his Baltimore show turn coins out the door before deadline. Remember that the Third Party Grading services always are covered when making an obvious mistake. Their grading is simply an "opinion" and we should all remember this point. TPG outcomes are opinions and those may differ with the submitter. So the TPG walks away with your fees and you are left with an opinion on a label and a entombed coin in plastic.

Recognizing the PCGS grading opinion mistake, I though this piece would make for an excellent teaching module in the Blog. By asking readers to guess the grade, without revealing their identity, we could assess the range of opinions and potentially draw a few conclusions. A total of 17 readers responded. The MS64 grade was made in jest and not serious but included. Dealers and "senior" collectors provided the AU grade opinions. Those who provided the VF and EF grades are probably inexperienced with Capped Bust coinage and fell into the weak obverse strike trap or secondly, believe that weak strikes should be net graded. Learning to properly grade all Draped and Capped Bust coinage denominations takes time and practice due to strike variability challenges.

Ok, someone will argue that grading must encompass both strike and wear to arrive at a net grade. I'm not a fan of net grading coins for strike issues. For example, there are a host of 1807 through 1809 AU graded Capped Bust halves that should be immediately downgraded to VF/EF due to terrible obverse center strikes. Grading Capped Bust coinage is best accomplished in the following order:

- Assess overall strike quality and determine variability across the coin.

- Locate properly strike devices to determine wear and grade assignment.

What is next for this lovely 1834 half dime? It is already off to CAC for review to determine how John Albanese and staff will react to this piece. I'm expecting an immediate green and maybe, just maybe a gold sticker.