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Jeff Garrett: Guarantees in the Rare Coin Market

Jeff Garrett: Guarantees in the Rare Coin Market

The 35-year success of authentication and grading has given numismatics peace of mind


By Jeff Garrett for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) ……
Rare coin certification is nearing 35 years of success. One of the foundations of this success is the authentication and grading guarantee. No longer do collectors and investors have to take the word of dealers. Certified rare coins are graded by multiple people and finalized by world-class experts to ensure accuracy and consistency. The system works!

It is hard to imagine where the rare coin market would be today without certification — much smaller to be sure. Because of certification, rare coins are traded with confidence over the internet. Without this innovation, the numismatic market would not flourish and take advantage of new technologies. Other important innovations like set registries and population reports would not be possible, either.

Thirty-five years ago, the rare coin market was very different than it is today. In most cases for uncertified coins, the guarantee of authenticity and grade was only as good as the dealer selling them. Despite this incredibly risky environment, the rare coin market thrived. Prices were much lower in those days, but many individuals committed large sums to numismatics.

In many cases, the results were phenomenal. Anyone can pull auction catalogs from the 1980s and early 1990s and review the sale of great collections formed around that time. The incredible sales by Stack’s, Bowers and Merena, RARCOA, and Paramount alone represented millions of dollars of great, uncertified coins trading hands.

What you don’t see, however, are the thousands of sorely disappointed collectors and investors from that era who trusted the word of the seller. The coin market 35 years ago was rife with everything from outright fraud to selective fudging.

To be sure, many dealers made efforts to sell correctly graded coins, but even then, a buyer was dependent on the dealer’s skills. Very few issued formal guarantees of grading when making a sale. Prudent collectors needed to learn enough to protect themselves. In the rare case of a grading guarantee, collectors had no assurance that the dealer would be in business when it came time to sell.

Rare coin certification has been around long enough now that many take its protections for granted. Over the years, I have unfortunately been the one who told many collectors or investors that their oranges were indeed rotten fruit. It is sad to break the news to someone that they have obviously been defrauded.

Before certification, this came in the form of collectors who had purchased everything from whizzed coins to slightly over-graded, very expensive coins. Nearly every dealer in the country who has been around for a long time has had similar experiences. In most cases, buyers had very little luck when contacting sellers for refunds. Legal action on the subject of grading has always been difficult because of the expense and complexity of the subject.

Imagine for a moment buying that great rarity you have always been looking for. Perhaps in your case, it is a 1932-D Washington Quarter graded MS 65. The price seems fantastic at 20% below bid. The coin is frosty white, just the way you like them. The strike is great and the luster is above average. Now imagine making the purchase for an uncertified coin.

Would you be willing to invest thousands of dollars based on your own knowledge or the determination of the seller (with a monumental conflict of interest) as to the grade of the coin? How would that small mark in the field or the light line on the cheek be received when it came time to sell? Pretty scary stuff!

For the most part, the dealer community has always been diligent in protecting buyers against counterfeits. Most reputable dealers offer lifetime protection. The problem being, whose lifetime? In recent years, there have also been instances of large coin companies that have been bought out, and the new buyers are reluctant to honor guarantees of coins sold decades ago by the previous owners.

I have purchased countless estates over the years that contained counterfeit coins. After decades, recovery from buying an uncertified counterfeit is nearly impossible. Very few even make an attempt. Most sell the genuine coins and move on. Rare coin certification is critical for those making long-term investments in numismatics. For many, it will help their heirs making the sale. Without certification, there is little or no protection.

Decades ago, rare coin grading was also subject to the whims of market makers. If dealers wanted to promote an area of the market and needed coins, their grading standards would slip a bit. After they had moved on to another part of the numismatic market, the grading standards for the previous object of desire would magically become very strict.

This had an incredibly negative impact on liquidity. Third-party grading has solved many of these issues, but the debate over “sight seen” and “sight unseen” market-making continues. This will probably be the subject of a future article.

There is no such thing as a sure bet when buying rare coins or any other tangible property. Rare coins, however, are one of the few collectible fields that offer third-party grading and authentication guarantees, but collectors should understand the differences between the top two grading services.

Both NGC and PCGS completely guarantee the authenticity and grade of all US coins. Unlike PCGS, NGC also guarantees the color designations on all copper, bronze, and copper-nickel coins for 10 years. NGC is also known for its quick service when resolving issues that involve its grading and authentication guarantees.

NGC has invested millions over the years to ensure the integrity of its product. Anyone investing money in numismatics today has a far greater chance of success than collectors did 35 years ago. Rare coins can be very exciting but knowing you have accurately graded coins and not rotten fruit is a wonderful thing!

Jeff Garrett bio

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Rare Coin Gallery


Jeff Garrett
Jeff Garretthttps://rarecoingallery.com/
Jeff Garrett, founder of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, is considered one of the nation’s top experts in U.S. coinage — and knowledge lies at the foundation of Jeff’s numismatic career. With more than 35 years of experience, he is one of the top experts in numismatics. The “experts’ expert,” Jeff has personally bought and sold nearly every U.S. coin ever issued. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t call on Jeff Garrett for numismatic advice. This includes many of the nation’s largest coin dealers, publishers, museums, and institutions. In addition to owning and operating Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, Jeff Garrett is a major shareholder in Sarasota Rare Coin Galleries. His combined annual sales in rare coins and precious metals — between Mid-American in Kentucky and Sarasota Rare Coin Galleries in Florida — total more than $25 million. Jeff Garrett has authored many of today’s most popular numismatic books, including Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795–1933: Circulating, Proof, Commemorative, and Pattern Issues; 100 Greatest U.S. Coins; and United States Coinage: A Study By Type. He is also the price editor for The Official Redbook: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Jeff was also one of the original coin graders for the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). He is today considered one of the country’s best coin graders and was the winner of the 2005 PCGS World Series of Grading. Today, he serves as a consultant to Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), the world’s largest coin grading company. Jeff plays an important role at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Numismatic Department and serves as a consultant to the museum on funding, exhibits, conservation, and research. Thanks to the efforts of Jeff and many others, rare U.S. coins are once again on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. Jeff has been a member of the Professional Numismatic Guild (PNG) since 1982 and has recently served as president of the organization. He has also served as the ANA President and as a member of the ANA Board of Governors.

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  1. I found a penny that’s misprinted, double stamped whatever it’s called. When I sent a photo front and back, the company responded back it’s just worth one cent but they’d like to have it. Who can I contact to get an honest answer?

    • Go with gut feeling, everyone is out to take advantage of us old people.not saying your old ,but that moniker, I’m from 1952, yr of the Dragon.be well my friend.im here year round to discuss, What’s all the fuss about.

  2. If you know a local coin dealer whose honesty you trust, you might take it on to get an opinion. If a dealer offered to buy your penny for let’s say $2, you could tightly suppose the value of your penny to a serious collector might be about twice that much, or about $4. The fact that the company you communicated with wanted to acquire your penny would indicate it was something more than just “run of the mill”.

  3. I can agree with the grading of the coins and certain other stuff, but I don’t agree with the fact that it is hard for someone like me to get coins graded by any of them. I know the deals they offer but don’t have the money that is needed to take advantage of them. Then there are coins they refuse to grade and collectors are at the mercy of whoever is doing the grading. From all the information that I have received over the years, I don’t feel that I can trust anyone because I have asked for help from those who are supposed to be best people that you can get info from, but I usually get blown off. I had other situations where I felt that someone was just trying to rip me off because they knew I had good coins that would bring a decent amount and when I have one that the same as someone else who is selling for a lot of money. I need quite a bit of cash to do what needs done.

    – edited by CoinWeek for clarity


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