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The Coin Analyst: Grading Service Guidelines and Clarification on Bullion Coin in 25th Anniversary Silver Eagle Sets

By Louis Golino for CoinWeek …..
Since my last column on the 25th anniversary silver eagle sets was published, there have been a couple more significant developments that merit discussion.

Collectors who ordered their sets during the first couple hours of sales on October 27 have either already received their sets, or their sets have shipped. The other orders should be shipping soon. My own orders were received about 3:30 pm and are listed as “in stock and reserved,” and my credit card has been charged.

But the sets have not yet shipped.

With Friday being a federal holiday (Veterans Day), I do not expect my sets to ship before Monday at the earliest.

I hope they ship by the middle of the week since I plan to bring them with me to the Whitman Baltimore Expo coin show at the end of next week, where I will be dropping off two sets for grading by PCGS. Although NGC is not accepting in-person submission of the anniversary sets at coin shows, PCGS is, as I learned when I called on November 10.

Neither service will grade the sets at the show, but it is really helpful that PCGS will accept on-site submission for grading at PCGS headquarters, which allows collectors to save a lot on shipping fees. The anniversary sets must be submitted in their unopened boxes as received from the Mint, and with all the packaging and the fancy display boxes, these sets are heavy.  From what I have read from collectors who already have their sets, each one weighs 3-4 pounds. By the time one pays shipping and insurance, plus all the fees associated with grading, the overall expense will be considerable.  At least return shipping from the grading services is based on the coins’ value, not weight.

I will not re-hash all the pros and cons of third-party grading here, but the bottom line is that unless one receives 70’s on the majority of the coins, it may not be worth the expense of having them graded. Because it is hard to get the perfect grade on all five coins, sets in which every coin grades MS/PF-70 should command a nice premium, though perhaps not as much as some early prices.

The proof and burnished West Point coins are made to very high standards, and I expect that a large number of them will grade MS or PF-70, probably something in the neighborhood of 50% of the total coins submitted, especially if sent to NGC.

The same is likely to be true of the reverse proof coin and probably also the burnished San Francisco coin.

As Clair Hardesty has noted in online coin forums, the wild card is the bullion coin, which will probably have a lower number of 70’s than the other four coins.

If past history is any guide, I suspect that more sets will be graded MS/PF-70 by NGC than PCGS, and as a result, the PCGS 70 sets are likely to command higher secondary market values.

I think both companies provide useful services, and I am not suggesting that one service is better or worse than the other.  It is just a fact that when it comes to modern coins, PCGS assigns the top grade to fewer coins than NGC does.

Another difference to bear in mind regarding the grading of the anniversary sets is that each service has a different policy on first strike/early release.

First, PCGS will charge you $18 per coin for first strike designation, but NGC provides coins that meet its early release criteria with this designation free of cost.

Second, PCGS stated on November 10 that to be eligible for first strike designation sets need to be postmarked no later than December 7.

At NGC one must opt-out if one does not wish to have coins designated as early releases if they meet the criteria, and coins must be received by NGC by December 8 to be considered early releases. Again, without debating the pros and cons of these designations, and putting aside the well-known fact that there is no way to prove that these coins were actually made first, or are superior in any way, the fact is that PCGS first strike coins do command higher values in the marketplace.

Finally, after releasing initial submission guidelines on November 8, PCGS issued a follow-up on December 10 regarding the bullion coin included in the sets.

There has been some confusion regarding this coin from the beginning. I inadvertently contributed to this confusion by incorrectly stating in my October 28 column that the bullion coin was made in Denver.  As some astute readers explained, Denver has never produced silver eagles.

When these sets were first announced on August 19 at the Chicago ANA, Deputy Mint Director Richard Peterson stated that the bullion coin is from the San Francisco Mint or the West Point Mint.

But PCGS indicated in its November 10 statement that the Mint has explained that there is no way to know for sure if all coins were made in San Francisco.

Consequently, the Mint explained that some coins were made in West Point, but most were made in San Francisco.

So, for those collectors who are concerned that the information on the certificates of authenticity, which says the coins could be from either Mint, are incorrect, the certificates are accurate. Coin World may have contributed to the confusion by reporting on October 31 that the Mint decided to produce all the bullion coins for the sets at San Francisco.

The only way to know for sure if a bullion eagle came from San Francisco or West Point is from the label on the 500-coin “monster boxes.”  Since the Mint did not track this when assembling the sets, collectors will have to live with not knowing which Mint actually produced the coin.

The launch of the anniversary sets is clearly the event of the year for collectors of modern U.S. coins.

Most people feel the Mint did an outstanding job by creating these attractive, low-mintage sets, although some collectors who have received theirs state that the coins were not packed very securely and that coins either came out of the display case, or even came out of their capsules.

And those who will be forced to buy a set on the secondary market continue to be upset that they could not place an order with the Mint before the sell out. Others have had their orders cancelled for seemingly arbitrary reasons like a small mistake on their mailing addresses.

And lots of people seem to be either jealous, or resentful, about the buyers who purchased a couple sets for resale value, a view I find odd since there is nothing wrong with making a profit, especially if one did not violate the Mint’s policies.

* * *

Lou GolinoLouis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer, specializing primarily in modern U.S. and world coins. His work has appeared in CoinWeek since 2011. He also currently writes regular features for Coin World, The Numismatist, and CoinUpdate.com, and has been published in Numismatic News, COINage, and FUNTopics, among other coin publications. He has also been widely published on international political, military, and economic issues.

His columnThe Coin Analyst, special to CoinWeek, won the 2021 Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) Award for Best Numismatic Column: United States Coins – Modern. In 2017, he received an NLG award for Best Article in a Non-Numismatic Publication with his piece, “Liberty Centennial Designs”. In 2015, “The Coin Analyst” received an NLG award for Best Website Column.

In October 2018, he received a literary award from the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists (PAN) for his 2017 article, “Lady Liberty: America’s Enduring Numismatic Motif” that appeared in The Clarion.

Louis Golino
Louis Golino
Louis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern U.S. and world coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern numismatic issues and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s (NLG) award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to Coin World, where he wrote a bimonthly feature and weekly blog, and The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s (ANA) monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins. He is also a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum sponsored by Modern Coin Mart. He previously served as a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and as a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s when he began writing op-ed articles and news analyses.

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  1. To Chad Cooper:
    I don’t think you can have PCGS open a box of five sets and remove a couple since the sets need to be sealed. I have two orders coming. One has two sets, which are the ones I plan to drop off at the coin show for grading. The other order has the ones I will keep in OGP, which I will open when I receive them.

  2. Louis,

    Thank you kindly for the link.

    Also, don’t be so quick on declaring the bullion coin a wild card. I have heard a handful of complaints from people who have gotten their sets about “milk spots” on the 2011-S. I had one, one of my friends has one, and a poster on Mint News Blog has complained about it as well. If the problem turns out to be widespread, it could be more of a challenge to locate an MS-70 of the 2011-S than the bullion coin.

  3. A friend’s order arrived today, Veterans Day, via UPS. I entered by tracking number in UPS’s tracking system and confirmed mine are coming by UPS also. I don’t know if they are also using the USPS or not.

  4. A cost-effective grading choice in my opinion is to send in only the “S” mint mark and reverse proof coins. If those are graded 70 that would be the value driver for high resale of an entire set. That is particularly true for the future, as counterfeits of those coins may surface.

  5. I am having second thoughts about bringing my sets to PCGS next week. NGC would be much cheaper even with mailing costs, but with all the reports of quality control issues, I am not sure if it is even worth the gamble at all. At this point we really don’t know if these are isolated, anecdotal incidents or a widespread trend. If anyone receives a damaged set, please let us know here.

  6. Louis, I ordered 2 sets, both RP-P coins have dings on the eagles shield. Both S bullion look great, Win some lose some. 1 UNC-W has milk spot.

  7. I contacted the Mint for confirmation on the origin of the bullion coin and was just told that they are all from San Francisco despite earlier reports that some could be from West Point. So the certificates of authenticity are incorrect.

  8. Very interesting article, Louis. I received my sets today, November 18, 2011. They were due to be shipped on November 28, but then I received an e-mail on the 17th of November that they were shipped. Received them the following day on the 18th of November. The UPS online tracking order lists the coins at 7 lbs., which I printed out for reference. Clearly on the package, there is a white label which states 6 lbs. Anyone have an opinion here? Personally, I felt that I would receive the end batch, but the coins are all exquisite,unbelievable, easily, easily 70 grade. It is just too bad that they will never be graded by any of the ‘grading services’. Do not really believe in this aspect, nor the way they base the scale. Anyways, I am highly impressed as to the quality. We see that this post entails some instances of ‘milk spots’, no sign of that, and no sign of ‘dings’ either. We have been ordering from the U.S. Mint for about fourteen years, and have never seen any of the issues mentioned. It is really hard to comprehend how “gouges” can be in any coins. I’ve just never seen any of these issues, either with gold, or silver. I cannot change anyone’s mind, but we would strongly urge all, not to have their sets graded. This is a very intricate structure, delving on the sublime. “Coin Collector”, has a very astute argument for having ‘second thoughts’, in which we hope he may follow. Again, I’ve heard many stories of so-called damaged coins, but in fourteen years have not seen one. If, such an issue did occur, we would have a basis of data to look upon, if you get my point. In all reality, the grading services are a business, conducting business. We don’t mean to dash anyone’s hopes, but to send in a set, hope for a 70 grade upon return, is 100-1. We’ll use our stereo microscope, at 5x, knowing what we have. We can prove to anyone, whom could possibly refute the color, clarity, and sharpness of the coins. We would not care to have our coins “mixed” up for any unknown reason. Aside from this, I really would like a response by anyone, regarding the difference in weight of the package, as opposed to the online statement of UPS. Thank you Louis for your continued expertise in the field of numismatics, as well as, the detailed information you have written regarding the aforesaid merchandise, American Silver Eagle 25th Anniversary Edition (five coin set).


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