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Visual Grading Reports

9th National Silver Dollar Convention

St. Louis, Missouri

November 10 – 13, 1988


Visual Grading Reports

By Will Rossman


One of the primary reasons that the ANA has recognized and adopted the eleven mint state grades is to enable the association to help collectors learn them.  To date, written standards have not proven to be an effective means of learning to grade uncirculated coins.  Because originality of luster and the quality, location, and severity of marks are considered, words just can’t pinpoint a finite line.  In practice, uncirculated grading standards are represented by “visual perceptions,” the overall “look” of a coin as learned through comparisons with other coins and other numistmatists’ perceptions.

Obviously, the best way to develop these perceptions is through constant exposure, the individual skills becoming more finely honed as the volume of coins examined increases.  Most coin dealers and staffers at grading services see enough volume to learn and stay proficient in this manner.  Conversely, most collectors do not and may feel at a disadvantage because of it.

With the addition of six more mint state grades, many feel that they are at an even greater disadvantage.  The ANA would like to rectify this, and while it obviously can’t provide everyone with 50,000 coins to view, it can offer what it feels to be the next best alternative, the Visual Grading Report.

One picture is worth a thousand words and that is the basis for the Visual Grading Reports.  Coins from the ANACS grading set have been selected and carefully photographed to provide examples for your use.  Each issue covered includes an introductory report and individual grading reports for the grades MS-65, MS-64, MS-63, MS-62, and MS-60, with emphasis on visual perception.

Primary obverse and reverse photographs are enlarged to 70mm for easy viewing.  Smaller, supplementary examples are also included for additional comparison, as well as brief, written description.  The introductory reports combine visual examples and written explanations of the ANACS system of grading and clarify luster impairments, the significance of marks, pre-strike defects and eye appeal.


How to Use Them

The primary purpose of the VGR’s is to help you develop skills in visual perception by providing you with comparison examples to use with actual coins.  Photographic substitutes can’t completely duplicate the advantages of viewing thousands of coins, but they should give you a running start toward reaching that level of proficiency.

First, read the introductory report for this issue.  One very important section deals with luster impairments.  This area requires additional research on your own, as luster is not easily reproduced in photographs.  The luster impairment section explains the specifics to look for which would indicate that the luster is no longer original.

With eleven mint state grades, however, the quantity, location and severity of marks are the determining factors and show the key locations on the coin.  File this information for reference, as it makes up the mechanics of grading.

From this point on, the emphasis shifts solely to visual comparison.  Take a coin you’re considering buying and compare it to the examples in the report.  Is it better, worse or similar to the example for the advertised grade?  At first, many coins will seem “close,” but the differences will become more evident as you compare more coins.  Right from the beginning, even a novice can identify a blatantly overgraded coin from examples in the reports.  Collectors who are familiar with the mechanics of grading should be able to progress even faster using the reports as tools.

In short, the reports can help you avoid buying overgraded material and save you money!  The key to this, of course, is what YOU decide to do after using them.  Whether or not you choose to buy “close” coins is your option but the reports will have given you a sounder foundation for making the decision.


What’s on Tap?

The first issues of the ANA’s Visual Grading Reports will cover Morgan dollars, St. Gaudens $20 gold pieces, Peace dollars and Liberty $20 gold pieces.  Two reports will be released each month, a total of twenty-four for the year.  A year’s subscription (24 reports) cost $29.95 for ANA members and $34.95 for non-members, including shipping and a special, hard plastic binder.  Single reports are also available at $2 each postpaid.  Inquiries should be directed to the ANA Visual Grading Reports, 818 North Cascade Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80903-3279.


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