Grade, Condition & Rarity

Grade and Condition

Collectors of modern coins know very well that this is of the outmost importance in determining the value of a coin. While still an issue forancient coins, an equally important factor that comes into play here is its condition. This could reflect the way it was made (condition of manufacture), what happened to it while in circulation, or underground (condition of preservation).

Modern coins are made by machines, are all perfectly round and centered, and all that is talked about is the amount of wear, which is the grade. However, every single ancient coin was made by hand, by placing a coin blank between two dies and hitting it with a hammer.

Therefore, many coins are not round, show cracks in the flan (the piece of metal from which the coin has been made), have chips missing, are poorly centered or may had been clipped at the edges to test if it is solid silver for example. Furthermore, being buried underground for almost two thousand year, it could have undergone corrosion, developed a thick or rough patina, or be whacked by a shovel on its way out of the ground.

Awesome! All these factors make them look really ’ancient’ and more fun to collect (recall Figure 3 for some imperfections). Please, give the coin a break, its been underground for so long it deserves a chance…

Given a coin with the same amount of wear (same grade), most collectors will pay more for the one that has less ’defects’, and hence is in better ’condition’. But other collector may not mind at all that the flan has a small crack and that you can’t read a few of letters, especially since the price for such a less-than-perfect coin will be lower.

To make another point, one coin might look like it has less wear and more details than another, but it could actually be in a lower grade. The reason is that the weaker coin was struck with dies that were worn down, but overall has less wear than the nicer looking coin. If you’re specialized enough to collect by such die details, then you might pay more for the weakly struck coin.

Determining the condition and grade of ancient
coins is tricky, and it may be often reduced to simply ’Nice’. This suits me well, and I don’t have to ever worry if the coin is EF40 or EF45. Many collectors of ancient coins will simplify their purchase to two factors when buying their coins – interest and eye appeal.

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