Saturday, May 23, 2009

Learning the ropes of Numismatics

Numismatics is the study of money, medallions, banknotes, token coins, and stock certificates. It is believed to have been established in the time of Julius Caesar who wrote the first book on the subject. It is a very interesting topic because every medal or coin signifies a different era, culture, economy and/or politics.

Numismatists or the people who study the history and over all appearance of the above mentioned forms of currency are different from coin collectors. Unlike numismatists, coin collectors are only interested in collecting coins and the prestige that goes along with it; a numismatist may also be a coin collector and vise versa.

Over the years, coin collection has been very popular. The most common designs are famous people and animals to depict the era when the specific coin was released.

Numismatists are generally interested in use of money, its origin, appearance, variety and production. They aim to explore the role of the different kinds of currency in our history using mint information. Mint refers to the place or facility where the coins are manufactured. They also grade or authenticate coins to determine their market value. T facilitate this, coin grading system facilities were established.

At this time there are three major third party facilities that authenticate coins and/or paper money. These are: the PCGS or Professional Coin grading system located in Newport Beach, CA; the NGC or Numismatic Guaranty Corporation in Sarasota, Florida; and Paper Money Grading (PMG).

PCGS is a third party institution that was established in 1986, which grades and authenticates coins primarily for commercial purposes. They are an independent body providing expert opinion in rating a coin. NGC is also a third party institution offering services solely to numismatists. It was established in 1987. On the other hand, PMG is solely for authentication of paper money and a smaller department of PCGS.

When coin collecting was not as popular as it is now, there were only 3 categories into which a coin could fall: 1. Good – which means that the coin has all of the details intact; 2. Fine – which means that the coin has all the details intact and still has a bit of luster visible; and 3. Uncirculated – which means that the coin was never put on the market thus maintaining its original appearance.

However, today coin grading has evolved and is becoming more definite. They use a combination of letters and numbers that corresponds to the quality of a coin. The coin grading system of United States of America is the most comprehensive and recommended for beginners. An example of USA grading system: MS-60 to MS-70 which means that the coin is blemish-free and has good color and strike. In short it’s perfect!

Knowing how to grade a coin properly is not only a gift, it’s an art. It requires knowledge, exposure and obviously skills. For coin collectors, ability to grade a coin is a must because the value of a coin largely depends its grade.

Here are some components Numismatists use in coin grading

1. Luster It is a determining factor whether or not a specific coin has been circulated. To have a higher grade, a coin must be technically intact and free from any form of imperfection or blemish.

2. Surface preservation. Abrasion on the surface of the coin and its location is a huge factor in grading a coin but it does not necessarily mean that abrasion can lower the grade of a coin. For example, if a good-looking coin has a severe abrasion on the back that is unnoticeable it will not count against the coin, but the issue may not be the same if the abrasion is located on the front or focal point.

3. Strike. It refers to the coin designing process wherein the coin is being stamped onto a planchet. In overall grading, strike does not weigh a great deal.

4. Coloration.
For some coin collectors, preservation of original color of the coin has a huge impact on its value especially if it is a copper or silver coin.

5. Eye appeal. Some coins may not be perfect but collectors may find them attractive, however, it still requires expert opinion to conclude that a certain coin is excellent in all aspects mentioned.

If you have no background in grading coins, you have no business in coin collecting and numismatics without employing help from the experts. Coins have been playing vital roles, not only in the lives of people who love collecting and studying them, but in society as they represent different eras in history. Whether you are selling, buying or collecting coins, you must acquire the necessary basic knowledge or information; so that you can be assured that it is accomplished properly.

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