Phil Barnhart wrote:Yes, coin dealers appear to be worse than those of cars.
<< This summer, a good friend and ethics professor at a prominent law
school invited me up for a weekend. During this visit he commented
that it had been quite awhile since I had mentioned coins to him. I
had been an avid collector. I told him the truth.
"I am sick of dishonest, unethical and greedy people. So I have sold
almost all my coins and am leaving the hobby. It is just too hard on
After a great deal of debate, I made an offer to him. The ANA
convention would be in Baltimore in a few weeks and I offered to prove
to him that finding an honest dealer was harder in the convention
floor than in any court. The bet was on.
We met up at the convention, and I explained what we had to do. I had
two coins, slabbed by well-known services, that we would remove from
the slabs and try to sell. Each would be in an Eagle holder. Our
story was that these were my father's coins, and he was now in a home
and needed some money. One would be an 1892-O Half Eagle graded AU-55
(value between $1500-$2000). The second would be an 1916 Standing Lib
graded AU-58 (value between $4500-$5100).
Over six hours we approached 40 dealers (one of which posts here on
occasion - do you remember us?). We were lied to (10 dealers pointed
to the price of an 1892 Half Eagle on their grey sheet instead of the
New Orleans coin). 6 dealers gave us prices for the 1917 Standing
lib. What did the others do?
Almost every one asked us how much we wanted. One dealer even had
similarly grade 1916 in his case - he purposely laid several papers
over that area of the case while we chatted.
Almost every dealer undergraded these coins considerably. They used
the terms "very good" and "fine." At least 8 dealers said that they
had been cleaned. Here are the lowest and highest offers:
1892-O Half Eagle
Low offer: $250
Median offer: $650
High offer: $875
1916 Standing Lib
Low offer: $50 (offered 3 times)
Median offer: $550
High offer: $1300
Many of these dealers were good ANA members, respected, and heavy Coin
World advertisers. Not a single one of them were ethical. One
well-known dealer eyed the Standing lib for several minutes, declared
it an "extra-fine" and offered me $900.
"Are you positive about the grade?"
"Oh, yes. I've dealt with thousands of coins over the years. My
standards are very strict."
"What about grading companies?" Many of his coins were slabbed.
"They can be all over the map, but usually my grade matches theirs.
Slabbing a coin is expensive, though."
"So this coin is extra-fine, and you can give me $900 right now? How
He pretends to think about it a bit. "I think I know someone who
might take this. MMmmmmmmmmmm. Okay."
"What if I told you I know this coin is actually AU, was purchased
from B&M five years ago, and is worth over 4 grand?"
If looks would kill, I'd be dead. "Everyone is entitled to their
opinion. A coin is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for
it." He had a few other choice words then had to call someone on his
cell. This dealer was the only one we confronted.
My good friend, the law profession, paid for drinks that night - and
looked ill about our day. He agreed with me - in ANY other field what
these dealers attempted would be unethical; in many cases even
criminal fraud. One man's "caveat emptor" is another man's thievery.
And I am sick of the lot of them. I just can't stand being around an
entire crowd of people all trying to rip each other off. And
certainly not any "fun." I've switched to wine tasting.
For the record, I sent the coins back through the slabbing process -
the standing lib came even back MS-63. Lol! I sold both of them -
this time letting the dealer in LA know I knew what the coins were
actually worth. The final price:
1916 Standing Lib: $5300
1892-O Half Eagle: $1600
Oh, and why did I take such a low price on the standing lib? I was
actually offered more. Because I think the grading service messed up;
in my own eyes it is a great AU, not a poor UNC. And ethically, I
could not take more. I wonder if this dealer will discount the coin
against the grade when he sells it . . .
I find your story hard, no, impossible to believe.
The 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter was in incredible demand at the Balto ANA, and at large shows, the dealer knows you'll shop it around and generally will offer you strong dollars for a desirable coin.
In a slab by one of the two top grading companies, you'll generally receive considerably more $$ than trying to sell such coins raw as anyone in the business knows and anti-slabbers refuse to recognize. Many dealers are uncertain as to what final grade a slabbing company will put on a raw coin and
will protect themselves by offering on the low side of wholesale value, estimating worst possible case from the grading companies.
As far as the gold coin, many deceptive counterfeits abound, and even if the coin is genuine, it may have been lightly cleaned and this occurence may not be
clearly noticable on the bourse floor.
Even if a small portion of your scenario is true, I believe we have all learned
that with quality coins it PAYS to get them certified. A far as your opinion that the so-called AU standing Lib was an AU and not an unc, and then selling at less than the going price for an AU in a reputable PCGS or NGC holder stretches the limits of credulity. 2 months ago I sold an NGC graded 1916 AU-53
Standing Lib to dealer JH Cline for $7100 and he sold it fo $7800. It did NOT have a full Head and was not so designated.
End of story.
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