Care and Condition

April 1999, Volume 36 No. 4
It never ceases to amaze us how often we come across coins and medals which have palpably suffered at the hands of their owners. We have incontrovertible proof of this, in many collectors' coins which we know to have passed straight from the mint to the customer. Knowing how very meticulous the staff of the Royal Mint and the Pobjoy Mint, for example, are in the careful handling and packaging of coins destined for the collector market, and that much of this material is despatched by mail order direct to the customer, we are left with the inescapable conclusion that some collectors spend their money solely on the acquisition of their treasures, leaving nothing for the accessories and equipment necessary for their care and maintenance.
We are constantly receiving enquiries on the subject, from people seeking advice on the proper care of coins, and therefore we propose to devote a series of articles to this thorny subject over the coming months.

At the same time, however, we will be taking a long, hard look at the even more contentious issue of grading and describing the condition of coins. When it comes to current issues, in de luxe or proof versions for the most part, distributed in cased sets or chemically inert plastic capsules, one expects that such coins will be in as pure a mint state as humanly possible.

In the secondary market, however, this is not a matter which can be taken for granted. When it comes to older material, there are so many variable and imponderable factors governing the condition of a coin that one has perforce to rely on the descriptions furnished by dealers and auctioneers when advertising or describing material offered for sale.

The fundamental problem is that any description of a coin must, to a large extent, be subjective, and interpretations of the terms in common use may vary widely from one dealer to another, or between vendor and purchaser. Furthermore, in our experience of the coin trade going back to the early 1960s, we have observed that there is a tendency for the terms to become debased over the years. There must have been a time when "Good" actually meant good - and not pretty awful! When dealers preface standard terms such as EF and VF with such adverbs as "almost" , "nearly" or "about" we are forcefully reminded of the girl who stoutly maintained that she was almost a virgin. Imperceptible shades of meaning may start out well, but inevitably give rise to imprecise understanding. One reader has counted more than 20 grades of condition in the advertisements in past issues of COIN NEWS and makes a plea for a sort of "British Standard" for the numismatic industry.

In the United States coins are graded by a number of commercial bodies made up of experts and are then encapsulated in plastic holders. This is popularly known as "slabbing", but this removes the joy of ever being able to handle the coin. In the stamp world expertising committees identify and grade stamps and issue certificates bearing a sealed photograph. But in the coin hobby the grading is inevitably left to the vendor with the purchaser having no recourse other than his own experience.

It might be a good idea if, say, representatives of the Royal Mint, the British Museum, the British Numismatics Trade Association and other relevant trade and saleroom bodies could get together and thrash out a set of criteria and appropriate terms that everyone could abide by; but we fear that, in this imperfect world, a universal code of this sort would be wellnigh impossible to devise, let alone enforce.

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In This Issue

The first monarch of the House of Tudor and His impact on the coinage.27
Bread and Circuses
Entertainment at the Circus maximus was used to control the masses. This important public building also featured on the coinage.
Main Feature33
Henry VII
The first monarch of the House of Tudor and His impact on the coinage.
George I shillings (pt.2)
Royston Norbury continues his in-depth look at the George I shilling series. ( Part 1 appeared in last month's issue )
On the fringe38
Columbia Farthings
Bob Forrest puts foward a new theory behind these mysterious tokens/medals/checkpieces
New Zealand (pt.3)
From decimalisation in 1967 to the present. New Zealands coinage has a great variety and some interesting commemoratives
Out & About45
The final resting place
The answer to one of those questions that occurs to you while lazing on a sun-drenched holiday: Where was the last place British predecimal currency was used?
Banknote feature50
The papermoney of Chile (pt.2)
Recently in the news, Chile has an interesting banknote heritage which we look at 1918 - 1960
Banknote feature54
Second impressions
The intriguing tale of an 'unofficial' print run of banknotes in South America and how it almost went undetected.
WIN a Dublin trip!
The March show in Dublin was a great success ( see news this month ). We have tickets for two and accommodation for the May Show up for grabs in our Prize Draw this month.


Coin News & Views15
Market Scene19
Market Preview22
New issues Update24
Spotlight on Celtic31
Banknote News & Views47
Price Guide58
What's on63
Letters to the Editor70
The back pages71