COIN QUIZ: HOW TO TELL IF YOU’RE AS EXPERT AS THE PROS

in Articles,For the Beginner

By SCOTT A. TRAVERS

COPYRIGHT © 1987, 2003 BY SCOTT A. TRAVERS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The coin field has had the reputation of being an easy- entry, easy-exit field. With little regulation —government, self-imposed or otherwise — that dealers are required to abide by, the coin business has grown into a multibillion- dollar industry.

What, if in an attempt at self-regulation, dealer organizations were to test dealer members on their knowledge of the field?

What if such a test could be taken by hobbyists, too?

How would you do on such a test? The following questions are based on information from 2 of my books, The Coin Collector’s Survival Manual™ and Rare Coin Investment Strategy. Knowledge of the contents of the American Numismatic Association grading guide also is required.

Just for the fun of it, let’s consider 65 percent — 13 correct answers out of 20 — a passing grade. After all, 65 (as in Mint State-65) is the big number in the coin businss nowadays when it comes to grading.

So go ahead. Give it a try!

1. A coin should be held
(A) with little care because it is so durable
(B) loosely in the palm of your hand
(C) with your thumb rubbing the portrait
(D) only by the Professional Coin Grading Service
(E) over a soft fabric, with your thumb and forefinger tightly gripping the edges of the coin

2. You should be careful when trying to insert a coin into a plexiglas-sandwich-type holder because
(A) too much pressure on the coin could cause metal loss from the edge
(B) too much pressure on the coin could cause  disruption of the coin’s light oxide coating, thus altering the coin’s appearance
(C) if you don’t put enough fingerprints on the holder, a prospective buyer actually might be able to view the coin clearly
(D) these holders are extremely fragile and break easily
(E) A, B and D

3. Some about uncirculated coins might appear to be mint state if viewed
(A) under sunlight
(B) under a tensor-type or pinpoint light source
(C) under a floodlight which increases the brilliance but decreases your ability to identify detracting marks
(D) too carefully
(E) none of the above

4. The American Numismatic Association recommends that coins be viewed under magnification of no greater than 10- power. However, before it ceased operations, the International Numismatic Society Authentication Bureau advised the public to grade coins
(A) under a stereo microscope
(B) with no magnification whatsoever
(C) using no more than 5-power
(D) using no more than 3-power
(E) either B or D, depending upon the coin series

5. Two identically graded coins, one weakly struck and the other sharply struck, do not
(A) have the same specific-gravity measurement
(B) have the same marketplace value
(C) have reeding
(D) have hairlines
(E) both A and B

6. “Proof” refers to
(A) a high grade of uncirculated
(B) a method of manufacture
(C) any coin with contrast between frosted devices and reflective fields
(D) any third-party opinion of a coin’s level of preservation
(E) all of the above

7. The third edition of Official A.N.A. Grading Standards for U.S. Coins (Western Publishing Inc., 1987) states that
(A) an MS-63 coin might reasonably be called MS-65, and the ANA Board of Governors has recognized that grading differences of fewer than four points on the 1-to-70 scale can be reasonable differences
(B) in ANA terms, “above average” is more attractive than “very pleasing”
(C) detracting marks cannot be measured, counted or otherwise mechanically assessed to arrive at an accurate grade
(D) an MS-67 coin may have three or four minuscule contact marks, with one or two in prime focal areas, and an MS-68 also may have three or four minuscule contact marks, with none in prime focal areas (an MS-69, however, may only have one or two of these marks, with none in prime focal areas)
(E) all of the above

8. A whizzed coin can be most easily identified by
(A) its natural luster
(B) its unusually low price
(C) its characteristic crudely cleaned surfaces, highly porous appearance and lack of detail
(D) its low weight
(E) the humming noise it makes

9. The easiest way to identify an about uncirculated coin is by
(A) knowing the person offering it
(B) carefully examining the rim for friction
(C) carefully examining the coin’s highest points for a difference in color
(D) looking at a coin’s low-relief portions with a 10-power magnifying glass
(E) dipping the coin in an acid-based solution

10. A coin with toning has to be examined especially carefully because
(A) the coin is probably counterfeit
(B) toning could be artificial and often covers up imperfections
(C) the toning could be unattractive
(D) the coin could be stolen
(E) peripheral patination cannot be removed with trichlorotrifluoroethane

11. A “rub” is
(A) a stolen coin
(B) a telemarketer
(C) a nick on a grade-sensitive area
(D) slight friction or wear that results from a coin’s having circulated slightly
(E) all of the above

12. The term “weak strike” refers to a coin which has been manufactured
(A) with a softening or lack of detail on the coin’s high-relief portions because the deepest areas of the die did not fill adequately as a result of insufficient pressure
(B) with a softening or loss of detail in the portions of low relief from die wear
(C) before 1855
(D) at San Francisco
(E) at West Point

13. The term “weakly struck from worn dies” refers to coins which have been manufactured
(A) with a softening or lack of detail on the coin’s high-relief portions because the deepest areas of the die not fill adequately as a result of insufficient pressure
(B) with a softening or loss of detail in the portions of low relief from die wear
(C) as business strikes, but with proof dies
(D) as restrikes
(E) all of the above

14. In order for a Franklin half dollar to be accorded the designation “full bell lines,” it must
(A) display no trace of a crack in the Liberty Bell
(B) be a proof which displays all six bell lines
(C) display all six bell lines
(D) display all seven bell lines
(E) be certified by the Professional Coin Grading Service

15. In order for a Standing Liberty quarter to be accorded the “full-head” designation, it must
(A) be a Type I which displays a full strike in the area below the neck and above the waist
(B) display a complete four leaves on the headpiece, as well as an unbroken hairline from over the forehead to the ear and ear opening
(C) display a complete three leaves on the headpiece, as well as an unbroken hairline from over the forehead to the ear and ear opening
(D) be a proof
(E) both A and B

16. Which of the following is not a sound method for use in determining whether a coin is a brilliant proof or a prooflike business strike?
(A) check the edge to determine if it appears perfectly reflective (proof) or if it has what look like many little parallel, vertical lines (business strike)
(B) check the rims to determine whether they are sharp and squared off (proof) or dull, rounded off and poorly defined (business strike)
(C) examine the depth of reflectivity to determine whether the reflective surfaces are throughout the fields (proof) or if there are patches of non-reflectivity (business strike)
(D) gently tap the coin on a hard surface to be certain it “rings true”
(E) none of the above

17. The three primary types of counterfeit coins are
(A) re-engravings, restrikes and forgeries
(B) restrikes, doubled dies and dual hubs
(C) primary restrikes, dual hubs and die strikes
(D) casts, electrolytes and die strikes
(E) casts, electrotypes and die strikes

18. If a coin is assigned a grade of MS-68/61, weakly struck, by the American Numismatic Association Certification Service, and it has PVC on its surface, what grade would it most likely be assigned by PCGS?
(A) MS-63
(B) MS-64
(C) MS-65
(D) no grade
(E) not enough information given

19. If gold is valued at $500 per troy ounce, what would be the bullion value of a Saint-Gaudens double eagle?
(A) $464.40
(B) $474.07
(C) $483.75
(D) $493.42
(E) $503.10

20. Which of the following is not a safe material in which to store coins over the long term?
(A) polyethylene terepthalate
(B) polyvinyl chloride
(C) acrylic
(D) triacetate
(E) A and D

ANSWERS: 1-E, 2-B, 3-C, 4-A, 5-B, 6-B, 7-E, 8-C, 9-C, 10-B, 11-D, 12-A, 13-B, 14-D, 15-C, 16-D, 17-E, 18-D, 19-C, 20-B

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