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Is This Byzantine Solidus Really Ch XF ?


Al Kowsky
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The most popular solidus issue of emperor Heraclius seems to be the emperor depicted with his two sons, Heraclius Constantine & Heraclonas, AD 632-641. These coins are generally very common but the obverse design depicting three full standing figures and no inscription is unusual for a coin with a small diameter. High grade examples can fetch a good price at auction. NGC is usually accurate when grading these coins, but I think they struck out on this coin being offered in CNG E-Auction, lot 741. This coin was graded Ch XF, Strike 4/5, Surface 4/5 🙄. I don't pretend to be an expert grader, but this coin looks over-graded to me. At best I'd grade this coin VF, Strike 4/5, Surface 3/5. What do fellow website members think 🤔?

1497623450_NGC4373158-014.jpg.5488b7bdeaf29905f2499e972cf999c5.jpg

For comparison I've posted two more solidi with higher grades.

1369931028_NGC4165163-025540Sep212015.jpg.6d59f7b56ebcb25ea2e9824c5177d7e7.jpg

 

556048473_NGC5872675-009.jpg.479cb485aff92d13b25142aeccb0009e.jpg

This coin sold at Heritage for $5,760.00 last December 😮!

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I think for the most part NGC seems to grade wear only and not so much anything else.  I think technically they are correct calling it XF, but only for wear.  Its poorly struck with a lot of weakness all around, perhaps partly due to die wear.  Probably right on the surface rating but the strike for me would be a 2 at the most.  We all know Byzantine coins are hard to grade due to their poor method of striking, but for me personally I'd probably give it a net grade of near VF.

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And here we see the problem with the idea of third party grading being extended from mass produced, near identical machine-made modern coins, from identically machined dies, to the realm of ancient coin collecting.  Wear is by no means as critical a determinate of desirability.  Whereas one Morgan silver dollar differs from another dependent only on bagmarks and wear, with possibly a minor contribution from die wear and strike, the grading of an ancient coin is IMO both more complex and more subjective.  

For example, the off center strike on this denarius is less important to me than the excellent (for the type) die work on the reverse.  Other collectors may have other opinions.  image.jpeg.d7c476216ae07765ebca61be76d54c41.jpegimage.jpeg.1049c761e8629d3b707039a620fa21c4.jpeg

Here are two coins from Ragusa.  How would you grade them?  One is clearly more worn, missing a chip, and mutilated with a counterstamp.  Similar wear and disfiguration of a modern coin would probably render it uncollectible.  You would have to grade it 1 out of 5 for condition, at best.  Yet a collector of medieval coins might find them equally desirable, or even prefer the counterstamped coin.  In which case, what information is conveyed by the grading process?  If it cannot rank 2 otherwise similar coins like this in desirability or market value.image.jpeg.8d7b459094cee6a4e150efdbbff146c0.jpegimage.jpeg.918aaac2218ea71fc30c27cfd49ca6a2.jpeg

Last, a five point scale is a crude yardstick, indeed.  If the solidi posted by @Al Kowsky are a 4, and a 5, what number do we assign to these?  Both 4’s, both 5’s, one a 5 and one a 5*, who knows?   Are they equally desirable?  It depends on who is looking.  image.jpeg.0ad7da7cf498f66dec9cb4d25d2fe428.jpegimage.jpeg.1a54cca37795daa59e85d1d08749d100.jpeg

I do understand there are some positive aspects of TPG, but it is better adapted to the marketplace of modern coins than to ancients. 

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I think decades ago the word "choice" meant "this a  really top-quality coin of its type" and if you had a lot of money and wanted to buy one, this one would be worth choosing and you wouldn't have to later upgrade. That is far from the case for the OP "Ch XF" coin so my old interpretation is not applicable. I can't think of an alternative meaning for "choice" that fits that coin. NGC grades many thousands of coins. For that one, that part of the grade is, in my opinion, incorrect. But, at least they didn't give it 5/5 for strike or surfaces. 

The lesson from all this is to look at the coin, not just the slab. 

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5 hours ago, TheTrachyEnjoyer said:

To Slab or Not to Slab: The Dilemma for Ancient Coin Collectors

@FrizzyAntoine  and I took a stab at this topic a while back. Sadly, my microphone wasn’t working properly when we recorded the episode…If you can get past the audio quality, I am sure you will learn something 😁

Personally I don't see a dilemma in choosing to slab coins or not to. Collectors make this choice for a variety of reasons. I have chosen to slab most of my high grade gold & silver coins & leave the large bronze coins raw. Today collectors have another factor to weigh before getting coins slabbed, the cost. You seriously have to determine if a coin is worth the expense of slabbing. When slabbing began years ago the cost was a lot less 😏.

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6 hours ago, Hrefn said:

And here we see the problem with the idea of third party grading being extended from mass produced, near identical machine-made modern coins, from identically machined dies, to the realm of ancient coin collecting.  Wear is by no means as critical a determinate of desirability.  Whereas one Morgan silver dollar differs from another dependent only on bagmarks and wear, with possibly a minor contribution from die wear and strike, the grading of an ancient coin is IMO both more complex and more subjective.  

For example, the off center strike on this denarius is less important to me than the excellent (for the type) die work on the reverse.  Other collectors may have other opinions.  image.jpeg.d7c476216ae07765ebca61be76d54c41.jpegimage.jpeg.1049c761e8629d3b707039a620fa21c4.jpeg

Here are two coins from Ragusa.  How would you grade them?  One is clearly more worn, missing a chip, and mutilated with a counterstamp.  Similar wear and disfiguration of a modern coin would probably render it uncollectible.  You would have to grade it 1 out of 5 for condition, at best.  Yet a collector of medieval coins might find them equally desirable, or even prefer the counterstamped coin.  In which case, what information is conveyed by the grading process?  If it cannot rank 2 otherwise similar coins like this in desirability or market value.image.jpeg.8d7b459094cee6a4e150efdbbff146c0.jpegimage.jpeg.918aaac2218ea71fc30c27cfd49ca6a2.jpeg

Last, a five point scale is a crude yardstick, indeed.  If the solidi posted by @Al Kowsky are a 4, and a 5, what number do we assign to these?  Both 4’s, both 5’s, one a 5 and one a 5*, who knows?   Are they equally desirable?  It depends on who is looking.  image.jpeg.0ad7da7cf498f66dec9cb4d25d2fe428.jpegimage.jpeg.1a54cca37795daa59e85d1d08749d100.jpeg

I do understand there are some positive aspects of TPG, but it is better adapted to the marketplace of modern coins than to ancients. 

Your solidi are handsome high-grade coins ☺️. If they were in my collection & hadn't been clipped they would get slabbed 😉.

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The OP coin wasn't NGC's finest hour, for sure. Calling it XF for actual wear is fine (no pun intended!)--this coin really didn't circulate much--but adding "Choice" to that strikes me (again no pun intended, lol!) as bizarre. My biggest issue though is with 4/5 for Strike, on a coin indifferently struck from far-from-new dies and with major areas virtually missing altogether due to flatness. Probably only the barely visible graffito--the least significant issue with this coin--downgraded it from a full 5/5 for Strike. @KenDorneyupthread has it right: in my world, 2/5 for strike.

Edited by Phil Davis
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