Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection
Authors: Scott Travers & John W. Dannreuther
Bottom Line Summary
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Remarkable reference on coin grading. All
crucial aspects of
determining a coin's grade are explored, presented in clear and concise
language. Nearly half of the book is consumed describing vital
information for grading individual series of US coins. Official Guide
to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection also provides tips on how to
spot fakes. The overall rating is held back, due to a large number of
black and white photos that fail to adequately spotlight the
imperfections pointed out by the authors. Still, we believe this is the
most valuable book available today on the topic of coin grading, well
worth the NEW price of under $10 at Amazon
The Publisher Says This...
"This is the second edition of an indispensable reference work for all
numismatists. Included in this work are precise descriptions and
digital images of grading standards used by PCGS (Professional Coin
Grading Service) graders. Each series of US coins is described in
detail. Also included is an all-new section on grading the U.S. State
Quarters. Other chapters provide the fundamentals of counterfeit
detection and side-by-side comparisons of oft-faked coins. Tips for
handling and storing your collection, and recognizing "doctored" coins
fill other chapters. 416 pages, softbound."
... but here's
what we think:
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- The Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) assembled the
numismatic grading experts required to produce Official Guide to Coin
Grading and Counterfeit Detection. It is indeed a marvelous work. In
1986, PCGS was one of the first (some will say THE first) to pioneer
the concept of a third party (i.e. neither a buyer or seller of coins)
grading service. That they remain in business today at the pinnacle of
the coin grading business bears strong witness to the credibility of
Official Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection.
- The primary objective of Official Guide to Coin Grading and
Counterfeit Detection is to publish a detailed account of coin grading
standards. The process of grading a coin and the techniques and nuances
employed in doing so are demystified. Also, strong emphasis placed on
spotting phony coins (counterfeits, alterations, etc.).
- The attributes of coin grading -- marks, luster, strike,
toning, and eye appeal -- and other factors are introduced
superficially in Chapter 1. Subsequent chapters go on to closely
examine these attributes. Every conceivable term associated with the
art (or science?) of coin grading is explained in clear, concise
- The steps a coin passes through upon entering the PCGS
grading process are detailed. The universally respected PCGS grading
standards, based on the traditional 70 point scale, are outlined. For
instance, the differences between an MS-63 and MS-64 coins are spelled
out, in terms of marks, strike, luster, and eye appeal. In one of many
achievements, Official Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection
lifts the fog on one point differences separating Mint State coins.
- Unfortunately, not many good photos accompany the excellent
written descriptions, and many of those that do fail to demonstrate the
conditions the PCGS authors are attempting to call attention to. Good
photos are central to the content of grading manuals, and because
Official Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection stumbles
somewhat here, we can't award a Five-Star Content rating to this
otherwise deserving reference. For instance, the photos on page 12,
presented to illustrate the result of toning, do very little to convey
the message The photos accompanying the grading standard descriptions
(especially the Mint State stuff) are only marginally helpful.
- Very fine section describing the various elements entering
into a coin's grade, and how these elements arrive at a composite
score. The interrelationship of these factors are complicated, but
Official Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection does a superb
job dissecting each component, evaluating their impact on overall
grade. Very comprehensive, but not tedious or boring.
- The heartbeat of the book is the grading guidelines for
individual coin series, from half cents through double eagles and
commemoratives. This includes an all-new section on the 50 state
quarter program. The framework for the guidelines are expressed in
terms of wear characteristics for circulated coins, and for Mint State
examples, the familiar marks, luster, strike, and eye appeal come into
play. Things to be on the watch for while grading Proofs are likewise
presented. This portion of the book is comprised of 200 pages (about
48% of the entire book).
- Every coin type and metallic composition require unique
approaches to grading, and Official Guide to Coin Grading and
Counterfeit Detection does the best job I've ever seen to describe all
these crucial grade determinants. Many years of valuable grading
experience are condensed into the pages of this book.
- The book is topped off by an 86 page section instructing
readers on how to recognize counterfeits and alterations. All the old
tricks are laid bare, exposed for all to see through magnified photos
of genuine and fake coins. Here, the photos achieve their intended
effect. Little escapes the gaze of PCGS experts.
- Since the first edition of Official Guide to Coin Grading
and Counterfeit Detection was published in 1997, the book has risen to
become one of the most consulted numismatic references in the world (to
wit, the relatively high ranking on Amazon). The second edition,
published in 2004, is basically a compact retooling effort of the
first, to facilitate ease of transportation (as in coin shows).
- After sifting through the pages of the ANA's copy of
Official Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection, I decided
this is one publication worthy of inclusion in my personal numismatic
library. The book's promoters boast that if a coin collector can afford
to purchase only one numismatic publication, then this should be it.
Given the criticality of grading and the high value of Official Guide
to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection, this claim has some
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- The Table of Contents specifies the book's contents
concisely and effectively. Descriptive chapter titles with sub headings
allow the reader to spend only a minute or two to reasonably comprehend
the breadth of the material. The Index is equally useful.
- Two print columns per page. Topics easily demarcated by
larger, bold headings. You won't get cross-eyed when you dive into this
- A 16 page center section, printed on glossy coated paper
stock, displays excellent color photos. Some of the photos were taken
under high magnification, utilizing superimposed arrows to highlight
described imperfections. These are highly conducive to understanding
the techniques of coin grading experts. Official Guide to Coin Grading
and Counterfeit Detection would have earned a Five-Star SPR rating had
more photos of this quality been included.
- Overall the Style, Presentation, and Readability of
Official Guide to Coin Grading and Counterfeit Detection rate very
high. It is a superbly crafted reference.