Why You Should Use a Coin Grading Service

Coin collecting is a very popular hobby. Therefore, the marketing of coins has expanded to meet the demand, which in turn has caused the market prices of coins to vary a lot more than they used to.

It used to be that the coin market consisted of a few collectors and dealers. Therefore, pricing was simpler. But as the market grew, dealers became very inconsistent with their pricing. This brought about the need for a standardized scale, and coin grading services were born.

Coin grading services allow for the adoption of standard practices and pricing levels. A collector who looks at the huge market of coins will recognize the importance of these services. Unscrupulous dealers may over-grade their coins, and a grading service provides a needed third-party assessment which serves as a guard against this type of thing.

A coin grading service will have a standard scale for every coin that’s on the market. The scale for a coin depends on its origin, age, quality, and the purpose of its release. Grading by these services allows coins to be assessed fairly.

Coin collectors need to use a grading service when buying a coin in order to check on the coin’s authenticity and whether the price is a fair one. Sellers also use the grading service. Coin dealers and other sellers need to know if they can ask a high enough price for the coin. Sellers also need to know that their prices are within the market’s range, and not too high or low.

Coin values usually change over time. The coin grading service will continually update its pricing for coins based on current market conditions. They will also determine if a particular coin’s value has gone down due to things like deterioration or damage.

Some credible coin grading services are PCGS, PCI, Anacs and NGC. These services have good track records and are known for providing accurate, consistent gradings. They seldom (maybe never) have been reported to be over-grading. They are also known for being experts at authentication. They are good at finding marks or problems with coins, both from damage and from fraud involving things like changing a coin’s date and/or mint mark. They can also tell if a coin has been altered by honest attempts to improve a coin’s appearance (often made by ignorant coin collectors) like toning or improper cleaning.

Reputable coin grading services also offer guarantees. They guarantee that a coin is authentic (if they originally said it was. Obviously if they said it was counterfeit, this part does not apply!). They also guarantee the grade they give a coin. Dealers, on the other hand, will give you their opinion of a coin, but cannot guarantee a grade.

Coin grading services provide guarantees of their grades, and unlike dealers, they do not provide this benefit. Dealers are only able to provide opinions on grades; they are unable to guarantee them.

When dealing in high-cost or rare coins, it’s definitely worth it to hire a grading service. Of course, you need to check the credibility of the service you’re looking at using. You can check the internet to find reports on coin grading companies, and if you’re part of a coin-collecting club, asking the most reputable members which companies they use and their experiences with them.

February 7, 2012
Posted in Precious Stones and Metals — Knowledge Buff @ 4:13 PM

Scams and Tricks to Watch Out For When Buying Diamonds

When buying diamonds, there are a lot of scams to watch out for. Most of the scams are minor, but there are also major ones which rear their heads from time to time. Scams occur because most people who buy diamonds don’t know a lot about them. Therefore, they are easily fooled, and this fact attracts the less-than-scrupulous as well as outright crooks.

A common “scam” most jewelry stores like to do is list the weight of a piece of jewelry by “total carat weight.” This is done to make the prospective buyer think they’re getting something more valuable than they are. Many people will mentally misfigure the size of the jewelry’s main stone. Ask the jeweler to give you the weight of the center stone alone, as well as the total carat weight of the piece. Also beware of the use of fractions. Jewelers are allowed to round fractional figures. So if one tells you you’re looking at a ¾ carat diamond, it is probably closer to ¾ than it is to ½, but not quite ¾.

Jewelry stores also will give you spin about a diamond’s “fluorescence.” Some consider this to be a scam, and if done wrong, it can qualify. But this is more of a kind of spin to watch out for. For this one, the stores will refer to a diamond’s color or fluorescence as if it’s something special. For instance, they may say it’s a “blue-white diamond” like that’s a good thing—letting you jump to the (wrong) conclusion that it actually is good. Those new to buying diamonds can then jump to the conclusion that it actually is, when in reality, a blue-white diamond is actually a lesser-quality stone.

Another thing stores of all types like to do is show their wares in super-bright light. But jewelry stores are often even brighter yet. This is because diamonds shine great when they are being blasted with lights! Ask to see the diamond in less-bright conditions to see it more like how it’ll really look when worn.

Some unscrupulous jewelers give a low appraisal on diamonds which people admit they got as gifts or bought elsewhere. They may try to tell you the diamond isn’t worth as much as it is, or even that it’s completely worthless. Then they offer to “take if off your hands” and “let you” trade up to their supposedly better rock. This offer will then require you to part with some cash to make up the supposed difference. Get several different jewelers’ opinions before taking any action. Four opinions is not too many.

One really dirty trick is to switch the diamond you bought with one of lesser quality (and therefore lesser value) when you leave it with him to be set into jewelry. They can also pull this when you leave a ring to be sized. To try to avoid this, use a trustworthy dealer. Once you find one you can trust, stick with them.

These are just a few of the scams jewelry stores pull on unsuspecting customers. Use your best judgment, and make sure to buy diamonds with full care and consideration.

Posted in Precious Stones and Metals — Knowledge Buff @ 4:11 PM

How to Spot Counterfeit Coins

If you’re a coin collector, the possibility of having a counterfeit foisted off on you is something you have to watch out for, especially with rare coins.

Those who make counterfeit coins are well-trained and can manipulate the duplication well. They especially concentrate on coins which are rare, and therefore have high value to collectors. The most common method is simply to pour molten metal into molds, but this leaves die marks on the coin. A smart counterfeiter, though, will try to keep these obvious signs hidden.

Experts in counterfeit detection also look for changes to authentic coins. Sometimes phony marks are added, or the date on the coin is changed. For other coins, crooks will remove marks.

Here are some things an average person can do to try to spot a counterfeit coin. Keep in mind that in some cases, a forgery is good enough that only an expert can spot it.

If the coin’s face value is more than 5c, look for the outer edge to be corrugated. Properly known as reeding, these bumps should be distinct and even. There is also very thin edge detail on a genuine coin. Counterfeits sometimes have thicker edges or botched-up reeding which is uneven or missing. This type of error is not the same as simple circulation damage, and may not be obvious. Try a hand lens if you can’t make out the details with your unaided eyes.

For some fakes, an expert will need to be consulted. A coin grading service can tell with such surety that they will put a guarantee on coins they believe are legitimate. Of course, if someone is trying to pass a forged coin off on you, he/she will probably have a forged certificate, too. Therefore you would need to use your own grading service to be sure.

An ordinary person, however, can easily spot goofs like using the wrong metal for the coin, bad die-making, obvious die marks, and other things like that. Collectors especially need to be aware of counterfeit coins, but sometimes, forgers will try to use their fake coins as regular money and put them into general circulation. Counterfeiters of collectible coins will generally concentrate on those that are rare enough to make them a good profit.

If someone gets a coin they highly suspect (or know for sure) is counterfeit, they should not give the coin back. Rather, he should try to get as many details about the suspect as possible. Do your best to remember the passer’s physical appearance, type of car, and the rest of the obvious details cops would ask for. Try to stall the person if you safely can, and when you get a chance, call the police or (if in the US) the Secret Service. The police are a better bet since there’s probably a station within a few miles of you, or even closer. Keep your safety in mind: Don’t freak out and yell “I’m callin’ the cops!” or otherwise give a crook a motivation for violence. If you don’t feel safe trying to directly interfere with the suspect, then just make up some reason to not buy the coin (still try not to admit you know it’s a fake), go ahead and give it back, and let the police worry about tracking the crook down later.

Posted in Precious Stones and Metals — Knowledge Buff @ 4:09 PM

The Benefits of Using a Coin Dealer

Coin collecting is probably one of the world’s oldest hobbies, dating back to 2500 BC. Coin collecting is a lot more popular in modern times than it was back then, because now it’s a lot easier to collect coins from many different countries.

If a person decides to sell or trade off some of the coins from their collection, they need to know the value. Looking in coin catalogs or price guides can give a general idea of the going rate, but many people will end up in a coin dealer’s shop when it comes down to it.

There are a lot of coin dealers in most areas. If a town is too small to have its own dealer, the nearest city probably has some. Asking at a local coin club can get you some referrals. You can also ask around at a coin auction or exhibit. Experienced coin collectors like to go to these events to find more coins for their own collections. Those who have been doing it for a while almost certainly know of some trusted coin dealers.

To make sure a dealer’s offering a good price, getting second and third opinions is a good idea. If you can’t get any to offer what you think is a good price, it may be better to just wait. The value of any collectible is highly dependent on supply and demand. Once some of the other coins of the same type as yours have been bought up (thereby removing them from the supply side), the price will usually go up.

Some believe that it’s a bad idea to sell to a coin dealer. They think the dealer will give a lowball price in order to increase their own profit. But, there are ways to help ensure that the coin dealer will offer a fair price. Also, coin dealers, since they make many transactions, may be more able to afford a better price than some individual who scrimped and saved to hope to get a single collectible coin.

To avoid scammy dealers, look for one who’s a member of the Professional Numismatist’s Guild. This is an organization which includes the world’s renowned collectors of both coins and paper currency. There are strict rules members have to follow in order to remain in good standing, so if a dealer is a member, it’s a pretty good bet that he or she will be honest.

Coin dealers, of course, also sell coins. If they know you have an interest in a certain type of coin, they’ll let you know if they have one. Dealers don’t limit themselves to standard buying and selling, either. They are also open to trades and barter. If you get to know your coin dealer, he’ll be able to offer you deals tailor-made for you.

There is the potential to make money by trading coins even if you start with just a few items. If you know where to find the rare coins, get the experience needed to know when to hold and when to sell, and make sure to do business with a reputable dealer, you have a good chance of making a profit.

Posted in Precious Stones and Metals — Knowledge Buff @ 3:59 PM

How To Clean Your Diamonds

Diamonds get smudges and collect dirt just from being worn. Skin oil, soap, lotion, and the like can put a film over diamonds worn on the hands. And when they’re not worn, they can collect dust. Over time, this can dull the diamonds.

To keep the diamonds’ original brilliance, they need to be cleaned. It only takes a few minutes to clean diamonds, and this will keep them as bright and shiny as when they were first cut.

Since most diamonds used in jewelry are small in relation to the size of other stones, they require tiny cleaning tools. An eyebrow brush is recommended to brush off the grime. Make some sudsy water, and put your diamonds in the bowl. Make sure to use some kind of soup or mixing bowl, rather than the sink, to prevent them from being accidentally washed down the drain. While they are in the soapsuds, use the soft little brush to scrub them down. The brush needs to be soft, not only to protect the diamond, but the much-softer metal of the jewelry it’s set in.

You will need to rinse off your jewelry when done. If you’re leery about the possibility of losing it to the drain, use something like a tea strainer to hold it. Then pat your jewelry dry with a polishing cloth.

If your diamonds need more cleaning than that, you can soak them in a solution of 50/50 ammonia and water. Soak them for half an hour, then remove and brush them and their mountings with the eyebrow brush. Then put them back in the solution and give them a final swish before patting dry with the lint-free cloth.

If mixing soap or ammonia sounds like a hassle to you, you can get pre-made cleaners from jewelers or department stores. Most come as a kit with a brush and cloth. Read the labels to make sure to get the right kind for your particular jewelry and for the usage instructions for that particular product.

If you like technology, you may want to get an ultrasonic cleaning machine. These cleaners use high-frequency sound to drive the dirt from jewelry. They all have their specifics, so be sure to read the directions that come with your particular machine.

It’s up to you which cleaning method you use for diamonds. But cleaning is a must in order to keep diamonds and other jewelry bright and sparkling. There is no point in having a high-brilliance diamond if its shine is going to be covered in a dirty film! To keep your diamonds clean longer, avoid touching them with your fingers. Handle by the edges, or better yet, by the edges of the mountings. This will keep your fingerprints and skin oil off the face of the diamond so it will show its brilliance for a longer time between cleanings.

February 5, 2012
Posted in Precious Stones and Metals — Knowledge Buff @ 8:09 PM

About Colored Diamonds

Colored diamonds are extremely popular nowadays. This is because gemologists have developed ways to make them much more affordable. Diamonds which are naturally colored are extremely rare and extremely expensive, but now it is possible to apply color to diamonds. This type of colored diamond is much more attainable.

To make a colored diamond, gemologists start with a natural mined diamond of non-top quality. These less-desirable (and less expensive!) diamonds are then irradiated. The irradiation treatment is followed by an intense heat treatment. This turns “off-color” yellowish or brownish diamonds into ones with beautiful colors, while retaining the higher affordability of diamonds which were considered imperfect. The colors which can be intentionally produced include green, red, blue, purple, and others. The applied colors are generally permanent, but if they are subjected to high heat, for instance during a jewelry repair, they can change color.

When buying a colored diamond, be mindful of the price. If it’s affordable (for a diamond), you can be sure it’s been colored in the lab. Even if it’s as expensive as would be expected for a naturally-colored one, be sure to ask about its origin and ask to view a certificate of authenticity. Even if the price is where you’d expect it to be (more for natural, a lot less for lab-colored), you should ask to see the certificate, to help make sure it’s a real diamond at all.

Speaking of real diamonds, you can get diamonds which were made 100% in the lab. These are real diamonds in terms of chemical composition—unlike cubic zirconia and other faux diamonds–but were made by applying extreme pressure to them in a lab or factory. Since they didn’t have to be discovered and then dug out of a mine, they are a lot cheaper than natural ones. Imperfections aren’t the problem with these diamonds. In fact, it has been said that those experienced in looking at diamonds can spot them because they’re too perfect.

The natural fancy color diamonds have various trace elements incorporated within them. Nitrogen present in a stone makes for a yellow diamond. Radiation exposure while in the earth will also color a diamond. Green is one of the colors which naturally results from this.

“Inclusions” also can naturally color a diamond. When a colorless diamond is desired, inclusions are considered a flaw. But in a fancy colored diamond, they are good. They give the diamond unique color tones and flashes of color.

The most famous diamonds are actually fancy colored diamonds. The Tiffany Diamond is yellow, and the Hope Diamond is blue. Natural color diamonds are a great investment for those who can afford to make it. The value of color diamonds has not decreased at the wholesale level in over 30 years.

Posted in Precious Stones and Metals — Knowledge Buff @ 8:07 PM