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The problem with grading Morgans

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 Posted 06/12/2010  5:20 pm Show Profile Check SsuperDdave's eBay Listings Bookmark this topic Add SsuperDdave to your friends list Get a Link to this Message

Metalman was nice enough to lend me his famous 1888-O Morgan for imaging, and it's inspired me to post this thread. For those of you who are unaware of the coin, this 1888-O has quite possibly the weakest strike I've ever seen on a Morgan dollar. It's been debated repeatedly here in the forum, and despite Metalman's assertions that it is Uncirculated, there are those who (for obvious reasons) are unwilling to believe it's such.

Well, I have the coin in-hand as we speak, and there is no doubt in my mind that it's a Mint State coin. I've been over it minutely with my loupe, and there is no sign of rub anywhere on the coin. It has not circulated.

What do you think?





My first thought was that this was a die trial strike. However, the coin is clashed, meaning it was struck in full production. Aside that, there is nothing about the coin indicating they were trying to extend the life of a weakened die - no cracks, no broken features. Another thing - there's no real peripheral weakness to the strike. All the outside devices are fully-struck. Is it possible that these dies were more concave than others?

New Orleans Morgans are an odd lot. Generally weakly-struck, one can also find some extremely sharply-struck examples. Here's one which passed through my collection many years ago. Please accept my apologies for the image quality; this was in my earliest days of coin photography.





Even with the poor picture quality, one can see that this coin is very well-struck. Now imagine yourself to be the beginning Morgan grader, comparing these two coins. How could you possibly believe that Metalman's coin was Uncirculated? This is why you'll constantly hear me say that "Knowledge is King" in the numismatic world. I have no trouble believing the coin is Uncirculated, because experience says this is what one might expect from New Orleans.

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 Posted 06/12/2010  5:46 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Scooby Due to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Nice post SuperDave.

I can see how a newbie to Morgan's, like myself, could be mislead. The weakness in the hair, the breast feathers. However, wouldn't the luster remaining unbroken at least hint at the weak strike scenario?

Or, what else would one look at to at least consider the weak strike scenario. Other than learning which years are notorious for weak strikes (which I'm sure is the first and foremost answer).
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 Posted 06/12/2010  6:19 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add wheatguy to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Very difficult to grade, I get your point.

I'd give it a 62 though, if it had a strong strike my guess would be a 64.
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 Posted 06/12/2010  6:22 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Metalman to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Dave, I appreciate your talent with the camera, the coin has never looked better.

Some of you know that I collect O mint Morgans exclusively, while some show minor weakness none even come close to the weakness displayed by this coin.The closest I have come to this coin is a 1904-O but in that example the entire coin shows strike weakness including the peripherals which makes it remarkably different than this coin which has a very defined area of weakness on both obverse and reverse.

As far as a list of which dates are notorious for weakness, I have never been able to compile such a list the weakness which is displayed by the O mints run through the whole of the series skipping some coins within certian years ( see above example) while not affecting other coins of the same date with no particular regularity.

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 Posted 06/12/2010  6:34 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add JimR to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Wow thats a cool Morgan. I love the solitary tone spot in the left obverse field.

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 Posted 06/12/2010  7:01 pm  Show Profile Check BH1964's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add BH1964 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I'd weigh it and see if the planchet might be a touch light. Luster breaks over the area of weakness are not apparent, so it certainly looks MS. Another thought is a planchet that was warped a touch. There are many die issues that could lead to this too, so I am shifting gears and focusing elsewhere. Ultimately my guess is worn dies with low strike pressure.
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 Posted 06/12/2010  7:41 pm  Show Profile Check nlp coins's eBay Listings Check nlp coins's eCrater Listings Bookmark this reply Add nlp coins to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Great and informative post. I too have a weak struck coin(1892-O) that I bought only because they don't come through my friend's store very often. And yes I bought the holder not the coin because I didn't know if the coin was really a mint state coin. It's a PCGS MS62 so there was some comfort in the holder. The hair, ear, chest and legs are lacking of definition.



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 Posted 06/12/2010  7:51 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Metalman to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
nlp. Your coin is suprisingly close to my coin in the areas That display significant weakness, thanks for posting it, it adds to my data for the O mint coins.

but you know it really should be in the safe with its equal? ;))
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 Posted 06/12/2010  9:11 pm  Show Profile Check SsuperDdave's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add SsuperDdave to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
However, wouldn't the luster remaining unbroken at least hint at the weak strike scenario?


Yes, in-hand. I'm mostly concerned with the photographic end, as it applies to coins we see here in the forum. Luster is difficult to represent accurately in photographs - many times all we essentially have to go on is strike, even in better shots.


Quote:
I'd weigh it and see if the planchet might be a touch light.


26.68g, a tad light but I have nicely-struck Mint State Morgans which are that weight and lighter.

For me, it boils down to how New Orleans chose to run their operation. The dies were all produced in Philadelphia. Per-die average production in New Orleans, although higher than that of San Francisco and Carson City, was considerably lower than that of Philadelphia which had far fewer weak-strike problems.

I've just discovered that the National Archives branch in Philadelphia holds the US Mint records. Most of it is accessible to the public. A field trip is in order.
The best thing about a bicycle is that it uses no gasoline, therefore the chance of fiery death is greatly reduced.

Catman, Gary Burke, Bigg Fredd, coinguybrian, numismo, Johnny54321 - CCF members emeritus, now part of Heaven's Own Coin Club.

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 Posted 06/12/2010  9:11 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Darth Anarchus to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Very informative post... I knew about the weak strikes but WOW!... I had no idea they could be that weak... Great tread! Thanks!
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 Posted 06/12/2010  11:11 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add zeewool to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
Is it possible that these dies were more concave than others?


Yes Dave, it most certainly is possible, and coincidentally enough, not 30 minutes ago, I entered this as 'the' probability for heavy die clash marks in the central devices (on CBH) on the PCGS forum.

Edit----(Actually, I used the opposite (convex) notion for clashing in central devices).-----Edit


Interesting stuff Dave, and I have no doubts about what you say about condition and grading, but maybe I am missing the point somewhere. I don't understand how the comparison of two different die pairings supports a notion of a 'weak strike' theory. I can think of a few other possibilities for the appearance of the first coin pictured.
Edited by zeewool
06/12/2010 11:43 pm
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 Posted 06/12/2010  11:18 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add gopats112 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
My 1902-O



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 Posted 06/12/2010  11:25 pm  Show Profile Check echizento's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add echizento to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
With the weakness in the areas that are noted for New Orleans minted Morgans and the amount of luster, I have no doubt that this is a mint state coin. MS-63. Excellent pictures.
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 Posted 06/13/2010  12:11 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add zeewool to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Dave, I hope that you did not find my earlier post to be rude, if so, I apologize. I did not intend in any way for it to come across as such. My point was that while your coin and Metalman's coin are definitely not of the same die pairing, your assertion that the cause of the phenomena on the first coin could well be caused by an overly concave die pair is quite plausible, but this would also imply that 'both' dies were in such a state (which is highly coincidental). I might think that the expertise of the N.O. mint workers was not on par with that of the Philly guys, and possibly some crusty crud (maybe of the same nomenclature of strike through material) was not removed prior to striking. It may be interesting (and more telling) to know if this condition is either VAM or coin specific. I really think that considering the peripheral devices (dentils and lettering), that the notion of 'weak strike' can be dismissed.
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 Posted 06/13/2010  02:10 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add jeffreyice1 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
My POS 1892 O Morgan!


Edited by jeffreyice1
06/13/2010 02:12 am
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 Posted 06/13/2010  07:52 am  Show Profile Check SsuperDdave's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add SsuperDdave to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
but this would also imply that 'both' dies were in such a state (which is highly coincidental).


First, absolutely no offense taken.

Second, I wasn't trying to make such an implication; indeed, the "concave die" theory is discounted by the fact that they all originated in Philadelphia, yet only New Orleans is known for the "weak strike" syndrome. The contrasting coin I presented was to support the idea that it's a function of the people, and how they chose to run the machinery.

That, and I'm kinda thinking out loud here, more musing than educating.

The thrust of my upcoming research in Philadelphia is to see if I can find some sort of Mint correspondence which supports one theory or the other.
The best thing about a bicycle is that it uses no gasoline, therefore the chance of fiery death is greatly reduced.

Catman, Gary Burke, Bigg Fredd, coinguybrian, numismo, Johnny54321 - CCF members emeritus, now part of Heaven's Own Coin Club.

Our members sell on eBay!
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