Toners: You either love 'em or hate 'em, it seems. I actually like and collect nice looking toned coins—I can't afford high-value key date coins, but at least until recently, I could usually pick up nice toners for a little over market value. Watching auctions I think if I'm careful,a I can probably recoup what I paid for most of my coins if I ever need to, so it doesn't seem too emotional or frivolous to me.
Others disagree. I know people here who think it's a fad and it will eventually crash when the market gets over saturated with AT'd coins. I agree that people are AT-ing coins more and more—but what is also happening is that sellers have realized that getting the coins graded makes buyers more comfortable (also true with almost ANY coin that has a premium value, including key dates and cameos, which can also be counterfeited). I only very rarely consider buying an unslabbed toner these days—after a few unfortunate buys, I prefer to trust a more expert opinion.
The other argument I hear against toners is that the toning process continues—eventually toners aren't going to look the same way they do now. But given how long it took them to reach this point, I figure I'll be long dead before they get ugly. Meanwhile I'm betting some smart person is going to figure out how to arrest the process, and I think MAYBE getting them slabbed or putting them in a capsule at least slows it down.
In the long run, I think we're all right. I think people who are willing to pay OUTRAGEOUS premiums on toners are going to start being more moderate about that because it really has to suck to pay $10k for a $400 coin and find out it's AT'd. Also, people who pay $10k for coins are usually thinking of it as an investment, and there's just no guarantee that big-money market will be there for these coins in a few years.
But I also think eye appeal is ALWAYS going to matter, and while some folks don't love rainbow-toned coins, just as many others do. So attractive toners will probably always carry some premium.
In the long run I think TPG
's are going to have to figure out how to attach a value to toning just like they do to grade and other features. One simple suggestion would be to treat them the way we now treat PL's, DMPL's, and cameos. An unusually beautiful toner might rate the same kind of premium you'd give a DMPL Cameo, while a mostly normal-looking coin that has a nice rainbow crescent on the reverse might rate the same value as a PL.
Sorry to meander so long on this, but I thought it might be useful to have a more thorough discussion on this. I'm being opinionated here, but I am fully aware I'm still a real newbie, so if any part of my logic is flawed, please feel free to steer me straight. I'd love to "hear" others' opinions.