Finally back home, with time to look closely at this 1921-S.
The obverse is EDS. The rims are sharp and intact. The second feather rachis and calamus are complete. LIBERTY is bold. Both ribbons and the date and designer's initials are bold. Despite the early die state, there has been moderate polishing to reduce evidence of the die clashes. Note the heavy polishing lines beneath the Indian's chin (chin/EPU clash), east of the nose toward LIBERTY (LIB/right rear leg clash), and more modest polishing lines on the Indian's neck (neck/buffalo's back clash). Very few polishing lines exist near the first feather or the Indian's hair.
There are some distracting hairline surface scratches NW-SE in the Indian's hair. A few small contact marks are evident on the forehead, neck, and in the hair. The small lamination above the knot does not appear to be enough to snag an 83 body bag code from PCGS
. The light golden toning matches what is common from the old Wayte Raymond (National Coin) albums. There is possible disruption of the toning near the hair/cheek line and in the hair west of that spot.
The reverse is MDS. It has fairly strong clash marking and heavy die polishing. The first feather/buffalo's head clash is faintly evident, with signs of polishing. The chin/EPU clash has been polished, with SW-NE polishing marks through EPU and N-S polishing marks south of ICA in AMERICA. The buffalo's back has also been polished from the Indian's neck/buffalo's back clash. Both the hair on the head and on the back have been reduced by polishing. There has been very heavy polishing on the right rear leg, from the LIB/leg clash. Some NE-SW polishing marks are still visible. The tail is very weakly split, but has been abraded. The die polishing was followed by die wear, reducing evidence of the polishing, but also leaving the visual appearance of circulation contact.
The light golden toning is evident on the reverse. There appears to be weak disruption of the toning on the buffalo's hindquarter and upper shoulder. There are light surface scratches on the head and flank, and what appears to be friction scuffing on the lower horn and buffalo's ear. Very few serious contact marks exist on this coin.
Putting this all together, I see a high AU coin with a solid strike and EDS/MDS dies. The album scuffing and die polishing could be mistaken for wear. The scuffing and golden color could be mistaken for an older cleaning and retoning. I see no evidence of cleaning and retoning.
This is exactly the type of Buff that could be undergraded. I would not be shocked to see it slabbed as EF-45 or even as EF/AU Details (cleaning). IMHO, this one is a bourse floor AU-55 or AU-58. It has excellent
eye appeal. The small obverse lamination (and nascent WSW-ENE lamination across the buffalo's side) do not detract significantly from this coin.
The 1921-S is a tough critter, and a condition scarcity above VF. If this somehow has been undergraded, it would be a fantastic one to snag. If it is straight graded as MS, it's a very tough call. The hints of luster disruption and high point friction and the minor lamination(s) could be negotiating points.
In a lot of years chasing Buffs, I've only handled one truly exceptional 1921-S, and that was a sharply struck EDS/EDS MS-64. That one went well over Greysheet and sits in a longtime customer's collection today. (I don't have custody, but I do get visiting privileges.)
It's a joy to see a nice 1921-S. This is one of them.