A common question that we get is whether or not it makes sense to buy a coin certified or raw. The answer is going to vary based on what your collecting goals are. It is also a matter of individual taste, knowledge and experience. I know collectors of ancient coins who refuse to buy any coin that has been certified.
I believe that having a game plan always makes for a more pleasant collecting experience. Setting up the parameters for when you will only buy a coin slabbed or when you will only buy a coin raw will help you know what to do. There can be some grey area, but let’s try to make the best black and white line that we can.
- PRICE- Setting up a price basis is probably the easiest way to decide whether you want a raw or slabbed coin. This works for any collector level. You can be experienced or inexperienced and you can have a big bank roll or a small bank roll and it makes sense. The only thing that will change is the number. For example you may decide that you will not spend $500 on a raw coin. In that scenario you would only buy slabbed coins if the price exceeds $500. Perhaps your price point is $100 or $1000. It is up to you, but going into it knowing where you are want to be price wise will help you make a good decision.
- CONDITION – The next place to look is grade. This will most likely only apply to higher grade coins. There is no reason to buy a raw Morgan as an “MS67”. You do not want to get into the habit of using the grading companies as crutches. You want to be able to confidently grade coins yourself. However, when it comes to high grade uncirculated coins the reality is that the grading companies control the market. They determine what is a 66 and what is a 67.
- PRICE JUMP – This one may be the most flexible way of looking at the issue. If a coin has no or little price variation from one grade to the next then you most likely don’t need to buy it certified. But let’s say we are looking at a coin that in XF is $120 and in AU is $450. If the dealer has the coin priced as an AU and you are not convinced it is, then perhaps you should lay off the coin or try to work out a deal where the dealer will get it certified and you will pay the fee and pay his price if the coin comes back an AU.
- AUTHENTICITY- There are certain coins that have a higher propensity of counterfeits. This mostly encompasses rare dates and more expensive coins. So this ties into our first point about price. Not many common coins get counterfeited. At the same time you may be perfectly comfortable spending $1000 on a raw coin, but say you are looking at a Hawaii or Spanish Trail commemorative half. These are two coins that have many known counterfeit types. You may buy all the coins raw, except those two.
- GOALS- If your goal is more of an investment than a hobby then you may just want to look for certified coins. If you really prefer filling holes in a coin album, you may choose to buy only raw coins.
All these things are factors when you collect coins. They all work together. Your level of knowledge, experience, and price sensitivity will determine what you decide to do. One thing I’d like to point out again, take time to learn how to grade. Don’t let the modern coin market dictate or diminish your level of knowledge.