Q&A with John Albanese: Dipping

October 23, 2013




One of our collector members, Ankur Jetley, recently sat down with John Albanese with the hope that he could shed some light on a few numismatic topics. This is the second of nine discussion questions in the series. Keep an eye out for the rest of the responses as we post them.

Question # 5: Dipping: it has been said by some that CAC promotes dipping. Is this true? Will CAC sticker any coin that has been dipped? Again to what extent is dipping acceptable?

Actually, quite the opposite. CAC has always given the benefit of the doubt, favoring original, undipped coins. In fact, the biggest criticism of CAC coins by retail consumers is that they feel many of our coins are “ugly,” though we’ve found that for the most part, this group has been collecting for less than 10 years. What’s considered “acceptable” and “not acceptable” in terms of dipping is actually somewhat counter intuitive. For example, most experts, including CAC graders, would have no issue with a properly dipped, white, frosty MS64-66 1921-D Walking Liberty Half Dollar. Even in AU58, there wouldn’t be a problem, but as you begin to enter lower grades the problems begin to emerge. An AU50 for example, will more than likely be a problem, and XF45 and 40 examples would more than likely be offensive and fail to sticker. VF and lower grades are very offensive and should never sticker. There are 2 important points in this example: For the most part, collectors of mint state 20th century coins only purchase white or lightly toned coins. And secondly, dipped coins with substantial mint luster are not considered offensive whereas coins devoid of mint luster are usually considered to be outright hideous when dipped.

Earlier coins, even high grade examples, are not as acceptable in terms of dipping. Most collectors of early US coinage prefer original coins. CAC wouldn’t disqualify a mint state 1806 Half Dollar that was properly dipped, but it certainly wouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt. This is a topic that we grapple with constantly in the grading room. We sticker dozens of coins every day that the masses would reject due to being “too original,” but we also reject dozens of coins every day that we know the majority of inexperienced collectors would love to purchase.

Doug Winter of Doug Winter Numismatics agrees, adding:

“The point you make about market acceptability is the key, in my opinion, regarding dipping. As an example, nearly all the collectors of Morgan Dollars want nice, bright white coins. An 1892 Dollar in MS65 that is white has most likely been dipped, but the market desires this coin and as long as the coin is acceptable for the grade, I have no problems with CAC approving it. Conversely, the market for a 1795 Half Dollar in MS63 is more numismatically sophisticated (at least in theory!) and the market’s expectation of such a coin is that it should have pleasing natural color. An obviously dipped, bright white 1795 Half Dollar just doesn’t “look” right and the chances are good, unless the coin is really nice, that CAC will not approve it.

Toning does tend to be subjective but I find that CAC’s interpretation of what is pretty and what is not to be spot on.”

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