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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 8, February 19, 2006, Article 26

ON MEDAL CONDITIONS

Ron Abler writes: "I like Dick Johnson's proposal to change
the grading system for medals on the grounds that circulation
is an inappropriate criterion.  However, at the risk of taking
seriously something which Mr. Johnson may have intended to be
tongue-in-cheek, I do not agree that such a major departure
from familiar grading terms is either necessary or advisable.
I do agree that medals do not circulate in the sense that coins
do, so I heartily concur that "uncirculated" is a malapropic
term.  However, I think that "mint state" is every bit as
applicable to a medal as it is to a coin, so why not use it?
Furthermore, since medals are often larger than coins and
usually sculpted in much greater depth and detail, the quality
of the strike in a mint-state medal surely deserves all eleven
of the grades from MS 60 through 70.

In conditions less than mint state, why not continue to use
Good through Extra Fine?  Commemorative coins such as halves
were not primarily intended to circulate either, but coin-grading
standards have served us well for them so far.  As long as we
recognize that wear on medals was probably not caused by circulation,
the rub on pocket pieces and from cabinet friction manifests itself
on medals in the same manner as on coins.  So do the marks of abuse,
such as scratches, rim dings, and corrosion.  Further, it is likely
that NGC (and PCGS?) will continue to grade and slab medals using
coin-grading standards, thereby enshrining a large number of medals
in the coin-style grading system.  If we retain that system
(substituting MS, Mint State, and NMS, Nearly Mint State, for Unc
and AU, respectively), we retain decades of grading experience and
terminology without having to deal with some sort of conversion
system, such as "mellow = XF-AU" and "haggard = VG-VF."  Besides,
I'd still continue to pay more for "high-mellow" than "low-mellow."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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