Three key factors determine assignment of the technical grade. These are:
||Severity, size, placement
||Dull to bright
||Poor to great
These three factors are analyzed by the grader who assigns the technical grade.
Eye appeal can have lots of meanings, but to me it simply means: "Does this coin please my eye?"
I have spent many years training my eye to consider marks, lustre and strike. When I pick up a coin, I immediately note where marks are located and how severe they are. At the same time,
I notice the lustre. This takes just a few seconds. If I still like the coin after assessing the marks and lustre, I study the strike. I ask myself, "Would I want this coin in my collection?"
Some coins are so appealing for their grade level that the answer is instant. Other coins have a certain combination of marks, lustre and strike within the grade that consideration
takes more time. If I can't make up my mind, I always pass on the coin!
Within The Grade
This concept applies to all coin series. To illustrate, let's see how it applies to Mint State Dollars.
MS-60 to MS-61. These two grades are very similar, usually found with lots of marks. Occasionally a piece in this grade range has fewer marks but very dull lustre.
Strikes on issues that come weakly struck will be noticeable at this grade level. Other possible reasons for a coin to be graded MS-60 or MS-61 include few marks but signs of cleaning, or slide
rub from an album.
At this grade level it is hard to find coins with good eye appeal. I hardly ever see a coin in this grade range with good eye appeal.
If you don't care for what this grade level has to offer, consider two alternatives -- AU-58 or MS-62.
MS-62. Marks in this grade are still quite a problem. Lustre can be inconsistent and strike may be soft.
Surprisingly, there are some nice looking coins at this level. In MS-62 occasionally I find a coin with good eye appeal. And, this grade can be a real money saver
on coins in more expensive dates, so it is worth considering. You can expect quite a hunt to find the right coin for your collection.
MS-63. Marks still predominate in MS-63, but they are becoming less noticeable as you move up to this grade. Lustre is generally good to excellent, and strike is
less of a problem. One can find quite a few nice coins at this level, especially in those coins which just miss being graded MS-64. Peace Dollars can be very nice in MS-63 and are worth looking for. This
is another money-saving grade where you also find nice-looking coins. The penchant for regrading coins (resubmitting coins to the grading service, trying to achieve the next level) makes nice pieces rather
difficult to find.
MS-64. Marks, lustre and strike become noticeably better at this level, and most collectors can readily see that MS-64 is quite a bit better than MS-63.
Many of you know that this is my favorite grade. There are some very beautiful coins in MS-64, yet there are generally substantial savings over the same coin in MS-65.
And, there are plenty of coins to choose from, allowing you generally to locate what you are looking for.
MS-65. All three components come together at this grade -- very few marks, good to excellent lustre and a good strike.
While one might expect this grade to have plenty to show for itself, I find the opposite is true. It is sometimes difficult to locate MS-65 Dollars that are obviously
better than my MS-64s. In MS-65 I frequently see coins which appear overgraded, and no better than what I consider eye appeal 9 in MS-64.
MS-66 and above. These are nearing perfection. A note of caution on these high-flying grades: there are still coins which are nice and not-so-nice for the grade.
If you are buying coins at this level, make sure that they walk, talk, whistle and dance, because that's what you are paying for!
If you are collecting grades MS-60, MS-61 or MS-62, you have to make allowances for marks and possible imperfections in lustre and strike. At MS-63, the collector may find more pieces with better
eye appeal. If great eye appeal is important to you, MS-64 and MS-65 are the better choice. Remember, don't make the mistake of wanting condition that is not possible within the grade you are collecting
-- in other words, be realistic.
A collector called me the other day wanting an extensive list of MS-63 Dollars.
The only problem was he wanted MS-63 with no marks.
Is it possible he meant to say MS-66?