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Which Coin Will Cross Over, Upgrade?
By F. Michael Fazzari

This time I want to write about “crossovers” and attempts to have the grade of a slabbed coin raised. There are many independent coin grading services; however, four of them are considered by most collectors to be the major services. Since there is evidence that the same coin will automatically assume a different commercial value depending on which major grading service encapsulated it, there is a desire to get a coin slabbed by the grading service with the “best return.” A “crossover” occurs when a coin that is authenticated and graded by one grading service is deemed to meet the criteria for the same grade at another service. Sometimes a coin sent in to cross over will receive a higher grade. This is called an upgrade. In either case, an acceptable coin is broken out of its original slab and reholdered by the other service.

Crossovers are attempted for several reasons. In addition to the financial gain, some services have a better reputation, a better guarantee, or a bigger market share. This often makes their product easier to sell. A coin that goes up a grade when it is crossed over can be very profitable for the submitter. Famous coins or ultra rarities make ideal candidates for crossovers because every service wishes to have these coins in their holders.

Major dealers and knowledgeable, experienced collectors who know the coin market have the best chances of crossing a coin from one major service to another. If you do not have the required experience, your success rate will be much less. Let me give you some insight on the process based on what I have seen at several grading services and some common sense.

The coin grading standards published in several popular guides are different. That’s because the standards adopted by the American Numismatic Association have become watered down by more recent publications and the gradeflation occurring at the grading services themselves. Therefore, there is a range for a coin’s condition in each grade depending where you look or which service you use. Each grading service, including the four majors, has its own grading standard. Experienced numismatists know this. They also have a good idea which coins stand the best chance to cross or upgrade at each service. So, don’t be surprised if your coin does not cross.

Let’s take a coin graded by a company other than a major grading service. I’ll call the company’s slab “Brand X.” A majority of these coins will not cross because, in many cases, they were overgraded in the first place. Besides, what does it say if the number one or number two grading service crosses a Brand X coin grade for grade? That would imply that the services are equal and have equal grading standards. The major services do not wish to give the lesser known services (or even each other) any credibility. That’s why crossovers from Brand X slabs rarely happen. Since many customers realize this may be a possibility, they provide a minimum grade they will accept if the coin does not cross at its original grade. Sometimes the owner will accept any grade just to have his coin in a “better” slab. Nice coins graded by a major service stand a better chance of crossing because each coin removed from a competitor’s slab is one less in the market. Incidentally, one grading service I worked at added the pedigree from the previous major service on its slab label when crossing a coin to give their slab more clout.

Behind closed doors, each grading service tends to disparage the product of the others; yet examples of coins that are overgraded and undergraded can be found for every grading service. When trying to get a crossover or upgrade, I recommend that you remove the coin from its original slab before you send it in to be graded. This will insure a fresh shot. That’s because one of the weasel ways to reject a coin for crossover is to find a problem with it. Most of the time, this involves some degree of cleaning. Service A will condemn a coin slabbed by service B because it is cleaned even though worse coins can be found in their slabs with a straight grade as “market acceptable.” An interesting example of this situation occurred a while back. A customer tried to cross a coin slabbed by a major service at two of the other major services. Both services said the coin was cleaned and would not cross it. A computer check revealed that both the senior grader and the senior finalizer who now rejected the coin at one of the services had been the two who graded, approved, and slabbed the coin as market acceptable in the first place.

Be extremely careful when looking for coins that will upgrade. When you remove a coin from its holder before sending it in, you will have no recourse if you find problems that you missed or the grading service ignored. Recently, we received a quarter eagle for upgrade that was slabbed by a major service. I always cover the grade with my thumb before I examine a slabbed coin. Then I will not be influenced by their grade on the holder. It’s an exercise I recommend that all my students try to sharpen their grading eye. The coin looked 63+ to my eye and I then talked myself into an initial grade of MS-64 because of its blazing full original luster. I figured that the other grading service had also graded the coin MS-64. When I removed my thumb and read the label, the coin was graded MS-62. I thought this customer is going to get a big gift when his coin goes up two grades. As I placed the coin under my scope to check its authenticity, I noticed a large scratch hidden in the Indian’s headdress. No upgrade. That’s why the grading service had dropped the grade of a blazing uncirculated quarter eagle with full mint luster and no rub. If that coin had been submitted to us out of the holder, it would have been returned as uncirculated, scratched obverse.

 



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