VII. Learning to Grade
I have seen people spend millions of dollars on rare coins without having the slightest idea how to grade. They put their complete trust in dealers and in third-party grading. Frankly, this attitude leaves me baffled. If I do not feel very comfortable grading a specific type of coin, I do not buy it. As an example, I think Indian Head half eagles are extremely hard to grade. To be totally honest, I can't grade the damn things. My solution? I don't buy them. By the same token, I feel that I am a world-class grader of Liberty Head half eagles. So I buy a lot of them. There are some simple rules when it comes to grading. First--and foremost--you need to view as many coins as possible. I would recommend that you attend shows and auctions and carefully look at coins. Secondly, I would take one of the grading classes offered by the American Numismatic Association at their annual Summer Seminars. Thirdly, I would make the decision to specialize, so that you have fewer types of coins to learn to grade. Fourthly, I would try to learn grading tips from the dealer(s) that I buy the majority of my coins from. Finally, I would always remember that while third-party grading is a great safety net for the beginner, there is nothing like your own knowledge.