Another observation from the Long Beach show: I’d estimate that close to 90% of all United States gold coins, regardless of denomination or price level, have been “messed with” at one time. This degree of messing ranges from light old cleanings to recoloring, to application of putty or other foreign substances to hide hairlines to massive reworking of the coin’s surfaces. What this means to the average buyer of United States gold coins: a caution flag waving in his face every time he makes a purchase. Quite frankly if you are buying coins based on a sight-unseen basis or primarily through Internet-based auctions, it is inevitable that you are buying many problems coins; despite the fact that they are in PCGS or NGC holders. More than ever, it is essential for collectors to purchase coins through a knowledgeable, trustworthy dealer.
I had the chance recently to view two different sets of 20th century gold coins. Both were highly ranked in the PCGS Set Registry within their respective series. And both sets, in all honesty, were full of problem coins; the kind that, if the market stops surging upwards, are destined to show substantial drops in appreciation. I know the owners of both sets. They are nice guys but they have always been the sort of rugged individuals who have eschewed help from other dealers and “done it themselves.” You have to wonder how much better their sets might have been if they had decided to trust a dealer or two and get some help instead of arbitrarily filling holes.