What Exactly is a Fresh Coin?

November 15, 2017 – You hear us throw around the adjective fresh when describing a coin.  So often, in this trade we use terminology that only other dealers understand. It has dawned on us that many of you may not know exactly what we mean by fresh, so elaboration is probably in order. Fresh, when referring to a coin, can describe either provenance or the physical coin itself.  A fresh provenance would refer to a coin(s) that has been off of the market usually a decade or more. It precludes coins that have been in auction, shopped around the marketplace or otherwise offered, as well as dormant coins from a dealer/collector inventory. Fresh provenance usually insinuates that the coin is emanating from a collector, vest pocket dealer or small shop, rather than a higher-profile numismatic entity. Fresh, when referring to the physical properties of the coin, has more to do with originality. One of the sad truths of the coin hobby is that many coins have been altered from their original state in some way. Methods of alteration can include dipping, cleaning, tooling or smoothing the coin’s surface, just to name a few. One of the great misnomers is that an altered coin never gets encapsulated by either PCGS or NGC. This is not necessarily true. Both services have a threshold of what type of alterations are permissive. As most of you probably know, dipping is a good example of a permissive alteration. If a mint state silver coin is dipped properly and then rinsed thoroughly, most collectors (and generally, both grading services) do not view this procedure detrimentally. If however, the coin is over-dipped or not rinsed properly, where the luster appears burnt or the surfaces are stained, the coin is viewed in a much different light. But, here is the important distinction. In both cases, whether dipped properly or improperly, and irrespective of the grading services opinion, the coin in question is NOT fresh. To qualify as a fresh coin, the subject must be in some state of natural evolution on how it left the minting facility. In other words, a fresh coin is a natural and wholesome coin that has not been subject to any alterations apart from the normal course of nature. A fresh circulated coin may show honest wear, but would have the natural surface color commiserate with its respective grade. A fresh mint state coin may exhibit bag marks and minting imperfections, but would also have full and unobstructed mint luster with no evidence of hairlines or other mishandling. There is a saying, It is only original once. This absolutely applies to collectible coins, and originality is the key component of fresh. So to review, fresh can either apply to where the coin came from, the physical properties of the coin itself, or both. The next time that you hear one of us make an inference to fresh coins, hopefully now, you will have a better idea of what exactly we are talking about.