AoC Market Report: The Price of Toning

This coin has spectacular, radiant toning that is unique and beautiful. For the purpose of this article, we rate it 8/10. The reverse of this coin, like so many, only rates a 1/10 as it is untoned (but still eye appealing and beautiful).
This coin has spectacular, radiant toning that is unique and beautiful. For the purpose of this article, we rate it 8/10. The reverse of this coin, like so many, only rates a 1/10 as it is untoned (but still eye appealing and beautiful).

A quick aside about the general numismatic market: things are definitely improving. Between crypto and the stock market both getting shaky, it seems like, as of January 2019, the coin market is much healthier than it has been. Whether it continues this way or not is another discussion. Without further ado, back to your regularly scheduled programming:

This was a big one. We took some time to try to figure out the value of toning. It took a lot of work.

Unfortunately, there was not a satisfying exact correlation between the beauty of toning and the auction price of that coin. But, there were some interesting things that we were able to glean for you.

For us, this coin is absolutely beautiful. The toning, eh, not so much. It's not ugly, but it's not super appealing to most of us here. The colors are lovely, but splotchy and uneven. We rate it a 2/10 for this article.
For us, this coin is absolutely beautiful. The toning, eh, not so much. It’s not ugly, but it’s not super appealing to most of us here. The colors are lovely, but splotchy and uneven. We rate it a 2/10 for this article. Our goal here is to show you how we came to the conclusions we came to. You’re welcome to disagree (completely) with our assessment. In fact, if you do, that proves the outcome of the article. But we had to come up with some sort of scientific basis to quantify an absolutely subjective assessment. So here, we show you how we rated toning without regard to the eye appeal of the coin beneath. These example coins should give you an idea of the ratings we used for over the 50 coins in our table.

We looked at straight-graded Mint State 65 1881-S Morgan Dollars sold at all of the major auction houses for the past couple of years. We also looked at “+” coins, CAC coins, and “*” coins. Coins with special grading characteristics as described above typically did better than coins without, regardless of beauty of their toning. Just as you’d expect.

This coin is a spectacular Mint State 68. But setting aside the astonishing eye appeal of the coin and its orange peel luster, the toning, to us, rated about a 3/10. Feel free to disagree.
This coin is a spectacular Mint State 68. But setting aside the astonishing eye appeal of the coin and its orange peel luster, the toning, to us, rated about a 3/10. For us, it’s very pretty, but not spectacular or uncommon. Feel free to disagree.

But there’s one major caveat in our study you need to understand before we progress. Appreciation of toning is a completely personal thing. I might rate one obverse at 2 out of 10 for beauty of toning, whereas my colleague here might rate it a 3. Or a 1. Or a 5.

But, we had to start somewhere. So we rated each side of each of many, many MS-65 ’81-S Morgans for the beauty of their coin toning on a scale of 1 to 10. We kept track of those scores, and also kept track of the average of the obverse and reverse scores to see what we could find.

This coin is gorgeous! The colors are lovely, though not uniformly vibrant. We rated this coin 4/10, but you wouldn't be wrong if you were to disagree.
This coin is gorgeous! The colors are lovely, though not uniformly vibrant. We rated this coin 4/10, but you aren’t be wrong to disagree.

First, a coin’s spectacular obverse toning lead to the highest auction prices. No surprise here.

Spectacular reverse toning did not. That is a bit of a surprise.

Coins with excellent average toning scores got higher sales prices, but the obverse toning is definitely the driver.

Coins with spectacular obverse toning (coins we rated 8 or higher) received upwards of 1000% the price of coins with no toning (coins we rated 0 or 1/10). But there was not a lovely linear correlation down our scoring scale.

This coin has beautiful, deep toning. The colors are dark and mature and have a lovely shape. For this article, we rate this coin a 5/10 as there it's a bit blotchy and we really prefer radiant coins. It's very beautiful and if you disagree, nobody here will blame you.
This coin has beautiful, deep toning. The colors are dark and mature and have a lovely shape. For this article, we rate this coin a 5/10 as there it’s a bit blotchy and we really prefer radiant coins. It’s very, very beautiful and if you disagree, nobody here will blame you. But we’ve seen it before.

There was a large jump from coins selling for 800% of untoned coins down to 500%. Coins with obverse toning scores of 5 or greater typically brought between 200% and 400% of untoned coins. Coins with obverse toning scores of 1 to 4 typically brought between 100% and 200% that of untoned coins.

Somewhat surprising (to us), coins with average toning scores of 3 and higher brought anywhere from 100% to 1000% value. In other words, all over the scale. Most coins with an average score of 3 brought between 150% and 400% of coins with no toning, but again, no direct correlation between score and sale prices. The data is fuzzy.

More surprising to us, coins with high reverse toning scores bore no correlation whatsoever to value. Coins with only spectacular reverse toning brought prices throughout the entire spectrum. In fact, the coin with the most beautiful reverse toning only brought a price of under 200% that of a coin with no toning at all.

Now this is a commercially viable toning! It's beautiful and vibrant and shows of the luster in the coin's strike. We feel this coin is very appealing to most collectors, so we rate is 7/10.
Now this is a commercially viable toning! It’s beautiful and vibrant and shows of the luster in the coin’s strike. We feel this coin is very appealing to most collectors, so we rate is 7/10.

So what’s the takeaway from all of this? It’s actually very simple.

The price of toning is largely personal, and very difficult to assign a value or percentage premium to. You have to look at the overall eye appeal of the coin. If a collector is attempting to assemble a matched toning set, they will pay big prices for obverse toning to match their set. However, while beautifully toned coins bring a premium over untoned coins of the same grade, it is very difficult to assign a generic value to that eye appeal.

2 Comments

    • Academy of Coins© Staff

      Reply

      Hello!

      Please use our website https://PriceThatCoin.com for fast, low-cost appraisals. The same people that run this website, the Academy of Coins© run PriceThatCoin.com. Good to hear from you!

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