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THE GRADING SERVICES
"Apparent"; "Net" What do they really mean?
Yes, there remain some of us "old geezers" who were around a long, long time before the Grading services made their appearance upon the scene. A few good friends come to mind - Crutchfield Williams, Hugh Shull, John Rowe, Don Fisher, Greg Ton, Steve Bales and far too many others to name here.
Prior to the appearance of the Grading Services relative to grading Confederate Treasury Notes, Obsoletes, Southern States, Scrip and all other manner of items they grade; we frequently utilized an "old saying" when it came to a rare note. That old saying was; "You grade the second one". Obviously, this was applicable to notes which were not easily obtainable and very rare. One might only have a single chance to acquire a given piece, so a collector acquired the note even though it had issues or problems; as we say. The internet has changed much and has actually increased the number of notes which may be viewed by collectors. Unless a collector had a nearby friend who also collected the same material, an individual absolutely had to attend a show to view any of the particular notes one might collect. The days of actually having to attend a paper money/coin show to actually view this material are no more. In this day and time, many venues offer high resolution scans of the material they offer for sale, thus eliminating the absolute need for a collector to attend each and every show they can. I think it is a good idea for collectors to attend some shows; as there is no substitute for the opportunity to hold the material in your hands and actually view it in person. Further, relationships with dealers are established and attending a show is a lot of fun.
Back to the use and interpretation of the word "Apparent" or "Net; hereinafter referred to as "Apparent/Net". These words can mean many, many different things. Of the two leading grading services, one uses the word "Apparent" and one uses the word "Net". I have received more than one e-mail from a collector which states they want no note; no matter what it is, which has the words "Apparent/Net" upon the holder. This is all well and good and I respect that. Such a qualifier would eliminate an otherwise Choice Uncirculated CSA T-35 or Indian Princess which happened to have a 1/16 edge split in it. Of course, no T-35 exists that is Choice Uncirculated. Before taking this approach to graded notes, I strongly suggest that one think about what the above statement means. A graded note may be assigned the word "Apparent"/Net" for a myriad of reasons. We must also consider what type of note and how rare it is prior to a proper analysis. A tiny edge split found upon a unique note from Jasper, GA will conjure up the word "Apparent/Net". Does one really expect to locate such a rarity in perfect condition? Even the most common note is indeed a miracle of survival. Excessively rare notes are certainly no exception and one is extremely fortunate to encounter an example at all, much less an example without some sort of so called "problem". When discussing common to semi common CSA or obsoletes which are not that difficult to acquire, I can readily understand and recommend avoiding problem notes.
Most advanced collectors of a particular series or type are not concerned if a grading service holder bears the words "Apparent/Net" upon a rare piece. Of course, this depends upon why the note was assigned an "Apparent/Net" grade and to what the extent the problems are. Was the note torn in two and glued back together? Does it have large, black stains all over it? Is there a 3/4 inch hole in the note? Is the note covered in rust? Many more dubious problems could be mentioned here. Some notes are very highly sought after by certain collectors even if they bear the above problems. Most collectors avoid them and rightfully so.....depending upon what you collect and how far along you are with your collection.
The entire point of this little post is that far too many notes are not bought simply because the word Apparent/Net appears upon the grading service holder. The CSA T-11 represents a very good example of what I am attempting to convey. In general, an original T-11 is located in simply terrible condition. For the most part, the collecting public does not see these notes in their original state. Collectors generally tend to be exposed to the "cream of the crop" if you will. Most Confederate or Obsolete notes (of whatever type) when located in an original group tend to be in terrible condition. Limp, torn, stained, missing corners, etc.. Such notes are not offered to collectors, as they remain in such poor condition so as to be uncollectible. The T-11 was heavily utilized in commerce and did not wear well. Most original, non repaired examples are near total rags, limp with corners missing, holed, etc.. There exist T-11's within the top 10 known which reside in grading service holders bearing the words "Apparent/Net". If one is fortunate enough to locate a T-11 with only one or two small edge splits and thereby graded "Apparent/Net", they have located one of the best T-11's extant. I suppose there is always the thought in the collectors mind that there will be a non apparent/net T-11 come along in time. A collector certainly cannot be faulted for thinking in this manner, as I would be thinking the same had it not been for the knowledge and experience over 4 decades in this business has provided me. In other words, there exist choice notes which bear the word apparent/net. I see far too many collectors merely purchasing the number on a grading service holder; rather than the note itself. That is an entirely different subject matter and will be discussed later. The old adage, "Acquire the best note you can afford" has by no means disappeared and remains as viable within the collecting community today as it did over one hundred years ago. However; it is extremely important for collectors to be aware that given a particular type of note, superb, high quality pieces exist which are housed in "Apparent/Net" grading service holders. If the note is rare enough and desirable; it will bring just as much money as a non apparent/net note. Just a suggestion; however, look at the note itself when you see the word apparent/net. Based upon years of experience, do not look at the word "Apparent/Net" and look no further. There is no right or wrong answer to a collector's interpretation and application of the word "Apparent/Net". Obviously, it is up to the individual and rightfully so. If a collector does not want a note bearing an "Apparent/Net" moniker in his or her collection, there is certainly nothing wrong with that. As stated, there are many variables at play in this situation; including what is being collected, a given note's rarity, the degree of impairment and individual tastes. If one collects Southern Merchant scrip from the State of Georgia and has no graded notes in his or her collection which grade Apparent/Net, that collection will be smaller than it should be, lacking many historically significant, rare "Apparent/Net" graded pieces upon which the collector passed due to the appearance of one of these words. On the other hand, if a collector is endeavoring to put together a complete type set of Confederate Treasury notes, most all "Apparent/Net" notes may be avoided...save for one or two issues. I merely point out that many choice, rare notes exist in "Apparent/Net" grading service holders and are overlooked simply because of these words. In many, many instances, this will likely be the only way the issue is located...if at all.
Out of time for now; although will come back to this subject later. Remember, I am not referring to common or semi common notes. Look closely at why the note is assigned an apparent/net grade. Very few scare to rare notes have survived the last 160 years or more without some sort of edge ding, split or the like. We are not discussing a coin which is made of metal. We are discussing something comprised of paper, which is truly amazing that it survived these many, many years at all. It is totally and completely up to the individual collector to interpret the above and there is no right or wrong answer.
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