2021 FUN Show Canceled

The Florida United Numismatists (FUN) board of directors announced today that the FUN 2021 coin show is being canceled due to COVID concerns, indicating:

“the “cons” far outweigh the “pros” at this point in time. The COVID virus is spiraling out of control and the predictions are that will continue to get worse through the dates of the FUN show”

Statement from the FUN board of directors (12/4/20)

Cuba NGC Registry – new sets!

Two new Cuba sets were added to the NGC Registry:

“Good news! I have just heard back from the senior NGC World graders that the Cuba 1897 Souvenir Peso descriptions will be clarified soon by our graders in the grading database. This means that in a few weeks, we should be able to display your coins in the appropriate slots with detailed descriptions in the NGC Registry. Thank you for your patience as these updates take time to filter down into the NGC Registry website. Once the new descriptions have been loaded into the grading screen, they will start to be reflected in your NGC Registry sets. “

NGC email Sept. 17, 2020

What’s going on with the grading of the 1958 centavo?

Obverse of the 1953 (left) and 1958 (right) centavo coins. 
Note the difference in the level of detail, most notably in the waves of Marti’s hair.

Coin grade distribution for 1953 (blue), 1958 (red) and average 1C (gray) from both NGC (left) and PGCS (right). The average 1C was calculated by adding the population of all 1 centavo dates. Note the bump in 1958 AU coins much higher than 1953 and the average. 

Question 1
Edge view of NGC graded fine reeding (left) and coarse reeding (right) varieties. 
Note the difference in the number of reed in between two prongs.
If you still have unanswered questions, please leave your question/comment below and we will add our answer to the list of questions above. 

The story behind the 1953 Jose Marti Centennial series

Original design proposed by Dr. Esteban Valderrama sharing the same reverse design. The coins on the right were offered for auction by Heritage Auctions in September 2018.
Original design proposed by Dr. Esteban Valderrama for the centavo piece (left) and an alternative design proposed for the reverse of the 50 centavos piece (right).
Question 1
If you still have unanswered questions, please leave your question/comment below and we will add our answer to the list of questions above. 

Fine and Coarse Reeding Varieties of Cuban Coins

Edge of Fine Reeding (FR) and Coarse Reeding (CR) 1915 20 Centavos coins.
Note the difference in spacing between reeds in the two varieties. 
360 view of the edge of Fine Reeding (left) and Coarse Reeding (right) 1915 20 Centavos coins.
Note the difference the star relief as well. 
Edge reeding analysis of the 1915 series. Note the deviation of the FR variety from the trend line for the series. 
Question 1
Edge view of NGC graded fine reeding (left) and coarse reeding (right) varieties. 
Note the difference in the number of reed in between two prongs.
If you still have unanswered questions, please leave your question/comment below and we will add our answer to the list of questions above. 
20 centavos Rays on reverse variety

Cuba 1920 20 Centavos “RAYS ON REVERSE” Variety or Mint Error?

1920 20C RAYS ON REVERSE variety
1920 20C RAYS ON REVERSE variety
Stack’s March 2008 Coin Galleries
LOT 3611 DESCRIPTION
CUBA. Republic. 20 Centavos, 1920. Arms of the Republic. Rv. Star in rays. KM 13.2. Gleaming cartwheel silver displays a wealth of peripheral gold. MS-63 (ANACS).
Update 1
Obverse design features overlayed on both the obverse and the reverse showing perfect overlap of the obverse star and rays and the reverse rays
The overlay shows relative position of dies when the die clash occurred,
courtesy of Ricardo Lopez. 
Update 2
Now for Sale!
Note the very prominent RAYS ON REVERSE! 

High vs Low Relief Cuban Coins

Die adjustments during the first years of minting were not infrequent at the Philadelphia mint. Most notably, the 1907 Saint-Gaudens double eagle and the 1921 Peace dollar designs underwent modifications that resulted in highly collectible High Relief varieties. The early Cuban Star coinage, also minted at the Philadelphia mint since 1915, went through a similar adjustment period. From 1915, when the creation of the Cuban National Currency System was authorized, High Relief and Low Relief variations of certain Cuban coins were made. High Relief coins displayed a highly prominent, attractive Star, but it probably also posed technical challenges during the minting process, as additional strike pressure was likely required. Furthermore, the reverse strike was often very weak in High Relief coins, particularly at higher points on the reverse such as the Coat of Arms key and palm tree.

Unfortunately, there is not much information about the High and Low relief varieties, either published or on the internet, but their popularity has substantially increased since the early 1990’s, when they started to be listed in The Krause Standard Catalog of World Coins description reads: “Coins with high relief stars normally exhibit a weak key and palm tree on the reverse. Coins with low relief stars tend to exhibit much more distinct lines running towards the center of the star”.

The “distinct lines running towards the center of the star” is an element that most experts agree is key in identifying Low Relief Stars, particularly Low Star Pesos. These lines or valleys are a lot sharper in Low Relief coins, and can be easily identified even in circulated 1915 Star Pesos. Actually, the 1915 Low Relief Peso looks much more like the other dates of the series (1916-1934), with very well defined, straight, Star lines. On the other hand, the lines of the 1915 High Relief Peso are rounder and more diffuse, whereas the metal volume of the Star is generally larger.

Similar elements of design can help identify 1915 and 1920 High and Low Relief Star 40 Centavos. For coins that have not seen a lot of circulation the difference is quite obvious. The geometry of the High Relief Star is dramatically different. The center of the Star is almost flat and the lines are barely detectable, if at all. The valleys are again rounder and less defined than the Low Relief Star, which shows sharp straight lines running to the center of the Star. Differentiation of circulated High and Low Relief coins is more challenging, and attribution is generally based on the metal volume of the Star, and may be extremely difficult for coins in worse than Very Good condition.

1915 High Relief Star 40 Centavos

Note flat center and soft, rounded valleys

1915 Low Relief Star 40 Centavos

Note sharp, defined valleys running to the center

For 1915 High and Low Relief Star 20 Centavos, the same rules apply, although the valleys in circulated coins tend to be hard to recognize. 1915 Star 20 Centavos were also minted with Finely and Coarsely Reeded edges. High Relief 20 Centavos with Fine Reeding (HRFR) are more abundant, as are the Low Relief 20 Centavos with Coarse Reeding (LRCR). Although the edge reeding may support the Relief attribution, it should only be used as additional information and not as the only or main factor considered. Edge reeding will be covered in a separate post.

As described in the Krause catalog, “Coins with high relief stars normally exhibit a weak key and palm tree on the reverse “. Although this is true to some extent, classification should never be based solely on the weakness of the reverse strike, although it can be used in conjunction with the other elements discussed above when making a High or Low Relief classification.

High/Low Relief attribution may sometimes make a big difference, particularly when one of the varieties is scarcer than the other. For instance, the 2008 Edition of the Krause Catalog lists the 1915 Low Relief Peso in XF for $600, whereas the High Relief variety lists for $60. In Brilliant Uncirculated condition the Low Relief lists for $8,500 and the High Relief for $2,000. However, High and Low Relief Star 1915 40 Centavos lists for about the same price, and the 20 centavos price depends not only on the Star relief but also on the reeding. Importantly, professional grading services such as NGC and PCGS have recently started to attribute varieties, although coins with incomplete or incorrect variety designation are unfortunately still common.

As mentioned above, there is no much information available about High and Low Relief Cuban coinage. Actually, most (if not all) of the books available regarding Cuban Star coinage do not provide any information about this topic. One of the few sources is the article by Frank Putrow  “High Relief vs Low Relief – A Study In Contrasts”, published in the July 2004 Cuban Numismatic Association Newsletter.

We appreciate this is a confusing and controversial topic. Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

NGC High Relief and Low Relief Varieties

High Relief, Low Relief, Fine Reeding and Coarse Reeding varieties currently attributed by NGC

  • ​20C 1915 HIGH RELIEF, COARSE REEDS
  • 20C 1915 HIGH RELIEF, FINE REEDS
  • 20C 1915 LOW RELIEF, COARSE REEDS
  • 20C 1915 LOW RELIEF, FINE REEDS
  • 40C 1915 HIGH RELIEF
  • 40C 1915 LOW RELIEF
  • 40C 1920 HIGH RELIEF
  • 40C 1920 LOW RELIEF
  • PESO 1915 HIGH RELIEF
  • PESO 1915 LOW RELIEF

PCGS High Relief and Low Relief Varieties

High Relief, Low Relief, Fine Reeding and Coarse Reeding varieties currently attributed by PCGS

  • 1915 20C Low Relief / Fine Reeding
  • 1915 20C Fine Reeding
  • 1915 20C Coarse Reeding
  • 1915 40C High Relief
  • 1915 40C Low Relief
  • 1920 40C High Relief
  • 1920 40C Low Relief
  • 1915 Peso High Relief
  • 1915 Peso Low Relief

Grading Cuban Coins – Part 1

The art of coin grading, although still subjective, has been facilitated in recent decades by the development and adoption of standard grading scales. The most commonly used scale, originally developed by Dr. William H. Sheldon, is the 70 point numerical grading system that has been widely adopted since 1970. However, in order to assign numerical grades to coins, it is essential to know what to look for in the coin being graded. What are the high points? What areas are the most susceptible to abrasions, rubbing and flattening? May of these questions have been answered for US coins in comprehensive grading guides such as Photograde and the ANA Grading Standards for US Coins. For foreign coins, and Cuban coins in particular, published information is very scarce if not inexistent. The grading guide below, although not official or comprehensive, is a humble attempt to assist those interested in grading Cuban coins from the First Republic (1915-1961). This first post focuses on Star coinage, although some elements will likely apply to other series, since the coat of arms is almost ubiquitously present on the reverse of most coins from the Republican period. Grading of ABC Pesos, Marti Centennial coins and Gold coinage will be covered in future posts. Finally, it is worth stressing once again that grading is subjective and that other factors may influence the overall grade and value of a coin, including environmental damage, improper cleaning or handling, nicks, marks and other kinds of injuries, as well as eye appeal.


On the reverse, the high points of the coat of arms are most susceptible to wear. The palm tree, the key and the star on the Phrygian cap are key elements to consider when grading Cuban coins. The wreath and the fasces are also susceptible to wear. For higher grades in particular, it is imperative to take a close look at the obverse as wear and blemishes will usually be visible on the high points of the Star on the obverse, especially on the ridges and center of the star.


The accompanying table describes and pictures some of the differences among a range of condition or grades. As usual, comments and/or suggestions would be appreciated.

Very Good (VG8)

The rim will be full and all the letters and date will be clear and visible. Rev: Slight detail in wreath will show. Most vertical lines in the fasces will not be visible, and the diagonal and horizontal bands will be worn nearly flat. Obv: Star will be worn nearly flat but will be visible and completely outlined.

Fine (F12)

Rev: Parts of the key and palm tree will be worn smooth, but the outline may be visible. The star on the Phrygian cap will be worn smooth. Detail in wreath will show, although the ends of leaves will show considerable wear. Obv: Star will be well worn but completely outlined and visible. Star lines running to the center (valleys) will also be visible.

Very Fine (VF20)

Rev: The key and the star in the Phrygian cap will be worn but visible. Details may not be visible. All vertical lines in the fasces will show. Obv: Star will show signs of wear, but all valleys and ridges will be visible.

Extra Fine (EF45/XF45)

Rev: High points of the key and the Phrygian cap will be lightly worn but will show all details. Details of the palm tree will also show. Obv: Slight wear will show on Star ridges and center.

About Uncirculated (AU58)

Rev: Only traces of wear will be visible on the Phrygian cap, the key and the palm tree. Obv: The ridges and center of the Star will show only a trace of wear. Mint luster still present.

Uncirculated / Mint State

These coins have never been circulated, but the presence of bag marks and abrasions can affect the grade, most noticeably on the star. MS60 (Typical) No trace of wear, but with blemishes. MS65 (Choice) Nearly perfect with some small blemish. A few barely noticeable marks may be present. Has full mint luster but may be uneven or toned. MS70 (Perfect) Flawless coin as it was minted. Must have full mint luster.

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