An Electronic Jury That Judges Rare Coins

Coin collectors no longer need to worry about human inconsistencies when determining the value of their purchases. CompuGrade Inc., a new coin-grading service based in New Orleans, uses IBM and compatible personal computers and image-processing machines to produce a more dependable grading method.

The system uses video cameras to capture images of the coin as it is tilted at different angles under a high-intensity light. From these images, the PC collects data to measure luster, brightness, and quality of strike--the raised details that remain on a coin's surface. The software calculates the appropriate grade of the coin by comparing the data with a standard scale compiled from the grades of thousands of certified rare coins. What's more, the automated grading process costs a lot less for coin collectors--$15, compared with more than $100 for the old consensus method, which requires a group of experts to grade a coin.

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