by Pete Sanders
While the Spring 2001 Issue of the Casino Chip and Token news dealt largely with the slabbing issue, and I do not wish bore anyone with a rehash of the articles and commentary which addressed the slabbing issue, I feel it is necessary to point out some inaccuracies and misleading statements which appeared in the article written by Keith Love, President of ICG.
First Mr. Love writes "ICG guarantees the authenticity of every chip we slab." So one would think that in the event a chip was slabbed by ICG and later an owner who paid say $1,000 for the chip was able to determine that it was in fact not genuine, that ICG would pay that person the $1,000. After all that is what a guarantee is.
ICG has in fact shrouded its chip slabbing operation in secrecy. We are told that ICG employs expert chip graders and a network of experts. But yet the names and credentials of these experts and graders are never revealed. We are told to just trust ICG because they say they employ experts. In addition to hiding the identity of their employees, they do not reveal anything of their policies and procedures in regard to chip slabbing.
I think it is in fact safe to assume their policies are somewhat consistent with their coin policies. What about the guarantees that apply to coin grading? Well a visit to the ICG web site provides us with these excerpts from the "fine print":
"The grading of coins is an exercise of professional judgment and opinion, which can be subjective and may change from time to time. As a result, ICG shall assume no liability of any kind whatsoever and makes no warranties or representations to Customer for any grade assigned by ICG to any coins."
"Except as expressly set forth herein, ICG disclaims any and all warranties, express or implied, regarding ICG's grading service and all activities of ICG related thereto."
But in another location ICG does offer this "guarantee":
"Any Customer may resubmit any coin for review of the grade assigned by ICG if such Customer believes that such coin has been overgraded by ICG. If the coin submitted for review by a Customer receives a lower grade under ICG's internal review practices than the grade originally assigned, ICG shall, at ICG's option, either (a) replace the coin or (b) pay any difference between the current fair market value of such coin at the newly established grade and the current fair market value of the grade originally assigned to such coin."
Now read this closely, what it says is you can resubmit your coin if you think you think they overgraded it. Well that sounds good, If I buy a slabbed chip and determine that it was overgraded I can send it back. WRONG. Read it again, it says "Any Customer may resubmit any coin. . ." Well if the dealer sent the coin to ICG to be slabbed the dealer is the "Customer" why would the dealer send a chip back if he thought it was overgraded. The guy who buys the slabbed chip from the dealer isn't ICG's customer and thus this guarantee doesn't apply. And by the way, how am I supposed to know if the chip is overgraded when ICG will not even publish their grading criteria?
Even if the guarantee does apply, then all that happens is ICG applies its top-secret procedures and tells you if they made a mistake. In other words if you think they are wrong send the coin back and they will tell you if they were wrong or not. And the best part is still to come. You see if they do admit that they overgraded the coin. They can pay you the difference between the values of the coin in the two conditions. But "The fair market value shall be determined solely by ICG." After all that they are to be the sole judge of what the damage is.
Oh, don't forget that if you send the chip back not in the slab, they will not guarantee it because you might have switched the coins or damaged them. But if you don't take them out of the slab you may not be able to detect some defects.
The next lie that Keith Love tells in his article is "ICG will be the only unbiased party in the transaction." The simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of chips that are sent for slabbing are going to be sent by people who wish to sell their chips. They will only spend money to have a chip slabbed if they think that having the chip slabbed will increase the price they will receive for the chip by at least the cost of the slabbing service. Since ICG will be making most of its revenue from people who have an interest in maximizing the price they get for a chip, ICG has a bias to grade higher. After all if ICG keeps giving chips low grades, sellers will stop sending chips to be slabbed.
Lastly I wish to address Mr. Love's reference to the post of a collector on the chipboard who indicated that he had been taken advantage of by club members who peddled overgraded chips.
What Mr. Love fails to disclose is that this poster, previously unknown on the Chipboard posted this and then refused to give any details to corroborate his account. I believe that the poster was only acting as a shill for ICG. He admitted that he never filed a complaint with the Club, which has procedures to enforce its code of ethics. He gave no details on how he was taken advantage of. The poster clearly could have examined the chips for himself. since casino chip collecting does not have complicated grading system like coins, even a novice could evaluate the condition of the chips. It is ICG who wishes to bring a complex grading system that a novice can't understand.
Slabbing is based on a lie and Mr. Love chooses to sell his service with lies and half-truths.