We’ve heard the phrase “Buy the coin, not the holder.” Some
hobbyists, however, collect third-party grading service holders and
other holders rather than coins.
In his June 20, 2011, “Market Analysis,” Coin World’s
Steve Roach wrote about an 1880-O Morgan dollar in a General Services
Administration hard-pack holder selling for $13,113. Virtually all of
the GSA dollars are Carson City Mint coins, making this New Orleans
Mint coin unusual.
In 2010, a 1924 Saint-Gaudens gold $20 double eagle, graded Mint
State 62 by Numismatic Guaranty Corp. and housed in a “black” slab,
sold for $3,805 in an eBay auction. At the time, similarly graded
double eagles were selling for half that amount. The black slab was
the first slab used by NGC, and only for a few months.
Today, though, I’m writing about the graphic design of holders. As
I collect coins graded by Professional Coin Grading Service and NGC,
I’ll critique those slabs.
Among these services’ older slabs, for instance, are the PCGS “Old
Green Holders,” known by their initials — “OGH”; and older NGC holders
known by what they resemble, such as a “Soap Dish.”
Those slabs — especially early “Rattler” PCGS ones — are poor
examples of graphic design. Labels on “Rattlers” are in typewriter
font, and the coins inside often jostle to become upside down. (As for
NGC’s Soap Dish, slabs should not look like bathroom accessories.)
Current PCGS and NGC holders are modern looking and attractive. I
have a few quibbles, however.
Because PCGS lists two sets of numbers on its label — one for the
coin, one for certification — there is less room for the various forms
of First Strike, VAM Hot List and coin nickname nomenclatures.
The label information is also easily obscured by a Certified
Acceptance Corp. sticker. Type the terms “PCGS, VAM, CAC” into an
online search engine and see the images for examples of the problem.
These considerations play a role in where I send coins for slabbing.
I also try to match the coin’s type, metal, luster and patina with
the graphic design of the holder.
PCGS’s current light-blue-labeled holder is ideal for deep-mirror,
prooflike coins, accentuating the reflection like a silver moon on
water — simply breathtaking!
The PCGS label also highlights the beauty of gold, light gray or
Mint State and Proof silver coins as well as most copper-nickel,
copper-nickel clad and red copper coins.
In particular, the blue label spectacularly showcases pastel
patina on American Eagle silver dollars and Morgan dollars, but may be
too dark for some brown copper coins, circulated silver coins and
coins with dark red, blue and purple patina.
Coins with rainbow patina look lovely in NGC holders because the
white background highlights the colors. NGC’s holders also complement
the metallic beauty of gold and most copper-nickel, copper-nickel
clad, circulated silver and all copper coins. However, bright white
silver coins may wash out against white labels.
Michael Bugeja, a coin collector since childhood, is a professor
at Iowa State University and also a member of the Citizens Coinage
Advisory Committee. He is a nationally known author, journalist and educator.