In May the author of this column was contacted by Tom McGrady, a coin collector from Virginia, who told him that his coverage of Mexican Libertad coins in various publications over the years had helped spur the collector to specialize in this popular series.
McGrady’s interest in coins began about 40 years ago when he was 10, and he once received a 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent in change. But when McGrady’s collection was stolen while he was attending graduate school, he lost interest until a few years ago.
After building a set of American Eagle silver bullion coins, he decided “to go outside the box with Libertads, especially seeing that they weren’t tied to spot [precious metal value] in the way all the other sovereign bullion programs were.”
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In early 2014 he started collecting Mexican Libertad silver 1-ounce coins because of their low premiums, but it was the beauty of the coins that kept him interested.
When he read about the 1999 Libertad mule coin, he was hooked. A mule is a coin that was struck from dies that were not intended to be paired together.
McGrady sees the Libertad coins as not just an investment, but also as “something that has huge potential later on.”
In early 2015 he began to assemble a 1-ounce silver Libertad Uncirculated registry set under Numismatic Guaranty Corp.’s Registry Set program. He noted that he had little idea how challenging this would be, adding, “It took the better part of a year finding coins that were worthy of grading as the populations for many of the coins are just so low.”
McGrady explained that he never had the goal of assembling the top-ranked registry set, especially since the previous holder of that slot had it for five years. But he said that over time as he assembled his collection, it took over the No. 1 slot, and because he had submitted so many coins for grading he had enough coins to also assemble the current No. 2- and No. 5-ranked sets too. To date his sets are the only 100 percent complete sets at NGC in this category.
Rare varieties in Libertads
Late last year a friend of McGrady’s discovered a new variety, the 1988 doubled die coin, and then about a month later McGrady himself discovered another major new variety, the 1982 doubled die reverse.
McGrady explained that what makes the 1988 double die special is the 1988 coin is rare to start with, and only nine known examples of the doubled die version have been graded by NGC or Professional Coin Grading Service. McGrady currently owns all three NGC examples, and his Mint State 67 example is the highest known grade of this particular variety. The 1988 doubled die variety was discovered by Dan Pecoraralo, who also discovered the 1999 mule coin.
Pecoraralo sent his mule coin to Pat Stovall who submitted the coin to PCGS for authentication and grading. At the time two examples were known of the mule; the second was owned by Stovall, who runs his family’s business specializing in Mexican coins: Lois and Don Bailey and Son Numismatic Services of Houston. He sent his example to NGC and later sold it for $7,000.