The first coin certification service was established by the
American Numismatic Association in 1972 to authenticate coins — and in
late 1975 an ANA grading service was under development. It was then
that I “proposed a revolutionary new concept for packaging and
certifying rare coins” in a talk at the Dealer-Collector Forum
sponsored by the Numismatic Association of Southern California, as I
related in a bylined news article published in the Jan. 7, 1976,
I indicated that “there is always possible doubt that any
certificate is accompanied by the original coin, or that the coin has
been damaged or tampered with in the interim” — and suggested, “The
only complete solution is to permanently seal the coin and its
authentication and grading certificates in a tamper-proof package.”
I prophetically concluded, “In the future a collector would
probably just as soon purchase a non-certified coin as he would today
buy a share of stock from someone on a street corner.”
Little did I foresee that a multimillion dollar business would
soon grow from this kernel of an idea — starting with the
establishment of the Professional Coin Grading Service in 1985.
I still believe that certification and grading should have been
done by only one service, under the auspices of the American
Numismatic Association — but that train left the station a long time ago.
A few months after my Coin World article was published,
“A-Mark arranged the distribution of the [Redfield Hoard silver
dollars] by giving specific dealers rights to certain bags or other
quantities. Soon, Paramount International Coin Corp., John Love,
Robert Hughes (who later sold many coins to Joel Rettew), and others
were advertising or wholesaling groups of Redfield dollars,” according
to Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States by Q. David Bowers.
I was asked by Robert L. Hughes to create a marketing program for
the Redfield dollars that he had purchased, and I designed a holder
and an ad campaign for “Rare magnificent premium quality Silver
Dollars from the Fabulous 7.3 Million Dollar LaVere Redfield
Collection in custom protective holders that will each be Certified as
a Genuine LaVere Redfield Silver Dollar,” that appeared in Coin
World in June of 1976 with the headline “The Era of the Pedigreed
Coin is Here!”
I had a feeling that Paramount would find a special way to promote
the Redfield dollars that they purchased, and they did, developing
holders with grades — but I announced Hughes’ holders first. In order
to get the Hughes holders produced quickly, they were not sealed.
The Hughes holder held, in addition to a reproduction of the Feb.
11, 1976, Coin World front page story announcing the Redfield
Hoard’s sale for $7.3 million, a card holding the coin indicated,
stating: “The Silver Dollar contained herein is a hand picked
Brilliant Uncirculated specimen from the spectacular LaVere Redfield
Collection of rare coins, which was sold at an historic public auction
on January 27, 1976 for a record 7.3 million dollars!”
I wonder if any of these holders still exist.
Oh well, I will have to settle for being the Elisha Gray of
numismatics. Elisha Gray submitted his patent for the telephone on the
same day as Alexander Graham Bell (Feb. 14, 1876), but after that he
essentially stopped any further development of the technology.
Mel Wacks has been a coin collector since the age of 10. He has
been a member of the American Numismatic Association for over 50
years, is a fellow of the American Numismatic Society, and a life
member of the Numismatic Literary Guild.