Collectors keep loving slabs. Third-party grading has brought
enhanced transparency, liquidity and confidence to the rare coin
market. Perhaps in recognition of this, collectors covet rare
encapsulations from grading firms, especially Professional Coin
Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corp., and these unusual slabs
have become collectibles in their own rights.
At a Sept. 18 auction by GreatCollections, the online auctioneer
sold a 1946-D Walking Liberty half dollar graded Mint State 65 by NGC
for $3,740. For reference, a normal Gem Uncirculated example of this
date sells for around $100, nice MS-66 examples can be found easily
for $150 and MS-67 examples routinely sell for around $1,000.
What made the brilliant half dollar special was that it was housed
in an old “Black Label” NGC holder that was used by NGC only between
September and November 1987. The coin’s orientation in the slab is
different than what collectors expect today in that the identifying
label is placed on the reverse side while the gold NGC logo is on the
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The oddness and rarity of these early slabs has made them immensely
popular with slab aficionados today. The black holder looked amazing
with brilliant silver coins and gold coins. It fared less favorably
with many copper and toned coins.
The black holder has proven so popular over time that it was
re-released by NGC to celebrate its 25th anniversary through a “Retro
Holder” slab that mimics the black core of the original, but includes
NGC’s EdgeView prongs and the current standard obverse/reverse label orientation.
holders sell for thousands online
: Two of the most coveted vintage holders were
auctioned on GreatCollections.com and eBay for a combined $7,189.99.
PCGS likewise embraced for its 30th anniversary its “Retro ‘Old
Green Holder’ ” labels that mimic the light green inserts used after
the famed “rattler” slabs of its first few years.
Beyond these unusual holders is an entire realm of sample slabs that
enjoy an enthusiastic collector base. Joining these is a world of
special labels that seems to grow each year as marketers find ways to
differentiate seemingly similar products.
What is the investment potential of these special holders? One has
to consider if future buyers will find value in them and be willing to
pay premiums to support high prices. The NGC black holders from 1987
are undoubtedly rare — estimates suggest that fewer than 200 are known
— and they show how far third-party grading as come in the past three decades.
As documentary evidence of a point-in-time in our hobby, their value
is undeniable. Their status as a solid investment is one that only
time will determine.