US Coins

GreatCollections to offer coin collection in ‘rattler’ PCGS holders

The collecting adage “buy the coin and not the holder” means that one shouldn’t blindly accept a grade from a third-party grading service without considering the merits of the coin inside the plastic. However, sometimes the slab itself is the focus of attention.

GreatCollections will be offering a time capsule of sorts of early slabs from the first years of Professional Coin Grading Service in its Jan. 19 auction of “The Ultimate Collection of Rattlers and Old Holders.” 

GreatCollections founder Ian Russell says, “These coins were purchased in the 1980s and graded in several submissions in the 1980s and early 1990s,” adding, “the coins were not touched for more than 25 years. Simply put, the quality is out of this world.” 

Rattler slabs

These early PCGS slabs were used between 1986 and 1989, and coins housed in the sealed, two-piece holder could rotate slightly in the slab, hence the nickname “rattlers.” The slabs were smaller than the ones used today and the labels were printed with a dot matrix printer, with four alignment pins at the corners of the slab and a ribbed, cardboard label. Toward the end of 1989 PCGS surrounded the two-part holder with a plastic collar that had a lip that allowed for easier stacking, and added the PCGS logo. The PCGS slab has continued to evolve to meet industry needs and stay ahead of counterfeiters. 

Among the prizes are three coins from the early Philadelphia Mint that represent the first year of each denomination. A 1796 Draped Bust, Small Eagle quarter dollar graded Mint State 64 is coveted as a type coin produced for just one year. There were 6,146 struck and it’s noteworthy as the only quarter dollar  struck in the 18th century, yet while scarce in all grades and always expensive, it is surprisingly available in Mint State grades, as many were saved at the time of issue. PCGS has graded just six in MS-64, none of which has sold at auction in recent memory. 

The denomination would resume in 1804 with the Draped Bust, Heraldic Eagle quarter dollar type. 

The 1793 Flowing Hair, Chain cent is the first of three types produced in the first year of cent production. In 1793, 36,103 “Chain cents” were struck between Feb. 27 to March 12 and there are two primary reverse types: the offered cent graded PCGS About Uncirculated 50 with a green Certified Acceptance Corp. sticker has AMERICA spelled in full on the reverse, while another variety abbreviates it AMERI. Collectors appreciate coins in older third-party holders because it means that the pieces have not been touched for decades, and that the surfaces are stable, an especially valued attribute for copper coins.

1796 also marked the first year of dime production. A 1796 Draped Bust, Small Eagle dime graded MS-63 by PCGS has a coveted gold CAC sticker. CAC founder John Albanese reserves the gold CAC sticker for a coin that could “easily green sticker at the next highest grade level.” The mintage of 22,135 dimes was produced from six different die pairings and the offered coin shows a pronounced die cud joining star 1 on the obverse with several dentils at the rim. The gold CAC sticker is rarely seen on early rarities since many dealers believe they can get more when selling a coin with a higher numerical grade. 

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