US Coins

PCGS celebrates 30 years of slabs

More than 120 different promotional sample plastic encapsulations or “slabs” issued by Professional Coin Grading Service since its founding in 1986 will be displayed Jan. 7 to 10 during the Florida United Numismatists Convention in Tampa.

The display, at the third-party grading service’s Booth 104 at the FUN convention, to be held at the Tampa Convention Center, 333 S. Franklin St., will kick off PCGS’s year-long 30th anniversary celebration. 

“Since 1986, PCGS has been giving out samples of its holders featuring hundreds of different coin types, both U.S. and world,” said PCGS President Don Willis. 

“They have become highly collectible over the last 30 years, although they originally were only intended as free promotional items,” he added.

Sample souvenirs

While supplies last, PCGS will also be giving away to visitors to the exhibit Mint State 2015 Lincoln cents, encapsulated in samples of the company’s latest PCGS Secure enhanced-security holders.

Each 2015 sample slab will be presented in a specially created commemorative Sample Slabs brochure that explains the history and features of PCGS holders. 

“1,250 lucky collectors will receive the commemorative Sample Slab brochure with the enclosed sample holder,” Willis said. “This sample represents our fifth generation PCGS holder, and it is the most technologically advanced security holder in the world.”

PCGS’s exhibit of encapsulated promotional coins in PCGS holders with historic sample insert labels comprises a collection of 113 sample slabs, assembled by and displayed courtesy of Timothy Larson from Mercer Island, Wash., along with an additional dozen sample PCGS slabs from the collection of Robert Klein of Monroe, N.Y.

Collecting approaches

BJ Searls, director of the PCGS Set Registry and Special Projects, says in a press release that collectors have a number of ways to assemble collections of the sample slabs, grouped into three categories.

“First, there are those samples that match one of the five generations of holders, which can be subdivided into a number of sub-generations based on the insert,” Searls said. “Many of these samples are common because PCGS gave away hundreds of the same coin in the same holder, but some are extremely rare.

“A number of inserts produced by PCGS were only released for a few months and samples of those inserts were supplied in limited quantities.”

The two other major categories for collecting sample slabs are those issued for PCGS luncheons and as advertising samples.

Since the early 2000s, PCGS has held luncheons for its customers at major coin shows, Searls notes. As a token of appreciation, sample holders are created to celebrate the event and are given to all invited guests.

Quantities of these special luncheon holders are limited from 100 to 300 coins, according to a PCGS press release.

PCGS samples have also been created for various coin shows and special events. From celebrating PCGS anniversaries, to giveaways at coin shows, to special inserts created for PCGS Authorized dealers, this category has a wide variety of samples, some common and some very difficult to locate, according to Searls.

“There are a number of websites that provide information about the various collecting options, including the PCGS U.S. Coin Forum,” Searls said. 

“A new reference book, Sample Slabs, by David Schwager, was published in September,” said Searls.

PCGS’s founding

PCGS was founded in 1986 and now has offices in California, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Paris. PCGS experts have certified more than 31 million coins with a total market value of more than $29 billion.

PCGS is a division of Collectors Universe Inc.

For more information, phone PCGS toll-free at 800-447-8848 or email

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