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Ni28

Are we making a mistake by slabbing rare proof coin sets?

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Ni28

I recently browsed through the 1985 Richard Ford Auction Catalogue. This was a postal auction hosted by City Coins in Cape Town. Richard Ford was an American who assembled a magnificent South African coin collection. The auction catalogue is beautifully illustrated and as Frank Mitchell wrote in the foreword: “ I shall treasure this catalogue. It will be one of the works of reference on South African coins for years to come.”

 

The catalogue contains splendid photographs of Ford’s 1923 long proof set (reserve price R2 750) and 1931 proof set (reserve price R39 500) in their original boxes. What struck me was that the two boxes were still in a magnificent condition. I always felt that the boxes of these rare sets are an integral part of their numismatic value. These coins should therefore probably remain in their issued boxes. The risk of slabbing the coins is that the coins might eventually be separated from the boxes (nowadays I see a lot of empty boxes for sale on BoB). Although there might be the good intention to sell the empty box together with the slabbed coins, the boxes might eventually be simply discarded and lost forever, e.g. by family members of a deceased collector.

 

Furthermore, regarding personal preferences, when I arrive in a coin shop, I do not experience the same level of excitement when shown a number of slabs of a proof set held together by an elastic band compared to a magnificent set still in its original box. One of the well-known numismatists in the country once made the remark at a coin meeting that slabbing of coins makes him think of marrying a beautiful woman wrapped in unbreakable plastic. Somehow, it removes some of the pleasure!

 

I am fully aware of the benefits of slabbing, e.g. protection against damage, facilitation of internet sales, less chance of buying a forgery, etc. Being on coin investment holy ground here, I will probably get a barrage of attacks regarding the risk of Chinese forgeries, the risk of rim nicks on coins not slabbed, damage owing to cleaning of coins not slabbed, etc. It can be argued, however, the sets of the Ford collection survived unscathed until 1985, so surely they can survive for longer without being in slabs? The provenance of these sets was also excellent and the buyers knew they were not getting forgeries.

 

Anyway, to test the sentiment out there: If you as a collector have scraped enough money together to buy that long coveted 1931 proof set, would you prefer a slabbed set or one with a good provenance in its original box? Are we not going to be in a situation in future when some collectors might actually start preferring proof sets in their original boxes again?

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Pierre_Henri

In my experience I can give you an unequivocal NO; we are not making a mistake slabbing (for example) a 1931 Proofset.

I bought my set on a London auction about six years ago and immediately had it slabbed in the USA by NGC.

Strangely enough, when the set originally arrived in SA from London, the box was not included (but the pictures showed the coins in its original box) but I was not upset.

If a future collector/buyer wishes the place the coins back into a box, I will happily supply him with one at a few hundred rands that would be less than 1% of the value of the set. And a pair of pliers or saw to retract them from their capsules.

You have actually provided the answer in your own post, and that is that the internet trading age (that must account for at least 80% of the coin and stamp trade nowadays) has made third party grading an absolute must.

If I should see advertised on BoB a 1931 ungraded set vs. a graded set – the price difference I will be willing to pay would be enormous – maybe 4 to 5 times more for the graded set.

The e-trading game is a dangerous world and there are many sharks out there when it comes to coin (or whatever) trading

That is way third party grading (TPG) and slabbing by a reputable company is so very important.

As a point of interest, UK collectors never seemed to take to the practice of TPG, whilst those in the USA, OZ and SA seem to relish it.

 

Why would this be so?

 

Pierre

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Ni28

Hi Pierre

 

Thanks for putting this in perspective. Also well done on the purchase of your 1931 set. Those are fantastic coins!

 

I perceive that a key driver for slabbing is really the internet trading business. As I have never bought or sold coins over the internet, it never really bothered me. I suppose I will also feel a bit safer when buying a slab coin from a remote stranger versus one not in a slab.

 

It is interesting that you state that internet sales account for 80% of sales. Have we got some statistics on this somewhere? It would be interesting to know how many coins the SAAND dealers for example sell over the counter compared to their internet sales. Is there also not the possibilty of the bulk of the really expensive stuff being sold over the counter versus the cheaper and less risky stuff changing hands on the internet?

 

A further question in my mind: Does it in the end not really depend on the seller and whether you can trust him or not? If that is "yes", does slabbing of coins versus unslabbed coins become less relevant? You for example bought your 1931 set (not slabbed), in the UK, so obviously you must have fully trusted the Auctioneers?

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I N Collectables

Hi All

 

Personally I would prefer that a rare coin proof set or any rare coin for that matter be ungraded. Is a coin's beauty or value determined by just the numerical grade? Coins by being graded become "commodities" with less emphasis being placed on the actual coin and more being placed on the holder. Of course, to buy over a platform such as the internet, one can never be too sure with regards to authenticity and condition, therefore you should be absolutely certain what you intend to buy is the coin you want to get. I tend to buy ungraded coins from my local dealer and friend over graded coins, simply because I can touch, feel and inspect what I am buying. By grading a coin I feel that, that certain "personal" aspect is lost. I am by no means saying that I am opposed to TPG or that I do not buy graded coins, as it has its undoubted benefits. However it is just my personal preference.

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xsiandreas

I would prefer the unslabbed set in its original box, since I feel the box is part of the set. I feel this way specifically about proof sets, but much less so when it comes to normal circulation coins. If a rare set, like the 1931, has provenance and comes from a well known collection I think it will sell for the same amount as slabbed set of similar condition.

For example, if Heritage Auctions would list a superb 1931 set in its original box with high resolution images of each coin, I don't think anyone would hesitate to bid on it. Some may even bid more for it, believing it might have "finest known" coins.

I guess in the end it is a matter of personal preference. Slabbing a coin certainly has its benefits, but I don't think we should be slabbing each and every proof set.

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jwither
I would prefer the unslabbed set in its original box, since I feel the box is part of the set. I feel this way specifically about proof sets, but much less so when it comes to normal circulation coins. If a rare set, like the 1931, has provenance and comes from a well known collection I think it will sell for the same amount as slabbed set of similar condition.

For example, if Heritage Auctions would list a superb 1931 set in its original box with high resolution images of each coin, I don't think anyone would hesitate to bid on it. Some may even bid more for it, believing it might have "finest known" coins.

I guess in the end it is a matter of personal preference. Slabbing a coin certainly has its benefits, but I don't think we should be slabbing each and every proof set.

 

I do not believe that Heritage would ever auction a 1931 set ungraded and I also doubt it would sell for the same price or more. Neither would DNW though Baldwin's likely would as they just did in their most recent auction. I believe it would sell for less, though the difference would be much smaller than it would be with a circulation strike. Most bidders now buy over the internet and only someone with auction representation could safely bid on such a set without personal inspection.

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jwither
Hi Pierre

 

Thanks for putting this in perspective. Also well done on the purchase of your 1931 set. Those are fantastic coins!

 

I perceive that a key driver for slabbing is really the internet trading business. As I have never bought or sold coins over the internet, it never really bothered me. I suppose I will also feel a bit safer when buying a slab coin from a remote stranger versus one not in a slab.

 

It is interesting that you state that internet sales account for 80% of sales. Have we got some statistics on this somewhere? It would be interesting to know how many coins the SAAND dealers for example sell over the counter compared to their internet sales. Is there also not the possibilty of the bulk of the really expensive stuff being sold over the counter versus the cheaper and less risky stuff changing hands on the internet?

 

A further question in my mind: Does it in the end not really depend on the seller and whether you can trust him or not? If that is "yes", does slabbing of coins versus unslabbed coins become less relevant? You for example bought your 1931 set (not slabbed), in the UK, so obviously you must have fully trusted the Auctioneers?

 

I believe the traditional retail model in the coin business is going the way of the dodo bird. It is increasingly becoming an extinct species in the US though I cannot speak to South Africa. I have visited a traditional retail shop twice in the last 20 years in the US. The last time was in 2011 when I sold some "junk silver" coins for cash. From what I know, the primary purpose of the brick and mortar store here is to buy coins from walk-in traffic. It is not really to sell because regular customers do not need a store front at all and random walk-in traffic is unlikely to buy anything of consequence except occasionally. I would say that the most successful dealers in the USA at least get most of their sales from mail order and internet. Many do not have retail outlets at all anymore.

 

I prefer my coins graded and for proff coins, I believe the holder provides better protection. Buying counterfeits I see as a small risk for most SA coins. I have only heard if for ZAR but never for Union.

 

I would prefer to have the original box but do not believe it should sell for a substantial price or add value to the set. It isn't like buying any other number fo collectibles where the original packaging accounts for a disproportionate amount of the value. I rently saw an empty case for the UK 15 coin 1839 coronation proof set. I do not know the price but the estimate was like GBP 200 to 300.

 

And on a final note, I believe teh 1931 set is overrated and should sell for much less than its recent prices. It is a comment I have made on many occassions in the past on this forum. I believe it is primarily riding the coat tails of the 1931 circulation strike silver which doesn't make any sense at all.

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Pierre_Henri

Oupa and Ouma had a 1931 Tickey - but they lost it somehow ...

 

I prefer my coins graded and for proff coins, I believe the holder provides better protection. Buying counterfeits I see as a small risk for most SA coins. I have only heard if for ZAR but never for Union. .

 

Not so - Union fakes are prolific when it comes to say the specific date we are talking about (1931)

 

Whatever - You cannot compare the 1931 set against any other date in SA for a specific reason - the 1931 Tickey is the 1804 USA Dollar in our terms - we all grew up with that imprinted in our collectors conscience -

 

Even non-collectors would buy the set - that is really the difference - and will drive the price up to heights that in our terms will not make any sense.

 

Pierre

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Cold Sea
If you as a collector have scraped enough money together to buy that long coveted 1931 proof set, would you prefer a slabbed set or one with a good provenance in its original box? Are we not going to be in a situation in future when some collectors might actually start preferring proof sets in their original boxes again?

 

The original must be the ideal set, but the benefits of slabbing (authenticity, conservation etc) makes sense.

 

But let's not confuse slabbing with my pet peeve, the Sheldon scale for grading coins. Based on master psychologist Sheldon's complicated work, Penny Whimsy, only the 70 point reference remains. After all, if the ANS coins that he studied for this work were slabbed, he would not have been able to swop his lower grade examples for their better ones.

 

As far as the Europeans are concerned, I don’t think the Sheldon scale lends itself to their ancient coins, but I may be mistaken. I think authentication, and a straightforward Europe type grading is the better system.

 

But back to encapsulating. Even though they are slabbed, copper coins are so susceptible to damage and deterioration that NGC does not guarantee the grades it assigns to them, as it does with coins produced in other metals.

 

Moving with the times, in the end I think I will err on the side of caution and also have my 1931 set slabbed (and graded).

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jwither

 

Not so - Union fakes are prolific when it comes to say the specific date we are talking about (1931)

 

Whatever - You cannot compare the 1931 set against any other date in SA for a specific reason - the 1931 Tickey is the 1804 USA Dollar in our terms - we all grew up with that imprinted in our collectors conscience -

 

Even non-collectors would buy the set - that is really the difference - and will drive the price up to heights that in our terms will not make any sense.

 

Pierre

 

Why would anyone buy a 1931 circulation strike tickey form just anyone? Only an ignorant buyer would that.

 

I also suspect that many collectors buy the 1931 proof set as a substitute for the circulation strikes. It is the only reason that explains why as the second most common KGV set it sells for its current price.

 

The proof version is not the same as the circulation strike and it isn't that scarce.. It is a comment I have made many times. Under the rationalization you are using, how much do you think it should be worth? I will take the 1926, 1930, 1932, 1933 and 1935 sets anyday over the 1931. If you or anyone else want to pay its current inflated price, go ahead. I can easily do without it and spend that money on better coins.

 

I do not see the 1931 tickey as being any more desirable than the florin. I know that the mintage is lower but the number of likely survivors is probably not proportionately that different. Second hand, I have heard of two MS tickeys and one MS florin. The tickeys were the one owned by Dr Frank Mitchell and the 1931 MS set owned by someone in the UK which purportedly has both. In circulated grades, I have seen one florin on BoB, one pictured here and heard of one more. the NGC census lists zero florin and one or two tickeys. Personally, I consider the 1931 florin my #1 coin in the Union series and the tickey #2 but objectively, I think they are about equal.

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jwither

Derick,

 

NGC does not use the Sheldon scale to grade ancients. They use strike, surfaces and wear. From these three, they assign an overall grade but no number.

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Pierre_Henri
Derick,

 

NGC does not use the Sheldon scale to grade ancients. They use strike, surfaces and wear. From these three, they assign an overall grade but no number.

 

Not so - only two - being strike and surface - seems wear does not feature or am I missing something?

 

See here

 

http://www.bidorbuy.co.za/item/119461660/NGC_Graded_Silver_Denarius_of_Augustus_27BC_AD14_Almost_UNCIRCULATED.html

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jwither
Not so - only two - being strike and surface - seems wear does not feature or am I missing something?

 

See here

 

http://www.bidorbuy.co.za/item/119461660/NGC_Graded_Silver_Denarius_of_Augustus_27BC_AD14_Almost_UNCIRCULATED.html

 

No, you are right. I added it in error. The other attribute that I consider important on ancients is the centering of the strike,

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