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Lessons from slab submission: Read carefully, ask questions
By Mike Thorne, Ph.D.
July 10, 2018

A short while ago, I wrote an article for Coins in which I talked about the Saint-Gaudens double eagle ($20 gold piece). In it, I told a little about the history of the coin type and about my history with the coin. In short, about 20 years ago, I decided to try to accumulate as many Saints as possible on a relatively limited budget.

At first, I purchased only pieces certified to be in at least MS-63 condition. When I say certified, I mean by one of the major services, such as ANACS, NGC, and PCGS. I quickly realized that sticking to a minimum grade of MS-63 would mean that I would have to pass up several dates that I could afford in lower grades. As a collector who has always liked to fill holes, I dropped down to lower mint-state grades (MS-61 and -62) and, in a few cases, to circulated pieces.

For some reason, I stopped buying Saints at the end of 2002. Looking at graphs of the price of gold over time, I see that the price was on an upward slope at the time I stopped my purchases. However, it wasn’t rising so precipitously that the increasing cost would have stopped me. Perhaps I changed the focus of my collecting purchases to some other series. This may have been when I really began to concentrate on my Washington quarters Registry Set or on Peace dollars.

At any rate, I stopped buying Saints, and my accumulation languished in my lock box. Then, in 2015, I took advantage of a coupon I had received from Heritage Auctions and sold five of my Saints. The five were a mixture of grades, all less than MS-63, and a mixture of certification services.

While writing the article for Coins about Saints, I made a list of the double eagles I had kept, including the certification service, the grade, what I had paid, and when I purchased the coin. Through this process, I discovered that I had 21 different Saints, all common dates, of course. Seventeen were certified by NGC, with the other four certified by PCGS. 

Given that so many were NGC-certified, I decided to see what would happen if I listed them as an NGC Registry Set. Amazingly, with just 17 different coins, my set of Saints earned the rank of 18 in the NGC Registry. That’s 18 out of 373 sets!

From looking at the composition of sets above mine, I learned that only coins certified by NGC earn points from which the ranking is obtained. For example, even though the top set in the ranking has a 1927-D in MS-66, which has a Numismatic News “Coin Market” value of $1.6 million in MS-65, because it’s certified by PCGS it has a value of zero points toward the ranking!

To boost my set’s ranking, I decided to submit my PCGS Saints for crossover to NGC slabs. The coins I sent in were as follows: 1911-D, PCGS grade of MS-63; 1915-S, MS-64; 1922, MS-63; 1928, MS-63. On the form that I filled out with my submission, I left the space blank for “CrossOver Minimum Grade.”

I had read the instructions carefully, or so I thought, and left the “Minimum Grade” space blank because of the following statement: “Minimum grade is not required. In most cases, it applies to CrossOver submissions only. Specifying a minimum grade may prevent your coins from being encapsulated.”

Unfortunately, I had overlooked another statement: “Review of PCGS-holdered coins for NGC certification. Coins will be removed from their holders only if they can be graded at the same grade or higher than your specified minimum grade. Specify ‘ANY’ as the minimum grade to have your coin crossed regardless of grade.”

Fortunately, three of the four PCGS coins I submitted were considered more-or-less accurately graded according to the NGC grader who handled my order. They crossed over at either the same or a higher grade.

The fourth Saint, a 1922 PCGS graded MS-63, was returned, as I had submitted it still in its PCGS holder. Apparently, the grader thought it was overgraded at MS-63. Of course, I would have been okay with it in an NGC holder at a lower grade than PCGS gave it.

After I got my coins back, it occurred to me that I had run a big risk with my submission. By leaving the minimum grade slot blank, if NGC had thought that all the coins were overgraded by PCGS, they would have returned them still in their PCGS holders. I would have gotten most of the crossover fee back, but I would have been out the postage I paid to ship the coins and the fee to have them returned to me. In addition, it would have been a huge waste of time.

An NGC employee that I talked to about my order told me that if you leave the minimum grade slot blank, the graders assume that you want a minimum grade equal to the grade PCGS assigned. Obviously, that wasn’t apparent to me from my reading of the guidelines for submitting coins to NGC.

So, what is my takeaway from this experience? First, read all the guidelines carefully, perhaps taking notes as you go. Second, if there are any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask before making the submission.

Third, be sure when you purchase a coin that it’s in the holder you want it to stay in. That is, if you’re interested in developing an NGC Registry Set, be sure that any coin you buy for it is in an NGC holder. You can include PCGS-graded coins in your set, but they won’t bring you any points toward your set’s ranking no matter how rare or valuable they are.

Are you curious about what happened to my set’s ranking after I added the three NGC-graded Saints to it? Amazingly, it jumped from 18 to 12 in the ranking. Unfortunately for me, there’s a sizable gap between my set and the one above mine. I’ll either have to be content with position 12 or be prepared to buy several more Saints to add to my set. What do you think I’ll do?


This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine. >> Subscribe today.


  More Collecting Resources

• Are you a U.S. coin collector? Check out the 2019 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000 is your guide to images, prices and information on coinage of the 1900s.

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