December 6, 2011
In this article, I would like to introduce new collectors to the fast-growing world of sample slab collecting. It's time for those of you who already own sample slabs to reevaluate what you have to see what they might be worth.
I think of sample slabs as a way of watching the "slabbed" coin claim its place in Numismatic history and evolution. With each new slab design, a new era in sample slab collecting begins and a new face for coin holders appears in the marketplace. Sample slab collecting is by no means a new hobby, but it has become very popular and now is a good time to start or renew a collection.
With all this new growth comes the inevitable high demand and subsequent value increase. At the moment, the market is all over the place, which is to be expected as collectors discover which samples are rare, and which samples are common. Values should settle as the hobby moves forward.
This can be a good thing because good bargains can be found if you are willing to shop around. Let me give you an example. At the moment a PCGS 1964 Kennedy half dollar can easily sell for $50.00 or more. A few months ago, I was able to buy a PCGS 1964 Kennedy sample for $15.00 just by watching the different sites that tend to carry sample slabs. Bargains can be found now, but this may not be the case in the near future, as values are increasing for certain samples.
Another aspect of sample slabs to watch is sample holders housing World Coins. U.S. coin collectors often overlook World coins, and world samples are no exception. On that note, I would like to share my own story on how I began collecting samples, and why I think world samples are important.
What I didn't know when I bought my first sample slab was that it was rare. Also, I had no idea that it was even a sample! It would eventually open up a part of numismatics I never knew existed. This was the best collectors mistake I have ever made!
Below is an image of the PCGS 1967-B Swiss ½ Franc I purchased. PCGS started grading certain World coins back in the early 1990s. This particular sample is the first sample to show what a World coin would look like in a PCGS holder. I have only seen two of these samples up for auction in the last several months.
I have no idea how many were produced. In my opinion production numbers here quite low, based on what I have experienced searching for additions to my own collection. As you can see, this sample has no grade, a serial number and a beautiful mint state coin inside. It's common for samples to not have grades. Some will have a grade, but not necessarily the actual grade of the coin inside. That's just one interesting fact about samples, but there are so many other facts to discuss that it can get confusing. There are many questions to ask and some questions take longer to answer than others. Why is one sample more valuable than another? What are sample market trends, values and rarities? What is a "dealer only" sample? Just to list a few. All of which I plan on writing about in future articles.
PCGS is currently the leader in high-end sample slabs and has always been a huge producer of samples. Their samples date back to the mid-1980s and have become some of the most sought-after of all sample slabs. With so many PCGS sample slabs to choose from, a collection can be started very easily with samples from the PCGS grading service alone.
What really separates coin collecting from sample collecting is the fact that the coins are minted in the millions or even billions. Sample slabs are produced in lots of one thousand or less. When I say less, I am referring to numbers as low as five or ten!
You can see why this hobby can be fun, since most people still don't know samples exist, and there could be a rarity hiding in any collection, flea market or garage sale. Maybe one was listed on eBay and the seller had no idea what they had.
That's one important and crucial aspect of sample collecting; that it's one of the newest trends in Numismatics. So that means now is the time to get involved before everyone knows about it. Once they do know about it, the values of the rarities will increase and will only be for the deep-pocketed few.
So until next time, remember when it comes to sample slabs, collect the slab not the coin.