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The Twelve Year Evolution of the PCGS Set Registry


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Next month PCGS will be honoring those collectors who have achieved numismatic excellence. This will be the 12th season for the PCGS Set Registry awards. The first sets were registered in February, 2001. In 2002, we gave major awards to just fifteen outstanding U.S. sets. Last year, 155 sets and collections from all over the world were recognized.

The early beginnings of the PCGS Set Registry were the brain child of PCGS's founder and Collectors Universe President, David Hall. In 1997, David thought it would be fun and educational to compile a listing of the world's finest U.S. coin collections. He put together a list of up to five all-time finest and current finest sets in major categories, ranking them in order by grade point average & completion. PCGS Set Registry brochures were published in 1998, 1999 and 2001.

Based on the information in these brochures, I began working with two programmers on an Internet version of the Set Registry in mid-2000. The idea was to make the Registry an interactive vehicle so that collectors could upload their PCGS-graded coins and compete with each other for the number one slot. While I thought the Registry had a shot at achieving some level of success, I had no idea that twelve years later we would be hosting over 66,000 sets with 7,000 active members participating. And I certainly never imagined how influential the Registry would become.

We launched the first version of the PCGS Set Registry online in February, 2001, with just 327 sets. By June we had 708 sets registered. Word continued to spread. One year later, 2,002 sets were registered and we began adding U.S. variety set composites. On February 1, 2003, there were 5,493 sets registered and the world coin sets started to appear.

Three years after launch, we hit the 10,000 mark. It was time to upgrade the software and in 2004, we rolled out version 2, which provided collectors with an inventory program. Through the years, the Registry has continued to evolve with many of the updates a direct result of feedback from the collector base who had become avid supporters. Today, the Registry is recognized as a flexible program that allows collectors of all levels to compete, share, organize, and have fun.

Over the years we have recognized hundreds of collectors and their collections through the PCGS Set Registry awards. Many collectors who received major awards the first year are still active today. The amazing High Desert type set, whose owner received a Hall of Fame induction in 2011, received his ten year icon last year, which means that he has won an award every year since 2002. Stewart Blay, owner of one the finest collections of copper coins ever assembled and a Hall of Famer, continues to be recognized for his collecting acumen. The Corso Collection, received its first major award in 2002 for Jefferson nickels, and today has seventeen sets ranked number one. Although many have tried, no one has ever achieved a higher grade point average than the phenomenal EBL III Collection of proof Franklin half dollars, another Hall of Fame set.

As some collectors retire their collections, new collectors register amazing sets, many of whom get recognized their first year as the "Best New Set of the Year." Other collectors slowly build their collections over time and many of those are recognized when they reach completion and that coveted number one slot. The Registry is constantly changing and every year about this time, I am always pleasantly surprised as the final list is pulled at the awards deadline for our judges to review. There are collectors who have been participants of the Registry for years and are still holding that number spot, there are those collectors who have retired sets and have started sets in other series, and there are the Registry rookies, many of whom have published mind-blowing collections during the year.

Records are kept of all our award winners and you can view descriptions of their award winning sets by visiting the Awards pages. Members of the PCGS Set Registry Hall of Fame, our highest honor, can be viewed here. This year's award deadline is Friday, June 28th.

I consider it a privilege to have managed the Collectors Universe Registry program since 2001. I am fortunate to have a wonderful staff that traveled on this amazing journey with me. While I love the work I do, the really special part of my job is the opportunity it has provided me to meet some wonderful people who I have come to admire for their passion, dedication, and love for the coins they collect.

BJ Searls is a graduate of Pepperdine University with a Master’s in Business Administration. She has been involved in numismatics since 1973 and has worked for Collectors Universe since 1997. BJ is the Set Registry and Special Projects Director for PCGS, PSA and PSA/DNA. Email: [email protected].
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