At PCGS, we usually talk about old coins, banknotes, medals, and tokens. But old brochures? While these aren’t items we currently grade, they’re certainly ones we celebrate, especially when they showcase the fascinating, colorful growth and development of PCGS, which was founded in 1986 and marks its 35th anniversary in 2021.
Old paper memorabilia is a highly popular area of collectibles and falls into the category of “ephemera” – items that are designed for use and enjoyment usually for only a short time. Among these are pamphlets, leaflets, registration forms, and periodicals. Many of these things – usually issued for free or little cost – typically wind up in trash bins before too long and is a primary reason much ephemera, such as once-common catalogs or handbills from a vintage period, are often quite rare today.
Thankfully, there are countless people dedicated to collecting ephemera, and one of those individuals is Greg Allen. The president, chief manager, and owner of Greg Allen Coins, LLC, began collecting coins in 1971 and launched his company in 2004. The PCGS Authorized Dealer and member of the Professional Numismatic Guild (PNG) started collecting PCGS material shortly after our company began, and he had good reason to do so, too. “As a collector, and later a dealer, I learned early on numismatic knowledge was very important,” Allen says. “Back in the early days of PCGS, numismatic knowledge was typically obtained by building a numismatic library. This included not only collecting books, but also articles from newspapers, magazines, etc. – and, at least for me, PCGS brochures and advertisements.”
Allen says that even though much of the information in his numismatic library can be found online, he kept the old PCGS memorabilia because he thought they represented a “cool” chapter in the evolution of coin grading. “Like reading books or looking at coins from long ago, it is nice to look at the materials from time to time and think back to the time they were created and what numismatics was like during that era.”
A great deal of Allen’s PCGS ephemera hearkens back to the first years of our company’s existence, when we were establishing our brand as a new concept in coin authentication, grading, and security. Our mission wasn’t just to educate the collecting (and non-collecting) public about our company and what we do, but also why the accurate grading and encapsulation of coins is essential to ensuring their authentication and value.
While Allen appreciates vintage ephemera regardless of their content, his motives for keeping the more recent items in his collection of PCGS memorabilia is specific to his interest in numismatics. “PCGS was quite prolific in creating so many brochures and advertisements,” he says. Allen’s collection contains hundreds of PCGS items, and most are in pristine condition. “They just seemed too nice to throw out,” he adds.
He has several pieces he’s proud of, including one he believes is particularly rare: a PCGS Regency Holder order form. “That item is probably the rarest PCGS item I have.” Another cherished item in his PCGS collection is the original company brochure, complete with photographs of the grading process as it was in the mid-1980s.
Other cool items also shine in the collection, including an August 1989 PCGS Population Report; published around the time we debuted a more modern holder, it effectively reflects almost all the coins ever encapsulated in so-called PCGS “Rattler” holders – as many in the hobby have dubbed our holders that were produced up until that time. Then there is a PCGS calling card featuring a PCGS-graded 1913 Liberty Nickel. “Looking at that card brought back memories of holding that coin in 1997 so shortly after Spectrum bought it for just short of $1 million.”
So, how did we end up with Greg Allen’s outstanding collection of PCGS memorabilia? “As a dealer attending the various major coin shows on the national circuit, I would often see PCGS display top Registry Sets at shows. I thought it might also be interesting after 30-plus years to display some of the early PCGS brochures and advertisements or find some other outlet to share them with others,” he says. “I showed the materials to several people at PCGS at the February 2020 Long Beach show and at a couple PCGS Members Only Shows in Las Vegas. They all thought the items were cool but were not quite sure how to share them with others in a meaningful way.”
That all changed in January 2021… “While attending another PCGS Members Only Show in Las Vegas, I received a call from PCGS Director of Numismatic Education and Outreach Steve Feltner. He said ‘Greg, we finally found a way to share the PCGS materials you have collected over the years.’ He explained PCGS was preparing materials, including a video, to celebrate PCGS’s 35th anniversary. I said I would be happy to send the materials to PCGS to use.”
So why keep old brochures, pamphlets, and other ephemera anyway? “My father was a high school history teacher, so I learned the importance of history at an early age,” Allen explains. “With regard to the PCGS materials, they document historical aspects of the early evolution of PCGS. Their contents provide insight into what PCGS thought was important to convey to the numismatic community about their company and the services they provided.” He goes onto say, “In viewing the materials, we get a glimpse of the transition from raw coins to third-party grading. Coin collecting has a long history, and PCGS is an important part of latter 20th-century numismatics.”