NGC Chairman Mark Salzberg reflects on NGC's last 25 years and his own career in numismatics.
Dear NGC Community:
This year was NGC’s 25th anniversary and, as we pass this important milestone, I reflect upon the roots of NGC and my lifelong career in numismatics. In 1979 I attended my first ANA convention in St. Louis as an employee of Randy Block, owner of Raab Rare Coins in Flemington, New Jersey. Another employee of Randy’s at that time was John Albanese, who actually first hired me when I was only 11 years old and remains a lifelong friend.
At the 1979 ANA, Randy introduced me to a number of prominent coin dealers, but the most memorable were Ron Iskowitz and Bob Rose — two dealers who helped shape my career as a grader. They showed me some truly outstanding type coins at the show and instructed me on the nuances of Proof Seated Liberty halves from the 1880s. Although I was young and new to the industry, they spent a great deal of time teaching me and had a tremendous impact when I first began my career. I am very grateful to Randy, Ron and Bob. Sadly, Bob is no longer with us to thank in person.
I had a number of similar interactions during my early years in numismatics that ultimately formed the philosophy that has guided NGC for the last 25 years. First and foremost, NGC serves as a positive influence on the coin business. Collectors are a primary focus. We always provide the best possible service, from the most consistent and accurate grading to the best customer service. John Albanese founded NGC with these goals in mind and, although we have grown in size considerably over the last 25 years, we have closely adhered to these guiding principles.
Our long-term philosophy is also reflected by the stability of the NGC management team. I have been with NGC for 25 years along with Ken Krah, a vice president and head of our world coin department. Steve Eichenbaum, CEO of NGC, has been here for 13 years. Rick Montgomery, NGC’s president, has been with us for a decade.
Since 1995, NGC has been the official grading service of the American Numismatic Association. Every year, we send graders to teach courses at the ANA Summer Seminar and we provide additional educational resources for their members such as articles for The Numismatist. In 2004 NGC was named the official grading service of the Professional Numismatists Guild. NGC also provides significant financial support to the Smithsonian Institution so that people can continue to enjoy access to some of the world’s most treasured coins. In 2012 alone we contributed $100,000 to the Smithsonian Institution.
Our commitment to “do the right thing” has paid off — for many years, NGC has been the world’s largest coin grading company. In May, we became the first grading company to certify 25 million coins and, only a few months later, we hit the 26-million-coin mark. This was a particularly memorable year, and I would like to take a few moments to share some of our highlights with you.
Grading Walter Perschke’s Brasher Doubloon in June was undoubtedly one of the crowning achievements of my career. This event was made even more special because two of my earliest friends in numismatics, Ron Iskowitz and John Albanese, guided Walter in his decision to send his Brasher Doubloon to NGC. I feel like my career has come full circle — the same people who started me on my path to become a grader would, after more than three decades, help NGC grade the most valuable coin ever certified. I am very thankful to Ron and John for all that they have done, and I am honored that Walter trusted NGC to grade and encapsulate his precious coin.
Another important United States rarity was received this year from one of our Authorized Dealers in Europe. This Proof 1854 Eagle was graded NGC PF 55 Cameo and is believed to be unique. One of the benefits of NGC’s international expansion is the opportunity to receive great rarities such as this from around the world.
Our world coin department has certified many significant coins this year including two extremely rare patterns from the Orange Free State in what is now South Africa. One of these patterns, an 1887 Bronze 1 Kroon, is believed to be unique. We also certified a fantastic SP 66 BN Irish 1938 Penny — one of just two known.
The NGC Ancients program, launched only four years ago, has already made a significant impact in that market. Led by noted authority David Vagi, this department certified many spectacular coins in the past year, but two gold aurei of Roman emperors stood out. The first, an aureus of Maximian, A.D. 286–310, was graded MS with 5/5 Strike, 4/5 Surface and Fine Style. The other is a Gem MS aureus of Septimius Severus, A.D. 193–211, which boasts 5/5 Strike, 5/5 Surface and Fine Style. Both are among the finest known specimens.
Collectors and dealers choose NGC in greater numbers because of our accurate and consistent grading and the strength of the NGC Guarantee, which we believe is the most comprehensive in the industry. Their support has made NGC the world’s largest coin grading company, which ultimately means that there are more buyers and sellers of NGC-certified coins around the world. As a result, NGC-certified coins continue to set record prices when sold at auction or private treaty sale.
NGC has experienced remarkable growth internationally as collectors and dealers around the world realize the value of NGC’s expert grading and authentication. They have demonstrated a strong preference for NGC and, at recent shows in Seoul and Beijing, more than 90 percent of the certified coins were graded by NGC. In March we opened an office in Konstanz, Germany, where we process submissions from throughout the European Union. This facility complements our presence in Switzerland, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. We expect significant growth in international markets in the coming year as we continue to expand our operations.
A particularly important market for NGC is China, where we extended our official submission center agreement with Guangzhou GB in June. We also released the NGC Chinese Modern Coin Price Guide on www.ngccoin.com, which offers a wealth of information about these interesting coins. These initiatives have resulted in NGC grading more than 500,000 Chinese coins in just a few short years.
In addition to the Chinese Modern Coin Price Guide, we have launched several innovative online resources in an effort to provide collectors and dealers with the most advanced tools in the industry. We developed NGC Coin Details, a mobile app for the iPhone and Android platform that allows for the use of a smartphone’s camera to scan the barcode on an NGC holder and unlock detailed specifications, descriptions, images and more.
Earlier in the year, we overhauled the NGC Dealer Locator and optimized it for mobile devices. Among other features, you can now use your smartphone’s GPS capabilities to find the nearest NGC Authorized Dealer to your location. We have also made significant improvements to our other web resources, including the NGC Registry, the most popular online coin collecting community. The NGC Registry now offers collectors 3,400 possible set types for more than 80 countries.
The future of NGC looks very bright as we expand and enhance our presence around the world. We now employ more than 25 full-time graders along with a number of consultants, and are on track to certify our 27-millionth coin in early 2013. There are so many people I would like to thank for their support over the last 25 years. I wish all of our thousands of collector and dealer members my best as we begin a new year, and I hope that you will continue to choose NGC.