NGC and NCS Help Paradise, California, Collector Impacted by Devastating Wildfire

Posted on 2/5/2019

In all, 48 NGC-graded coins were conserved, graded and reholdered.

At 6:33 a.m. on November 8, 2018, a wildfire was reported near Pulga, California. Less than two hours later, the fire had already covered multiple miles and was beginning to sweep through the town of Paradise. In total, the Camp Fire burned some 6,400 residences and killed at least 86, and all but destroyed Paradise, California.

To watch a video about this subject, click the image above or click here.

Coin collector Joseph Best was among those who lost their homes, and he was lucky to escape with his life as he was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic as the town burned around him. The numismatic community rallied to support him with a GoFundMe that raised over $12,000 to help him and his family, some of whom also lost their homes.

Joe took this photo from his car as he narrowly escaped Paradise.

The numismatic community agonized along with Joe as he waited for approval to re-enter Paradise to check on his home and precious coin collection. Unfortunately, even with a fire-proof safe, things did not look good when Joe first posted his findings online on December 9, over a month after the fire.

While the safe was supposedly fire-proof, the temperature still increased to such a degree that the NGC holders and display boxes themselves were heavily damaged.

LEFT: Joe’s fire-proof safe ended up on its side. RIGHT: A view inside the safe shows the intensity of the heat.
Click images to enlarge.

After seeing these photos, an NGC representative reached out to Joe early the next day to offer the services of NGC and its affiliate, Numismatic Conservation Services (NCS), free of charge. Joe accepted, and plans were quickly made for him to drop off the coins at the NGC table at the FUN Show in Orlando in early January. In all, Joe dropped off 48 NGC-graded coins for conservation and re-holdering.

Joe with one of the NGC-graded coins that was damaged by the fire.
Click image to enlarge.

While the NGC Guarantee would not apply to coins with such severely damaged holders, NGC and NCS wanted to help Joe as best they could.

A 1913 Type 1 Buffalo in NGC MS 64★ in a fire-damaged NGC holder.
Click images to enlarge.

A 1917 Walking Liberty Half Dollar in NGC MS 62 in a heavily fire-damaged NGC holder
Click images to enlarge.

As evident from the photos above, the heat inside of the safe must have been extremely intense. It is also interesting to note how the coins have melted into the left side of the core, an effect that is certainly due to the fact that the safe ended up on its side as the fire destroyed Joe’s home.

After a month of careful conservation by NCS, Joe’s NGC-certified collection was almost completely recovered. While a couple of modern proofs had to be changed from NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo to NGC PF 69 Ultra Cameo, all of his prized Buffalo Nickels weathered the fire relatively unscathed.

The same 1913 Type 1 Buffalo Nickel after NCS conservation.
Click images to enlarge.

The same 1917 Walking Liberty Half Dollar after NCS conservation.
Click images to enlarge.

Before and after images of a 1913 Type 1 Buffalo Nickel. Click images to enlarge.

Joe received his coins back from NGC on February 4, 2019, less than a month after turning them in for NCS conservation and NGC grading. After receiving his coins back, Joe wrote:

“WOW!! I cannot put into words how happy NGC and NCS have made me. You guys are awesome, and my coins look beautiful, especially with my pedigree on the new NGC holders. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart!”

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