Collector’s Edge

Posted on 7/9/2019

Is the grading and encapsulation of coins always justified?

Q: I put together a Mint State set of silver Roosevelt dimes years ago, and they've been stored in an album, but now I want to get them slabbed. I looked online, and it seems that some of the later dates are worth about the same as the grading fee would be. Is it worth doing?

1946-S 10C
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A: It's your money, so you'll have to decide that for yourself, but there is a smart way of approaching the matter. The services and fee chart on the NGC website shows that non-gold US coins valued at no more than $300 each can be certified for $20 under the Economy tier. For the ones dated 1955 and later this fee drops to just $17 per coin, with a value limit of $2,000 each. Looking at the NGC Price Guide, there are no silver Roosevelt dimes valued at less than $18 in MS 65. Since you bought your coins "raw" years ago, it's likely that you have just a few dollars each in them, so it may be cost effective to get them certified. You may want to first show them to a trusted dealer or skilled collector to determine whether they meet or exceed the MS 65 grade, as the values for lower grades drop off quickly for all but the scarcer dates.

Q: My collection of Lincoln Wheat cents was started from circulation nearly 60 years ago, and I found most of them in circulation or in rolls from a bank. Now that I've purchased the key dates to complete it, I'm wrestling with whether to get them graded. Most are worn, but the later dates are AU or Mint State. They look great in the albums, but I've been told that albums are not good for coins. What should I do?

1935 1C
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A: Most coin albums are generally OK for well circulated coins, as worn pieces that haven't been cleaned have a protective layer of toning that is fairly resistant to the cardboard pages used for these albums. Of course, vinyl coin albums of the sort popular 40-50 years ago are very destructive to any and all coins and should never be used. They're all but extinct in the United States, though they are still in production overseas. Assuming you have a cardboard album with clear slides on either side of the coins, the worn pieces should be fine. Copper and bronze coins still having mint luster, whether fully red or toned, remain reactive to the sulfur and paper dust in coin albums, so you'll want to get these later dates certified for their long term protection.

1958 1C
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Obviously, cost is a factor, and Lincoln cents of the 1940s-50s are not worth enough to justify this expense unless in gem (MS 65 RD) or higher grades. The 1955-58 coins can be certified at $17 apiece, but even this may exceed the MS 65 RD value of the most common dates. It really comes down to whether you want to protect the better condition coins from deterioration for your enjoyment, rather than to do it as an investment. The older coin albums for the Lincoln Wheat series were divided 1909-40 and 1941 onward. Since these are what you likely have, one suggestion is to retain your album collection for the first volume and get the coins of the second album graded and encapsulated. These are the cents that are most likely to be harmed by album storage, due to their retaining mint luster and red color.

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