Jim Bisognani: When a Holder Adds Value

Posted on 12/2/2021

Coins in early NGC holders are increasingly being sought after, as a recent auction showed.

Well, it is December already. In my formative years, the days leading to the arrival of December 25th were full of joy infused with pure agony — I mean, the wait was torture to us tikes. As an older coot during this time of year, I still am nostalgic for the time when TV holiday specials were indeed special, as they were only ours to view once over the airwaves. There were no repeated airings of Charlie Brown, Rudolph or the Grinch. Now, we can pull them up on our iPhone, tablet and laptop or via the appropriately named “smart TV.”

Indeed, cable channels start broadcasting holiday specials before the end of summer and see fit to air those episodes 24 hours a day. Ah, but the yuletide season did bring me this great hobby of ours.

It was a standing family rule that if we were the first ones up on Christmas morning, we were allowed to investigate the contents of our respective stockings only! Tucked into the toe of my stocking on Christmas morning 1963 was the first coin Santa left me: a Franklin Half Dollar. I was very thankful for that monetary gift.

1963 Franklin Half Dollar from NGC Coin Explorer
Click images to enlarge.

The following year, I was gifted a much larger silver coin, an 1891-O Morgan Dollar. When I came across the hefty silver piece, I didn’t immediately know what it was, as I hadn’t seen anything like this in my pocket change. This was my first numismatic coin! A coin dated in the 1800s! Fantastic!

1891-O Morgan Dollar from NGC Coin Explorer
Click images to enlarge.

I pulled out my little Cracker Jack premium plastic magnifier and studied the coin and, right then on Christmas morning, I was hooked. I hungered to learn more about it: Who was that lady on the front? What years were they made? And so on. There are many enjoyable pastimes and great hobbies, but for me, coins are such a great one.

Give the gift of numismatics

This holiday season, I want to encourage the readers of this column to inspire and nurture a new collector, either a youngster or a contemporary. It should be easy to scrounge up a few foreign coins, a roll of Lincoln Wheat cents, the Red Book: “A Guide Book of United States Coins” or direct a new collector to the wonderful NGC website for US and world coin pricing, census reports, auction data and informative articles, which are free!

I still can recall as a youngster — back in the days of the abacus — the only way you could buy coins was through a local coin shop, attend a show if one was in your area or wait for a monthly newsletter to arrive from your favorite dealer. For many of us youthful coin enthusiasts residing in “winter zones,” traveling this time of year was not in the cards, as mom or dad weren’t too thrilled about taking a jaunt to a show or a local dealer in possible blizzard conditions.

The option left was mail order, and that was always a minor gamble for me, as my seemingly paltry $5 was a lot for me to spend only to be disappointed by a coin that was cleaned or overgraded. Ah, if there could only be some sort of uniform grading! My wish did finally come true! The advent of third-party grading took care of this.

Dealers would still espouse “buy the coin, not the holder,” which means that grading is subjective, and each coin that is housed in a third-party holder should still be judged on its own merits. As we all know, not all technical grades are alike. Still, it's good advice!

Older holders are a new collectible

The axiom can be reversed when old NGC holders are brought to the conversation. The extreme popularity of older NGC holders — like the black core, “fatties” and others — are bringing hefty premiums on their own merits. So much demand is targeting the early NGC legacy holders that auctions are being conducted featuring only old holdered coins!

This week, I watched quite intently online the Heritage Early Holders US Coins Showcase Auction, and the sale certainly supplied buyers a variety of early holiday offerings, which included a range of early copper examples to $20 Gold! I am compelled to share the following fabulous quartet from the sale.

I found this satiny 1903-S Liberty Half Eagle graded NGC MS 63 housed in a 2.1 fatty with CAC sticker, which realized an astounding $3,650! I think part of the appeal, other than a fabulous coin, was that this coin was apparently placed in the holder in a pronounced “diving” mode — perhaps prepping to bob for apples.

1903-S Liberty Half Eagle graded NGC MS 63. Realized $3,650
Click images to enlarge.

This coin certainly brought a record price within the designated grade. The combination of coin and early holder catapulted this coin to an astounding record. The same example with like grade and encapsulated in a current holder would normally command around $850.

I was fortunate to speak with the consignor and they were flabbergasted with the outcome of their consignment — thrilled with the results. This person also imparted a bit of history about the NGC holders, informing me that approximately 200 of the 2.1 holder variant exist today and, regardless of the coin, the holder commands about a $500 premium beyond the value of the coin. The 3.0 variant has around a few thousand, and they generally fetch about an average of $200.

Another 2.1 holdered coin featured was this “common” 1939-D Mercury Dime graded NGC MS 65 FB, which soared to $840!

1939-D Mercury Dime graded NGC MS 65 FB. Realized $840
Click images to enlarge.

Also in the sale, a dazzling 1880-S Morgan Dollar graded NGC MS 65 PL housed in a 3.0 variant realized an impressive $960, another record for the grade and designation!

1880-S Morgan Dollar graded NGC MS 65 PL. Realized $960
Click images to enlarge.

Finally, there was a lovely 1936 York County Half Dollar, also housed in a 3.0 holder, graded NGC MS 65, which pulled in $228, a seemingly “bargain price.”

1936 York County Half Dollar graded NGC MS 65. Realized $228
Click images to enlarge.

Well, my fellow coindexters, perhaps an early holdered NGC coin would make a great gift for the hard-to-satisfy fellow collector on your list or for yourself! Good luck and enjoy the hunt. In the meantime, keep warm for the holidays!

Until next time, be safe and happy collecting!

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