PCGS Set Registry

What to Look for When a Collection Comes to Auction

As I write this there is a top Lincoln registry set up for auction on HA. It is not identified as a collection but with dozens of coins labeled as from the retired Jerald L Martin Collection it is a safe assumption. All show to be part of an unidentified PCGS registry set so we know the seller wants privacy otherwise HA would be trumpeting the sale. These coins are so premium it’s likely several will approach $100,000 at auction hammer. Besides pictures HA has prepared videos on many of the coins which I have never seen before. UPDATE: Many of these coins ended up in the D.L. Hansen top registry set.

Most of the coins have no auction history on PCGS and those that do have nothing newer than 2005. Since there is currently no Jerald L. Martin Collection on PCGS we have to assume these coins were purchased (inherited?) as a set by the current owner. Sadly, many of these coins will sell for a fraction of what was paid for them as these coins were purchased in the market highs of the 90’s and early 2000’s.

I note with great interest that almost none of the holders are CAC stickered. Those that are have old faded stickers. Most old collections like this going to auction would routinely be submitted to CAC. Either the owner (or his heirs) is in a hurry to sell, is a CAC hater, or the coins just aren’t worthy of a green bean. When you get to grades of 67 for these very early Lincoln’s a CAC sticker can prove elusive but you would expect to see at least a few new stickers if the entire collection was submitted. A sharp eyed bidder could spot a CAC worthy coin and not pay a CAC price.

Almost none of the coins have a plus grade. This and the low serial numbers tell you most of these coins were graded before the plus grade was available in 2010. It is hard to imagine HA would not advise that the collection be submitted to PCGS for reconsideration and a possible major bump in price so we have to assume the owner did not consent. Again, opportunity awaits for an astute bidder to buy a coin with upgrade potential.

We now know three things, all of which help the potential bidder. The owner does not want publicity so potential buyers may not be aware of the sale. The coins likely were not submitted to CAC and finally it is doubtful they were submitted to PCGS for reconsideration. HA would advance cash on a collection like this so a need for funds would not be a driver for this state of affairs. To me this screams of someone wanting to dispose of a collection quickly and completely which strongly suggests an estate sale.

Playing the Set Registry Game

I'm a big fan even though I am frequently reminded this is a rich mans hobby.

Start small. PCGS wisely created micro sets like the Texas Commemorative registry set - only 13 coins needed and none a huge rarity. You can register for a Lincoln cent registry that has every date, mint mark, major variety and error type from 1909 to 2018. Some of the modern Lincoln errors sell for $100k plus in MS65 so it is not realistic for most of us to complete such a collection in Gem BU. You can start with Wheat cents (basic set is still a whopping 140 coins), or Wheat cents since the depression, or maybe Lincoln Memorial cents. PCGS has thousands of sets to choose from so start with something you are likely to complete.

There are two ways to complete a set. You can buy circulated coins and quickly complete many sets. You can earn a surprisingly high ranking sometimes by doing this but of course you will top out farther down the list than those who choose the second method - going slow and buying the absolute best coins they can afford. For the Lincoln Wheat Basic set you could be in the top 50 with no coins above AU in the set.

I have sets that are a short-term goal and others I don't expect to complete for a decade (see my sets and rankings on the Coin Cabinet page). Short-term sets are silver proof state and national park quarters (both with flag labels). Long-term is my Lincoln Wheat set. I have a collection of MS65 CAC OGH Morgan's going that I may use for a basic Morgan set at some point when I have more than the dozen coins I have now. You can buy these coins for $100 or less sometimes.

If you don't register your sets you should nonetheless log your coins in the PCGS registry. I enter date purchased, from who, the price, if it has Gold Shield, label type (OGH, First Strike, Flag Label, etc.) and if CAC or QA stickered. Registering is invaluable for organizing, tracking, insurance support and even estate planning.

Don't miss the joy of looking at some of the top tier registry sets (often with pictures). Look at any set from Bruce Morelan. His wife once exclaimed "can't we buy a beach house instead of another silver dollar?"