When I was a kid there were no third-party grading services, no certificates of authenticity and no feeding frenzy over -69 and -70 grades. All the things that I had to learn as a beginner did not involve brain teasers like an inquiry below that was recently emailed to me:
“I ordered a 2012 San Francisco Silver Eagle two-coin proof set 75th anniversary Numismatic Guaranty Corp. PF (proof)/REV PF-70 from a weekly full page advertiser in Numismatic News. Today, I received the set. The reverse proof label reads: San Francisco Eagle set. The proof label reads: coin and currency set. My question is: are the coins I received a true 75th anniversary set? I feel if I ordered a 75th silver Eagle anniversary set I should have them with the same label. Will this cause a problem in value if and when I resell them?”
No question, he will have to send the coin and currency set coin back. Why?
When I was a kid there would not have been specific labels. A collector would have gotten a proof and a reverse proof and noted they the two coins in the set.
Nowadays, the label does indeed make a difference and every future potential buyer is going to look at the two labels and say that the two coins are not a set, even though without the label nobody could tell where the “S” proof originated.
Also, without the third-party grading service, there would have been no need to take the coins out of the original holders in the first place and a mix-up of this kind could not occur. That is not to say that years ago we didn’t put excessive faith in the original packaging. We did. We still do for coins that are not in third-party slabs.
In those days we could say we were just quirky, but then be careful to admonish everyone to keep the coins in original packaging if they wanted to get the current market price for them. After that we could laugh a little at our excessive pickiness because a set’s value should derive from the individual coins in it and what condition they are. Today a perfectly good S-mint Eagle will have to be sent back by the buyer to the seller not because the coin is in anyway inferior – it’s a Proof-70 after all – but because it originated in another set.
This, of course, raises the philosophical question that we did ask ourselves in the 1960s. Once coins are removed from the original packaging, there really is no way to prove that the coins were once all in the same package. You could tell they were all proofs, for example, but that was all.
The grading service label now tells us what kind of set the coins came from, but even if it had the correct set on the label saying “San Francisco Eagle set,” there is still no way to tell if the two coins originated in the same package mailed by the Mint.
The labels tell us the coins are mismatched as to the set of origin. That will hurt their future value if not exchanged now, but neither the coin in hand nor the one to be received will be in the least way inferior to the other no matter what the label says. It is indeed a brain teaser.