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Original packages create problems

Have you ever tried to sell a set from the U.S. Mint that is not in its original packaging or does not have all the paperwork?

Not pleasant is it, if you are expecting full price?

For many years Numismatic News has preached the fact that ultimately value depends on coins themselves, not packaging, but we are not so foolish as to try to order the market to do something it does not want to do. So we make both points.

Collectors have to be realistic. They have to maximize the value of what they own. That usually means original packaging.

But from time to time I get emails or letters like this one below:

“For years I have bought lots of United States proof sets from the 1950s and 1960s. I kept them in the original packages as they came from the Mint.

“Lately I have been taking some of the Kennedy and Franklin half dollars out and sending some in to be graded. And some of these are coming back from the grading services as having PVC damage.

“It makes me wonder what these sets will look like in another 40 years. Will more of the sets have PVC damage? Should they all be removed from the original packages so PVC damage does not happen to the coins?

“I want to keep these sets for my grandsons, but I do not want to leave them a pile of coins all with PVC damage. Has anyone else run into this problem?”

This collectors questions confront many hobbyists today.

I am assuming the writer's reference to PVC damage is a generic one referring to all forms of environmental damage to coins.

Carbon spots on cents and contamination on other coins have long been the bane of proof and uncirculated set owners.

Sometimes the problem is due to the deterioration of the packaging.

Sometimes it is due to exposure of the coins to the atmosphere before packaging.

Some more recent packages are not even airtight, exposing coins to the atmosphere continuously.

What do you do?

If you are looking ahead a couple of generations, pulling the coins out of the original packing and having the coins graded by third parties is not a bad idea.

If you want to sell the sets at any time in the next couple of years, you might want to accelerate your timing.

Who knows when some coins in the sets will turn into problems?

But every collector must answer these questions for himself in light of his objectives and time horizon.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."