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Slabbing Your Bank Notes

A very rare $50 1880 Legal Tender note graded by PMG. (Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions).

A very rare $50 1880 Legal Tender note graded by PMG. (Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions).

To slab or not to slab, that is the question. Do you slab? Do you slab all your notes? Do you slab your coins? Slabbing burst upon the scene in a big way 20 years ago, or so. It has advantages and drawbacks. I try to buy notes that are already graded and slabbed. That saves money and, in some cases, long waits. On the plus side, slabbing currency protects it from inadvertent corner tip folds, spills or other accidental damage. When you sell, it should prevent haggling about the grade. The auction companies love it because they don’t have to deal with unhappy customers about the grade of their purchase. In other words, no returns, or very few. As an exhibiter, they take up more space in a case, but look nice and neat. There are two major grading services, Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) and Paper Money Guaranty (PMG). Some collectors favor one or the other. I find both services pretty close. Sometimes you get a surprise when the notes come back, as you didn’t see a repair when you bought it raw. Sometimes you don’t agree with the grade. I had what I thought was probably a Very Fine 30 graded note that looked pretty good to me. It was graded a 15. I grumbled for a few years and finally sent it to the other grading company. It came back a 30 grade. However, that is the only time I thought the grader was sleeping. I don’t grade inexpensive notes. It doesn’t make much sense to pay half or more of the value of a note, just to get it in a holder. I always get my rare notes graded, as I just don’t want to take a chance on the note getting damaged.

Coins seem to have some different issues. Again, only two main grading companies. But the grading doesn’t seem to be as precise. There are a number of collectors and dealers out there that made a living on buying coins they thought were under graded. I heard one such individual who said he had to send a coin in three times before he got the grade he wanted. That’s not very common with notes. The old copper collectors seem to be a main holdout. They like their coins raw and store them in little cotton bags. I admire people who keep up a tradition. Regarding my coins, I generally grade my better coins. I haven’t graded my Chain cent, however, or any of my other Large Cents. I like to play with them, examine them for varieties, although I don’t use the cotton bags. I have a set of Proof Buffalo Nickels that I bought graded, just to be on the safe side and I have a special album for them that has slots for the grading capsules. I also have my gold coins graded because they probably wouldn’t survive being dropped. They are too soft, and an edge ding really hurts the value. So, what do you think? Email me and let me know at

Regarding values this issue. I see big jumps in all $500, $1000, and up notes in all grades and values. I also note that Tuesday night auctions are a good spot for bargains in earlier Federal Reserve Notes from $5 to $100.