Slabbing Australian Coins - Is Resistance Futile?

February 12, 2009

I've only been a coin collector for the last three years, but I really feel like I have joined the hobby at an important point in it's history in Australia. It has become apparent to me in the last year that slabbing Australian coins is really gaining momentum. I can recall going to an ANDA show in September 2007 and hardly seeing a slabbed coin at all. Just 6 months later at another show there were at least two dealers with inventory that was largely slabbed. Roll forward a year and at a small regional show there was one dealer with his inventory entirely slabbed. Then there is the rise of the 'slabbed dealers' as I like to think of them, dealers that seem to largely restrict themselves to slabbed inventory that they sell via their websites, eBay, or via a mailing list. These sorts of dealers have really fallen out of the woodwork in the last year, with at least one older established dealer leading the charge with an almost entire inventory slabbed by PCGS.

Then we see the current topics of discussion on the various internet forums. Lately there has been a discussion on the eBay Australia forums titled 'Slabs are the future of numismatics'. The thread is long but makes for interesting reading, with some clear advocates of the practice and some clear opponents. It's interesting to note that one of the posters in there is an established ANDA dealer and has an established history as a vocal opponent of slabbing. Funnily enough in my 'younger' coin collecting days I bought two coins from him, one of which turned out to be cleaned and the other damaged, and both wouldn't come within a bulls roar of getting into a PCGS slab. Buying them was my fault entirely but both were graded by this dealer with grades that have turned out to be entirely spurious.

Then today I notice an interesting post on Andrew Crellin's Blog over at Sterling and Currency Numismatics. There's a bunch of stuff in there that I agree with. Slabs will help the liquidity of the market, they will make it easier for new collectors to buy with confidence, and yes they will help the sight unseen coin market. But the most important thing that Andrew says, is to remember that you are buying the little round disc of metal in the slab, not the slab itself. That should be the thing you spend most of your time looking at, not the grade on the printed label.

Just as a small aside, I've noted a change in my buying behaviour. Basically in the last year I've stopped buying higher grade coins from eBay because I am usually disappointed in them, and prefer to see the coins in hand first. However, in the last couple of weeks I've found myself bidding for and winning a couple of slabbed coins. It didn't really occur to me until afterwards, that there was no way in the world I would have bought those coins from eBay if they were not slabbed by one of the three major TPG's. So, while I am hardly a good sample size as proof of something, the slabbing of these coins certainly influenced my purchasing of them, and perhaps the rest of the Australian coin collecting market will begin to feel the same.

Posted by mnemtsas at February 12, 2009 1:15 PM
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