The PCGS Set Registry Effect

Posted on June 28, 2010 by

Coin prices are driven by a number of different factors: supply and demand, a preference for top-condition coins, and popularity of a series.  For instance, an  1804 Silver Dollar is a very rare coin (fifteen known) and there are many collectors who would love to own one, thus new price records are set virtually every time an 1804 Silver Dollar appears on the market.  On the other hand, there are many coins that are much rarer than an 1804 Silver Dollar but because they are not as popular and the demand is not as great, they sell for a fraction of the price.

In the U.S. coin market, the demand for high quality coins has created big differences between grade levels, particularly at the top end.  For instance, an 1890-O Silver dollar is valued in the PCGS Price Guide at $375 in MS64, $1,800 in MS65, and $8,500 in MS66.  A plus sign (+) turns the MS65 into a $2,700 coin.  Clearly, the demand for quality translates into big premiums for the best coins.

Here’s another factor that helps drive prices…what I call the PCGS Set Registry Effect.  Simply put, the demand for top quality coins is increased further by collectors seeking to join or maintain the top ranks of the PCGS Set Registry.

In the U.S. market, the PCGS Set Registry Effect is a reflection of the demand that has always existed for top quality coins.  Hence, one might conclude that the PCGS Set Registry Effect is negligible.

However, as one looks at the world coin market, one sees that the PCGS Set Registry Effect is an important factor in coin prices.  Here’s one example:

Germany produced a series of 1 Mark coins from 1873 to 1916.  They are silver coins the size of a U.S. quarter dollar.  Some writers have likened them to their contemporary, the U.S. Barber Quarter.  In spite of a few key rarities, most years are common and can be found in nice condition.  Most dates range in price in Uncirculated condition from $20-$300.  For a long time, superb quality coins could be had for a small premium over the price of an average-quality Mint State coin.

Today, however, things are different.  Approximately two years ago, PCGS added 1 Mark sets to the German section of the Set Registry.  As a result, prices for the best quality German 1 Marks have begun to increase dramatically.  This demand comes in part from the German coin market, which is increasing in its sophistication, but the larger impact comes directly from the PCGS Set Registry Effect.  Today, coins that catalog for $20 routinely sell for $50-$100 and coins that catalog for $100 often sell for $300-400 (not in all cases, of course, but in enough instances to attract the attention of collectors and dealers alike).

Here are some observable results of the PCGS Set Registry Effect:

  1. The first appearance of a coin (in any grade) results in a premium.
  2. The first appearance of a “finest-graded” coin results in a significant premium.
  3. As more collectors participate in a PCGS Registry Set, prices increase overall.
  4. Prices remain high as long as PCGS Set Registry participants are building or upgrading their sets.
  5. As PCGS Set Registry participants complete their sets, prices begin to normalize at the high end.
  6. The demand for coins for the PCGS Set Registry causes more coins to be graded, thus giving a better picture of the true rarity of coins in different grades.

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  1. […] is the "PCGS Set Registry Effect"? An article by Ron Guth for the PCGS Blog examines how this source of demand can impact […]

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