Liberty Walking Half's Blog

17 Nov 2022

The Fall of Numismatics, and the Rise of Numis-slab-ics

Coins | Liberty Walking Half

Since coin collecting first began in America in the 19th century, it always existed outside of the mainstream.
It is arguable that the bullion market is in rebuke of this, but investment or otherwise collection of bullion is not collecting coins, but bullion that just so happens to take the form of coins.

The roll-hunting and board-filling craze that made Whitman a household name among collectors is perhaps the closest the hobby came to becoming common, but even then, we rarely see reference to it in everyday life aside from the typical pronouncement of some new variety that launches in insane hunt among the populace. However, this is not coin collecting, but simply ill-informed seekers of a get-rich-quick Philosopher's Stone*.
As a result, numismatics has remained something of an art, a pastime unspoiled by the mechanization, degradation, and bland uniformity of the commercial machine. Art, history, economic policy, observation, and political science, just to name a few, all interplay in the wondrous hobby of learning, left to its own somewhat eccentric devices. This detachment from the mainstream has allowed for coin-collecting to remain a hobby of active skill, rather than the passive, stale, robotic, and empty shell that is now many a once-great hobby.

Something has put this hobby under threat, not merely of being diluted to a hollow fakeness, but to entirely supplant it, only taking its name as a facade to maintain the cash-flow. The third-party grading service industry, that black hole of hobbies, that grinder of the classical pursuit to an easily digestible pulp for spoon-feeding the consumer. Initially an outside oddity, it has swarmed coin-collecting with it's lofty promises of standardized grading (which in of itself is completely impossible; you cannot standardize that which is entirely comprised of subjective visual standards; coin-grading does not have an objective unit or measure).

Why has this phenomenon not been dismissed like other incidents of commercial strikes at the hobby as something separate from coin collecting, like bullion collecting? At first, slabs were merely scattered in isolated places throughout shows and shops. Slowly but surely, they increased in number, until the modern day where they have nearly entirely taken over displays and online deals. In other words, slabs are a legitimate threat to the hobby itself because they have supplanted the increasingly unwanted and unsellable raw's in 2x2 or flips. Loupes fall to the wayside as readers for label have gained presence. Every possible detail to know about the coin has been printed on some label, and inexplicably is now infallible law, beyond any questioning. Slab-collecting has not only siphoned off the potential new numismatists but stolen away the established hobbyist. Like a parasitic bug, this empty worship of some corporate conglomerate's affixation of a label to plastic is eating away at numismatics, destroying it.
It is very similar to the way that the manual transmission with a clutch pedal car has given way to the car with an automatic transmission; coin collecting is dissipating into slab collecting. At the moment it is not as far gone; we are at the metaphorical stage where most cars still at least have the option for a manual transmission. But numismatics is falling, and numis-slab-ics is rising in it's place

*"Philosopher's Stone," is a reference to the fabled material of the alchemist for those curious



Level 6

Slab or no slab.. Buy or collect what you like and how you like it. Interesting blog and ideas... Like LB said "That's deep". ; )


Level 5

Finding too many coins graded highly by TPG where there are issues with major parts of the design making the coin very undesirable due to its real condition. For example, Jefferson Nickels where Monticello has no roof, pillars, steps discernable - just a flat raised area - but still receives a high GEM grade.

Long Beard

Level 5

That's deep. Sort of reminds me of the resto-mods selling at Barrett Jackson and Mecam for stupid money to equally stupid people. Guess they don't have a local sales publication or have heard of Craig's List where the same cars, often better quality, sell at a fraction. So you are correct, a graded always sells for more which is another reason I still prefer a-natural. And that's a win for me ever time. Sure, there's the authentication end, but if you use good reference and learn to trust your instincts the odds of overcoming a fake improve. What you failed to include was CAC, the grader of the graders. They do not grade the coin inside, contrary to belief. Did they remove it to do so? Absolutely not. And people fall for this as well. Enjoyed this blog very much.

It's Mokie

Level 6

I think of Numismatists as Historians that use coins as their inspiration. Numismatists are also ever curious and solvers of puzzles. Bullion buyers, Silver Stackers, and the like are not Numismatists but you can be a slabbist and still be a Numismatist. IMHO

AC coin$

Level 6

I love to show my uncertified coinage. However, I was questioned at one time I was told to bring up my slabbed ones. Due to this, again I will return to the commonly shown. Your writing subject is precious and timely, still, though some surprises might show up in our own pockets, somehow more valuable than graded ones. Best of luck and great hunting!!. Never give up.


Level 4

Truth! I feel every change as of late, CAC getting into grading, the existence of CAC itself, NGC wanting to go to a “common” grading scale for collectibles, etc., is all just a money game/scheme depending on how you look at it. Is there a need for a third party grading service to “accurately” grade and certify coins as authentic, sure, there’s a lot of counterfeits out there. But now, it seems everyone is out to make a buck off the back of regular collectors who are just trying to enjoy a hobby.


Level 7

As of January 1,2023 coins for dealers only will be graded on a one to 10 scale. I called and lost it. If this works all collectors will be graded on the same scale!As to grading people want to know the condition of there baseball card or coins or stamps. Because that gives them value. Its up to the individual. Grade or not. I believe in it also the coin is protected. If you don't want to send them in that's your decision and there is nothing wrong with it. But think of the companys, the books on coins the magazines on coins. They need people to do all this work and its good for the economy People have jobs in some many ways in this hobby. So it comes down to the individual. That's all. They will never close . Never stop the presses. I think its here to stay. Great blog. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for taking the time.


Level 5

Numis slab ics. The hobby certainly has changed.

I. R. Bama

Level 5

Well said, better than I did earlier!

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