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Question of the Day: TPG Population

Originally published on June 10 2018
Question: We all use and rely on the population reports from the two major grading services regularly. I often wonder when I look out over the floor of the bourse and observe an older crowd, how many of us have older purchases that have never been graded? Third party grading has been around for about 30 years now, but how many coins reside in older collections, and are ungraded? You recently commented that the grading services are creating incentives ( and lowering standards) to prop up a dwindling supply of grade worthy coins. If that is true, then perhaps maybe most of the quality coins have been graded. In my case, almost all of the gold coins in my cabinet were purchased in the late 1960's, and remain ungraded. I am wondering how prevalent such a practice is.

GFRC Response:An excellent question by an astute collector indeed! Answering this question regarding ungraded "buried collections" is quite difficult and based solely on relationships throughout the numismatic community.

As time moves on, the number of major ungraded collections continues to shrink. Simply monitoring Heritage or Stack's auction announcements should provide an immediately sense of how few original ungraded collection remain intact. Major collections that do come to market are already TPG certified as in the case for Gardner and Simpson. I believe Poe was a mixture.

I'm aware of several substantial Liberty Seated collections that have been off the market for decades and at least one Capped Bust quarter collection based on personal contacts and relationships. This is a small number given the size of the overall numismatic industry. Nearly all collections coming to market today have been through TPG grading, at least once, since the mid 1980s.

Case in point is my own Liberty Seated dime set. This set was graded in the 1990s with additions mostly until 2005. Checking the Open Set Registry, the Bender Collection has been assembled during the past 15 years with a fair number of Gardner coins. Ditto for the JF Collection. DL Hanson, in partnership with DLRC, is currently building substantial sets across all series and denominations. Those coins are not fresh to market but rather being extracted out of the existing TPG populations.

In summary, I believe the largest risk for higher TPG populations of grade rarities is not fresh collections reaching the market but rather grade inflation by the TPG. At least with grade inflation, one can easily track the history of a coin across its various holders and assigned grades.

High end quality mint state coins are indeed rare in today's market. The ease at which collectors can access online information concerning these rarities makes them appear more available than they really are. Case in point is the 1848 dime that I purchased this week. CAC has only approved two MS64s and two MS65s for the date. This is the top end for a pre Civil War date with mintage of 451,500. Definitely something to think about and a great question from a Daily Blog reader.