NGC hand-signed labels provide a way for a collector to purchase a coin with an interesting personal connection and, oftentimes, a low NGC graded population.

Last year the US Mint produced one of its most popular creations ever. The Hall of Fame Baseball commemorative series was composed of a Half Dollar, Silver Dollar and Half Eagle, each of which was struck in Mint State and Proof. The coins were all struck from concave dies that enhanced the design element of a baseball glove on one side and a baseball on the other. This very clever issue was a quick sell out and incredibly popular. The Silver Dollar size was a particularly attractive interpretation of the design, and is my personal favorite of the 21st century from the US Mint.

Baseball Hall of Fame Nolan Ryan facsimile signature
Baseball Hall of Fame Nolan Ryan facsimile signature

What could possibly make such an interesting, creative, and popular coin better? During the course of exploring ways to market this amazing coin, I discovered the NGC signature program for the series. NGC had licensed from the National Baseball Hall of Fame the rights to use official facsimile signatures of past and living Baseball Hall of Fame members. Submitters could create sets of coins composed of a fantasy team of Hall of Famers.

The names Ruth, Wagner, Ryan, Bench and others certainly added considerable interest in the product. This expanded the collectability of an already popular series exponentially. By utilizing this interesting marketing tool, my stock of Baseball coins was quickly depleted.

The Hall of Fame coins were not the first or last use of signature labels for NGC. In the 2013 NGC introduced a series of labels with the signature of Elizabeth Jones, the US Mint Chief Engraver from 1981 to 1990. Below are the related US coins eligible for the NGC Elizabeth Jones labels:

Elizabeth Jones, the US Mint Chief Engraver from 1981 to 1990
Elizabeth Jones, the US Mint Chief Engraver 1981 – 1990  NGC Signature Series

All US coins struck 1982–Date are eligible for the Elizabeth Jones signed label.

1986–Date Silver Eagles
Launched under the supervision of Elizabeth Jones during her tenure as US Mint Chief Engraver.

1986–Date Gold Eagles
Introduction overseen by Elizabeth Jones.

1982 George Washington Silver Half Dollars
Designed by Elizabeth Jones, these coins started the US Modern Commemorative Series.

1983 Los Angeles Summer Olympics Discus Thrower Silver Dollars
Designed by Elizabeth Jones.

1986-W Statue of Liberty Gold Five Dollars
Designed by Elizabeth Jones, this was the first five-dollar gold piece to be minted by the United States since 1929.

1988-W Seoul Summer Olympics Gold Five Dollars
Designed by Elizabeth Jones.

2001-W US Capitol Visitor Center Gold Five Dollars
Designed by Elizabeth Jones.

1981 Ronald Reagan Presidential Medal
Designed by Elizabeth Jones.

The Elizabeth Jones signatures series has been very popular with collectors. Having the original signature of the person who was directly involved and in many cases actually designed the coins is quite appealing. Imagine if your 1924 Double Eagle came with an original signature of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. This creates a double collectible. The signature series also creates a sub rarity for the issue. NGC has graded millions of American Silver Eagles. The number of coins certified and with an original Elizabeth Jones signature is extremely tiny by comparison.

A couple of years ago NGC also created a signature label for coins listed in the 100 Greatest U.S. Modern Coins book that I co-authored with Scott Schechter. In the last couple of years I have signed quite a few labels for use in the program. I for one can tell you it will always be a limited production, as signing the small labels is quite the task. Collectors seem to like the cross-over appeal of owning a rare coin along with the signature of someone connected to the series.

The signature series labels provide a way for collectors to purchase a coin that may be relatively common, but with a much lower NGC population because of the unique signature label. The labels also give the coins a more interesting historical angle. The value of rare coins is sometimes more about the story than actual rarity. The signature labels can add significantly to the narrative of a coin that might be interesting, but are indistinguishable from thousands of others.

NGC has also given the signature series an international component. They have recently created signature labels with Rocky Zhao, the designer of the 2011, 2014 and 2015 Pandas. American collectors are not the only ones interested in owning a coin along with a tangible link to its creator. Many of the Panda coins were minted as bullion coins, but with the added feature of an original signature of its designer, the coins are highly sought after by collectors.

Perhaps someday NGC will develop a holder that can accommodate vintage original signatures. Wouldn’t it be fun to own a 1909-S V.D.B. Lincoln Cent with an original signature of Abe Lincoln or Victor Brenner? Maybe I should call my patent attorney!

Questions about the rare coin market? Send them to [email protected].

 

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