HomeUS CoinsThe Box Matters: Original Packaging as Numismatic History

The Box Matters: Original Packaging as Numismatic History

By Victor Bozarth for PCGS ……

Original packaging for the 1936 Bridgeport Commemorative Half Dollar. Courtesy of Vic Bozarth.
Original packaging for the 1936 Bridgeport Commemorative Half Dollar. Courtesy of Vic Bozarth.

I’m a history guy. But when push comes to shove, you have to learn new things while still appreciating the lessons of the past. Putting things into perspective when I write about a subject in terms of a timeline serves to historically set the stage.

The 1936 Bridgeport Commemorative Half Dollar. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView.
The 1936 Bridgeport Commemorative Half Dollar. Courtesy of PCGS TrueView.

Numismatically speaking, I was such a “coin nerd” as a kid that I saved everything – especially if I picked it up at a show for free! I saw the value, at least in terms of knowledge, these items represented. I learned from both the promotional brochures and the price lists. Inadvertently, all this peripheral coin reading built my foundation of numismatic knowledge!

I realized even as a kid that many of these items, especially given time, would be valuable to others of like interests at some point. Some of the books and auction catalogs in my library have followed me thousands of miles and some for a few decades.

At a smaller regional show in the mid-1970s, I was introduced to U.S. commemorative coins in their original boxes or holders of issue. I had handled quite a few commemorative half dollars by this point, but none had the accompanying original packaging. Who knew?

I was mesmerized. Call me a fanatic, but these original holders, which had survived four or five decades back then, absolutely amazed me. That the lovely and sometimes colorful toning found on classic commemoratives often resulted from storage in these original holders and packaging enhanced my interest too.

Who saves the box? I mean, really. Even at 15 or 16, most often I was too impatient to read the directions on the box let alone save it.

In more recent decades, the original U.S. government packaging on United States Mint Sets and Proof Sets, as well as on all the modern issues, has improved markedly in both aesthetics and preservation of the coin(s). The term OGH/OGP (original government holder/original government packaging) has become a common term when referring to ungraded modern items that include their original packaging.

GSA Dollars are a great example of coins for which original government packaging is critically important. For example, some dates of GSA Carson City Dollars carry more than 100% premium when graded in original GSA packaging. The boxes are interchangeable, but if problem free, then they most often fetch $5 and up. The dated card inserts from the GSA are a different story. The common date GSA dates of 1882, 1883, and 1884 trade for $3 to $5 each, but the other GSA-dated cards from 1878 to 1881 and 1885, 1890 to 1892 all carry a nice premium for what is essentially about a 4”x 6” piece of cardboard.

Your best storage alternative is always a graded holder, but don’t destroy or discard any original mint packaging. This is especially true of all inserts and brochures that might come with the item. The discount on values for items with/without original packaging can vary 5% to 25%. Yes, that’s for the box.

At 15 or 16, I was pretty green numismatically, but I’d been to a couple dozen shows. My thought was that original commemorative boxes have got to be rare. So began my search.

During my high school years, I handled about a dozen commemorative coin/holder sets, but I will always remember my first commemorative coin/holder. It was a beautifully toned 1936 Bridgeport Half Dollar in a blue square box with gold trim. I was SO proud of that BOX.

No kidding… Almost immediately, I realized I could always buy another Bridgeport.

Expert tip: Store your numismatic packaging in a dry, preferably temperature/humidity-controlled area. While attics and basements are frequently used as storage areas, they most often have humidity and temperature issues that could wreak havoc on coins and their packaging.

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About the Author

Vic Bozarth is a Professional Numismatics Guild (PNG) member (#661). Both Vic and Sherri Bozarth are members of the ANA, FUN, CSNS, and many other regional and state coin clubs and organizations. Vic has had extensive experience both buying and selling coins into the mid-six-figure range. Both Vic and Sherri attend all major U.S. coin shows, as well as most of the larger regional shows.

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