... part 2 ...
For those who weren’t actively involved in the hobby back then, the very early 90’s would be hard to describe to someone who showed up to collecting even 7 or 8 years later. There was no internet. Dealers and shops and shows, or you ordered something nationally from a periodical or a mailing list, with nary but a description to go by.
If you were purchasing from a National Auction with a catalog, you probably still had to be into the top tiers to have any photographs, much less color ones. PCGS and NGC were new, but it was obvious, if you wanted some of the big money from a larger audience than the specialists, you were starting to get the top coins in plastic.
A lot of people did not like the trend. Some of the things we see slabbed today would be laughed at (or completely scoffed at), with sometimes the whole holder idea looked at with entire disdain. Sometimes that was, how could someone be so wrong as to submit that. Or maybe, damn, another one in a coffin. Or just plain, Why?
But the winds were changing, and the most prevalent thought was if it’s near Gem or better, and at least before 1934, maybe it should go. Of course there was another group willing to send in the earliest US silver and gold if it was even close to Unc, and that quickly shifted to most of the keys. In a way, slabbing was a race to the bottom, as much as it was a race to find the top.
If you came into the hobby after about 1998, when the Internet really started to come into its own, you need to stop and think about being a collector in 1990 for a moment. The context of what that was like for the hobby both before and after somewhere about that moment is enormous. The way things changed with the addition of reliable grading services and all that brought, and how less than a decade later the access to the internet is mind numbing in retrospect.
Anyway, I digress. Back in the early 90’s I was watching this happen, with very little context of before, but a very real context of the now, at that moment. I was also a small part of it, occasionally helping with, or making a score … and watching a special coin go off to get a “dinner jacket”. And I was starting to make money.
So, imagine my surprise, when about a year after I bought my first note, I saw my first piece of graded paper. It was a Martha. Some crazy high grade … 66 I think.
Anyway, next show, there they are. At least a dozen or so notes, freshly graded. And I wasn’t looking. I was a coin guy.
And as I walked by the same guy I bought my first Fractional from, over in the corner, he had one too. A Fractional even.
Really. That’s what I thought. Probably not as the acronym that floods my brain now, but the drawn out, fully articulated version of WTF.
A graded Fractional! The company name was familiar, as many of the the notes we were seeing at that moment were from them. They became highly regarded, although, in the end, they did not stand the test of time.
What the heck is that? I asked. I mean, I knew what it was. It was actually a fairly desirable note, and one that wouldn’t be entirely inexpensive.
He laughed. It’s the next wave buddy! QDB and his partner are doing all the Paper, and I guess Fractional’s aren’t immune. I think everyone is starting to smell money. Here comes the Crazy Train.
He was smiling (even laughing), but his eyes were rolling too.
I asked to see it, and at first, I just studied how they had put the sleeve together. Hmmpphh.
Then I examined the note. I remember thinking, this is the new wave. The coins and the paper are all going to have some kind of jacket. Damn. Really? I don’t know, maybe that’s a good thing. It’ll keep people from f’n with stuff and also allow us to hold things a little easier … but wow … this is weird. Conflicting thoughts back then, for sure.
Kewl note, I said.
You want it? He asked.
Sell it to me at 60 money? I asked, half-jokingly, not even knowing what 60 money was.
He handed me the sheet. I looked it up, and a small lump formed in my throat. You guys will probably laugh after you see the note in today’s context, but this was not an insignificant amount for me at that time.
Maybe. I’ll catch up with you later and we’ll see if I can swing it.
I remember he looked me straight up and asked me, Are you sure?
No … but yeah … maybe. It’s a cool note. It might be a nice put away.
Unless someone walks up and wants it for full Choice money, I’ll hold it for you.
Probably won’t get that, I chided.
So I’ll hold it for you, he said with a smile and a wink. Today only. Come back and see me later. I have a few Walkers I may want you to look at if I can’t move them. Maybe you can take them to Don for me.
Yep ... damn that was a long time ago.
And so, later that day, I came to own my first graded note.
There are more stories in the journey, and if the interest is there, I will add to this … but at least a couple people wanted to see this note and I did not have a good picture until last night. Mr. Stanton will be back in the Bank tomorrow watching over his brethren.
It was also a fun way to introduce myself I suppose, as I like to write, and I like to tell stories. Especially the ones I have lived through.
Be safe out there. Drop me a line on the PM and say Hi if you want.