COINage Confidential: Mark Salzberg

Top Grade for this Grading Service Chief

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Mark Salzberg is one of the world’s most skilled and respected numismatists, having worked in the coin and collectibles industries for nearly 40 years. He joined Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) in 1988 as a grading finalizer, a position he continues to hold. He has also served NGC in various executive capacities over the years, including as president (1991 to 1998), chief executive officer (1998-2002), and chairman (2002 to present).

Under Salzberg’s leadership, NGC became arguably the world’s largest third-party grading service, a status that it has maintained year-after-year. NGC was the first major third-party grading service to grade most world and ancient coins, and it has expanded extensively around the world. NGC now operates offices in London, Munich, Hong Kong, and Shanghai in addition to its global headquarters in Sarasota, Florida. NGC has now certified more than 45 million coins, tokens, and medals.

Standard-Setting Service

Salzberg also serves as chairman of the Certified Collectibles Group (CCG) and has successfully replicated NGC’s model of expert and impartial certification to other collectible categories. Companies established by CCG and Salzberg include:

Paper Money Guaranty (PMG), the world’s largest third-party paper money grading service; Certified Guaranty Company (CGC), the world’s largest third-party grading service for comic books, magazines, concert posters, and related collectibles; Authenticated Stamp Guaranty (ASG), a leading third-party grading service for stamps; and, Collectibles Authentication Guaranty (CAG), a pioneering service that certifies the authenticity and provenance of major collections and estates.

In addition, CCG and Salzberg formed Numismatic Conservation Services (NCS), the world’s first professional coin conservation service, and acquired Classic Collectible Services (CCS), the world’s leading comic book pressing and restoration removal service.

Salzberg continues to grade coins full-time for NGC and has graded many of the world’s most prestigious coins and collections, including virtually all of the most famous U.S. rarities. He has published numerous articles and is regularly consulted for his numismatic expertise.

Leading by Example

Salzberg is a life member of the American Numismatic Association

Salzberg on the job grading coins.

(ANA) and the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG).

In 2006, he was presented with the ANA Numismatist of the Year Award. Two years later, he was honored with the Abe Kosoff Founders Award by the PNG. Salzberg has also been honored by the ANA in 1988 with the ANA Presidential Award and again in 2019 with the Harry J. Forman Dealer of the Year Award. The latter recognizes a professional numismatist who shows uncommon dedication to strengthening both the hobby and the ANA.

Salzberg is particularly proud of his role in helping to create the U.S. Mint’s H.I.P. Pocket Change Program, which is designed to educate and spark youth interest in collecting. He has also supported the Smithsonian Institution and lent NCS and NGC’s expertise to conserve and encapsulate several hundred of the most valuable coins in the museum’s collection.

Looking Ahead

COINage: What is the future of coin collecting and investing?

Mark Salzberg: Coin collecting and investing will continue to grow around the world as third-party grading makes it easier and safer for people to participate in the hobby.

NGC has been at the forefront of these developments. Collectors and dealers trust that coins certified by NGC are genuine, accurately graded, and properly described. As a result, they feel more comfortable buying NGC-certified coins and will pay a premium for that peace of mind.

Reputable third-party grading services like NGC have made it possible for coins to be traded online and sight-unseen. A collector in Germany feels comfortable buying from a dealer in Malaysia that she has never met because the coin is certified by NGC.

The hobby will continue to grow as third-party grading creates more opportunity, transparency and value for collectors and dealers around the world. NGC has helped foster that growth by opening offices and official submission centers in nearly a dozen countries. NGC has also built websites in a variety of languages, with free and extremely comprehensive educational resources.

Examining Grading’s Impact on the Hobby

CA: You can offer a unique perspective on coin grading and certification as the chairman of NGC. How do you feel about grading services, and what are the most useful and consumer-friendly features of these services?

MS: Reputable third-party grading services add significant value and liquidity to the market because they reduce uncertainty and protect consumers. The benefits of third-party grading have been well-known in the U.S. for decades. Now, due in large part to NGC’s efforts, collectors and dealers internationally are realizing those benefits.

NGC offers many useful and consumer-friendly features, but I’ll focus on three: the NGC certification label, the NGC Guarantee, and the NGC Registry

First, the NGC certification label clearly and succinctly identifies the coin’s description and grade. When a coin is in an NGC holder, you know exactly what it is, and that makes it easier and safer to collect.

Second, the comprehensive NGC Guarantee provides assurance that NGC-certified U.S. and world coins are genuine and not overgraded. In the rare event that NGC mistakenly graded a counterfeit coin or overgraded a coin, the NGC Guarantee provides resource and remuneration. This helps to protect consumers.

Third, the NGC Registry helps collectors to organize and display their collections, set collecting goals and learn from other collectors around the world. This is just one example of the many free collecting resources available at NGCcoin.com.

Considering the Grading Scale

CA: Do we have too many grades?

MS: I don’t think so. In fact, I think that the 70-point scale has

SpeakingSmithsonian
Among the many exciting numismatic experiences Salzberg has been involved was assisting with the Smithsonian Institution’s effort to conserve and encapsulate some of the most important coins in the museum’s collection.

been proven to work well for just about every coin except for ancients. Of course, it has required some fine-tuning over the years. For example, in 2008 NGC introduced its Plus Designation to recognize coins at the high end of the assigned numeric grade. With the addition of strike characters and designations to further describe a coin’s appearance and state, I think the 70-point scale does a superb job of accurately conveying a coin’s condition

CA: Have grading standards evolved or changed over time? Please explain.

MS: I think that the grading services have honed their grading after many years and many submissions. In the late 1980s, everyone’s perception of quality and rarity was based on the relatively limited quantities of coins that they had seen to date. Many rarities were virtually never seen prior to third-party grading and were seen very rarely in its early years.

NGC has now graded 45 million coins, and its most senior graders have each graded several million coins, including multiple examples of famous rarities such as the 1804 dollar and the Brasher Doubloon. With this experience comes a greater perspective, and NGC can now more accurately gauge a coin’s condition in context with the other examples of the same type that it has graded.

Grading standards have evolved based on our increased experience and knowledge as well as the evolution of the coin market.

Opportunities to Expand

CA: What is the role of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), and how can ANA and its official grading service, NGC, help to expand the hobby?

MS: The American Numismatic Association serves a critical role of educating collectors and potential collectors about the hobby and its benefits. Like NGC, the ANA makes the hobby safer and more accessible.

I think this shared mission is one of the reasons why NGC and the ANA have worked well together for so many years. NGC has been the official grading service of the ANA since 1995 and has provided millions of dollars in support to this important organization. NGC also provides the ANA with educational content including articles for the ANA’s monthly magazine, The Numismatist.

CA: Does the U.S. Mint help or hurt the hobby with its production and sale of many modern issue coins?

MS: Whenever the U.S. Mint comes out with interesting coin designs and themes, it helps to bring new collectors to the hobby. Some will continue to be modern US coin collectors, while others will expand to vintage and world coins. The U.S. Mint’s modern coin programs, therefore, help to boost the entire coin market.

In the last year, the U.S. Mint has really improved its modern coins, making it more competitive with world mints and bringing new energy to the hobby. NGC complements these new coin releases with innovative certification programs including signature labels, special designations and attractive holder options.

Forward Progress

CA: Please offer your opinions about what you think is right about our hobby today and what we need to focus on and continue.

MS: The hobby is more transparent, safer and more accessible than ever before. There is a wealth of free information about coins online–far more information than was available when I first got started in coins. This makes it much easier for collectors to enter the hobby and learn about coins.

I feel very proud that NGC has played a key role in driving these positive changes for the hobby over the last 32 years. We will continue to be a positive force in the market for decades to come.

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