By Louis Golino for CoinWeek….
It’s been a noteworthy year for modern U.S. coins with some of the best releases and most compelling designs in many years such as the 2014 American Platinum Eagle proof coin that depicts a young Lady Liberty. There were also a number of unexpected surprises like the 2014 Native American Dollar Coin and Currency Set, or the recent resumption of sales of the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame silver dollars, which did not last long.
Sales of U.S. commemorative issues always end in December, but as has happened before, not all of the coins are pulled from sale at the same time. This time the uncirculated Civil Rights Act silver dollar was declared sold out on December 22 even though the proof version will be on sale for another week.
Many collectors said the design of the coin, especially the obverse that depicts protesters, did not appeal to them, and sales of the uncirculated version reached only 24,413 as of December 14. That will place the coin as either the 7th or 8th lowest mintage modern silver commemorative since 1982.
That might not sound so impressive, but consider that the other commemorative coins with similar mintage levels do sell for a premium. For example, the 1996 Community Service uncirculated dollar with a mintage of 23,500 sells for $100. If buyers continue to shrug off this coin, it will not develop much of a premium, but I would not be surprised if it eventually acquires a premium, especially if future buyers are less obsessed with shunning what they perceive as politically-correct coin designs and as the demographics of the hobby evolve. In addition, graded MS70’s especially those from PCGS, which tend to have a smaller population than their NGC counterparts, may also do well. So far only 279 MS70 first strike coins are in the PCGS population report.
The Native American set was declared sold out recently after several weeks of going back and forth from between out of stock then briefly available again. Prices on the secondary market for this set have moved up again from the $30 range to $35-40 probably due to the sell-out. In addition, as a result of a snafu in the processing of orders those who placed orders on December 4 are still waiting for them to be filled even though orders placed after that have already shipped. Towards the end of sales the Mint imposed a five per household limit for these sets, but by that time 70% of the mintage was already sold.
The 2014 First Spouse bronze medal set was probably the most unexpected product sell-out of the year. The set was only released October 23, but was recently declared sold-out, making this year’s set the fastest sell-out ever of these medals and pushing secondary prices from a $16.95 issue price to over $200 in recent e-Bay auctions. If you bought some and are making a big return on them, good for you, but I would caution buyers picking them up at these levels. Prices for some of the previous year sets also saw a bump up to about $100 but before long they returned to lower levels.
In the five-ounce silver American the Beautiful series the Arches coin was the surprise sell-out of the year, especially given the popularity of the coin’s excellent design. That coin has a mintage of just 22,000 , placing it third lowest in the series after the 2012 Hawaii Volcanoes and Denali coins with mintages of 20,000, and it is already selling for $200, or about twice the price of the other issues. The Great Sand Dunes coin has so far sold 21,900 pieces, and it appears likely that too will be declared sold out as 22,000 of those coins were most likely minted.
The year was replete with lessons for buyers and collectors of modern coins, especially the baseball and Kennedy gold coins that were the highlights of the year. Prices for the baseball coins followed the predictable pattern of peaking early and staying elevated for some time due to the shipping delays at the U.S. Mint, but then dropped quickly. And PCGS first strike versions of the gold coin have largely retained their value. But what really matters is they are great coins.
The gold Kennedy coins turned out not to have nearly as much demand as the Mint thought they would based on sales the first couple days at the August ANA World’s Fair of Money. The silver and clad coins have been much bigger sellers because their lower price points appealed to a much wider cross section of collectors. High-grade examples of the clad coins appear to be the biggest winners from this group at least for now.
More than anything else I think this year has reinforced the importance of looking at modern coin collecting as a learning process and as something to enjoy more than as an investment. It is easy to get caught up in a particular issue that has strong appeal or looks like a long-term winner. Modern coin buyers often buy extras for these reasons, but they just as often later have buyer’s remorse when they realize they overbought.
With so many new releases coming out all the time, it is important to focus on the series you are most interested in and save some resources for upcoming releases. It may be a truism, but the adage to buy what you like and not worry so much about what a coin will be worth down the road is sound advice. At the same time by following the field closely and learning as much as you can, it is certainly possible to earn some money to help pay for the coins you want to purchase.
It helps if one tries to plan coin purchases in advance, and already having the 2015 product schedule the Mint recently released is a big help in that regard. The schedule included the unexpected announcement of coin and chronicle sets for each modern U.S. president that will be honored with a presidential dollar during the upcoming year. The JFK set will undoubtedly be a big seller, and it appears the Mint is issuing these products because Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson are better known by the American population than earlier presidents. The FDR set that was released on December 22 looks to be a very attractive set.
And many collectors are eager to find out what the obverse design will be of the 2015 Ultra High Relief American Liberty gold double eagle and matching silver medal that may be launched during the August ANA World Fair of Money. I recently spoke about this with an official at the U.S. Mint who said he thinks the Mint will possibly begin sales of the coin in advance of the show, as was done in 2013 with the Buffalo Reverse Proof gold coin, to prevent the kind of chaos that emerged during this year’s show with legions of paid buyers for gold Kennedy coins. The expected rapid drop in prices for show label JFK gold coins this year should also help keep things under control next time.
Finally, it is worth noting that the U.S. Mint seems to have finally implemented an order management system that can handle major new coin releases, but as we all have learned recently, it is always two steps forward, one step back. The switch to FedEx Smartpost for basic shipping has resulted in extensive delays in many cases, but that may have been largely due to the heavier volume of holiday mail. It is also important that the Mint try harder to adhere to its first in first out policy as that has been an issue several times this year.