By Dr. Richard S. Appel – UniqueRareCoins.com ……
The 1963-64 period witnessed a price explosion for uncirculated rolls of U.S. coins that has yet to be duplicated. Numerous rolls of cents through half dollars rose in price from near face value in the mid-1950s to many multiples of those levels just a few years later.
Among the Lincoln Cent issues, the final highs for many were truly remarkable. Rolls of 1955-S cents touched $50 while 1960-D Small Dates surpassed $20 to name a few.
In the Jefferson Nickel series, Brilliant uncirculated 1950-D rolls sold for $2,000, and 1955-P rolls for $125. Predictions of far higher prices permeated the numismatic industry as each week saw numerous increases.
In fact, it was this bull market that turned me into a rare coin investor. Earlier in 1957, I purchased an uncirculated roll of 50 1955-P Roosevelt Dimes. The roll cost me $7.50. Unfortunately, a few years later my mother needed $2.30 for a C.O.D. package. She took 23 glistening dimes from my roll to pay the postman. Near the peak of the roll market boom in 1964, I sold what was left of that roll for $100, when the 1955-P dime had soared to $200 a roll.
I believe it was a combination of factors that created that bull market. In the early 1950s, the economy had been weak and the demand for coinage was reduced. Then in 1954, the United States Mint announced their San Francisco facility would no longer be needed. It would cease operations the following year. These two conditions resulted in the reduced production of several coin issues in 1954, and especially 1955. Additionally, the Denver Mint eliminated minting Franklin Half Dollars in 1955 or 1956.
The low-mintage coins brought much attention to the rare coin market and particularly uncirculated coin rolls. Newspaper articles and trade publications reported the newly created low-mintage issues to the public. This information and publicity caused many people who previously had no interest in rare coins to look at them in a different light. During the ensuing several years BU roll prices gradually increased. Then, in 1963-64, they reached a crescendo.
The Coin Dealer Newsletter (CDN) began publishing in mid-1963. It reported wholesale prices for rare coins and rolls on a weekly basis. During 1963 and most of 1964, CDN listed price increases as rolls rose week after week.
The information regarding the enormous interest and activity in uncirculated rolls was made available to coin collectors and investors by the CDN. I believe the constantly rising prices of the various roll denominations added to the excitement surrounding the market. Headlines referring to BU rolls such as, “Bull Market Continues in All Series”, “Market Steadies After Wild Week”, and “Lincoln Joins Franklin Strong Market” reflected the tone of the market.
Interest in and higher prices rotated between the various denominations. Lincoln Cents were hot for a while. Roosevelt Dimes. Washington Quarters, Jefferson Nickels, Franklin Half Dollars, and later Morgan and Peace Dollar rolls all took their turns.
George W. Haylings wrote a column for CDN during that period. In the April 24, 1964 issue he included a few tables. They compared current prices for some stellar performers with their 1954 prices. A few of the most impressive Jefferson Nickels price gainers were:
- 1938D up 41 times or 4,075%
- 1942P (Ty.2) up 121 times or 12,033%
- 1950D up 157 times or 15,614%
- 1955P up 37 times or 3,600%
Frequent comments about the enormous potential for rolls when they were broken up and sold as single specimens circulated in the industry. We pondered the profit from a coin roll of brilliant uncirculated cents worth only a few dollars if the individual coins each became worth 50 cents or even a dollar.
After the boom ended prices declined. Some eventually returned to their early boom levels. Except for a few brief periods and a few coin issues, prices for most rolls never returned to their 1963-64 highs. In retrospect, the dealers, investors, and collectors realized there were more rolls saved than we had thought.
But we were right about one thing.
The past 55 years saw the vast majority of nice uncirculated rolls and bags broken up and sold as single coins. During the past decades, many coin dealers continually used the dwindling available supply to build sets that were in demand by the public. Thousands of sets of Lincoln Cents through Franklin Half Dollars were made and sold year after year. The result is the supply of choice uncirculated rolls we all thought would never run out finally has!
1958 and earlier Lincoln Cent rolls (Wheat Cents) have always been among the most desirable BU rolls to either collect or invest in. Most dates have seen price increases during the past few months. The COVID crisis likely contributed to this.
People were forced to stay indoors. They looked for things to do to avoid boredom. Many began filling in their BU roll collections of the different denominations or tried to add to their investment inventory. They searched the auctions and fixed price lists for rolls they needed or wanted. For most, this renewed interest was met with limited success. Collectors and investors thought they could easily find their needed rolls, but were mistaken. Instead, they found the supply of nice rolls had been largely exhausted.
I believe we are in the early stages of another bull market in choice uncirculated rolls of all denominations. But this one is built on a strong foundation. Collectors, dealers, and investors are eagerly searching for uncirculated rolls. However, they are beginning to realize that the supply is far more limited than they thought. The early Lincoln wheat cents are the first series to reflect this increased demand and meager supply. They are being bid higher in price in the hopes of enticing some rolls into the marketplace. From the number of rolls that I am seeing change hands, current higher prices are not working well.
Further, for some reason, the price guides have not adequately kept up with the price increases. I believe this has created an opportunity for newcomers and an even better value for many dates.
If collectors and investors continue pursuing the BU rolls they desire, higher prices are inevitable. Lincoln Cent rolls are the present series of choice. However, rolls of Jefferson Nickels, Roosevelt Dimes, Washington Quarters, and Franklin Half Dollars that once existed met a similar fate.
If this bull market unfolds as I expect, a rotation will occur as it did in the early 1960s and each denomination will take its turn leading the entire roll market to higher levels. It shouldn’t be difficult, because most nice uncirculated rolls of all denominations are trading at a fraction of their earlier highs while surviving numbers are drastically reduced.
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About Dr. Richard Appel
Dr. Richard S. Appel has been a numismatic expert for 50 years. He offers his personal services as a rare coin broker or rare coin consultant to both beginner and experienced consumers alike. Please visit, or contact him at his website www.uniquerarecoins.com. He can also be reached by phone at (800) 782-2646. For a modest fee he will treat every purchase or sale of your coins as if they were his own, and will negotiate the best possible prices on your behalf.