The Most Profitable Modern Coins by Louis Golino for CoinWeek …..
In 2019 two major trends stood out in modern coins. The first trend was that, despite the overall high level of activity in the market with ever more new coins (especially from world and private mints), the saturation level of releases took a toll on market values. Coins that in the past have been very strong in the secondary market, such as the two-ounce antique silver coins on history and mythology from the Polish Mint, are in most cases bringing less for recent issues than the earlier ones because there are so many of them now.
The second trend was that, as in recent years, there were more modern world issues that did well in the market than U.S. coins – with one big exception and a couple of coins that have potential.
U.S. Modern Coins
In terms of U.S. coins, the elephant in the room siphoning off a lot the money in the modern U.S. coin market right now is the 2019-S Enhanced Reverse Proof, which made for a very happy Christmas for a lot of dealers, flippers, and collectors.
The coin’s value in original packaging and graded NGC/PCGS Proof 69 ($1,000-1,200) and Proof 70 (about $2,000 unless it was sold at the Whitman coin show in Baltimore, or is one of the 100 coins hand-signed by Mint Director David Ryder distributed via the Mint’s web site) is down around 25% from recent highs, but the coin still ranks as the single best short-term performing modern U.S. coin ever for those fortunate enough to obtain one.
With a mintage (sales of 29,731 as of December 16) just a few hundred below the 1995-W Proof’s 30,125, the 2019-S ERP should retain a big premium as long as the Mint does not release a lower-mintage piece. But top-graded examples are very unlikely to reach the price level of the 95-W because they are way more plentiful than 70s of the earlier coin.
As for U.S. collector coins, the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary program was much more popular with buyers than the American Legion Centennial program. For the Mint and for coin sellers who had their coins graded, especially with labels signed by astronauts, the Apollo program was a major success.
But the secondary market for those coins has not been very strong. It has been possible for most of the year to pick up the silver and gold coins on eBay for well-under Mint prices except for the Kennedy half dollar two-coin set (the one numismatic product that sold out) and the five-ounce silver Proof, which has also had a premium but mostly for graded Proof 70 coins. The reason the coin has not seen a bigger bump or sold out is likely because it was back-ordered for most of the year.
Silver and gold bullion sales in 2019 were pretty dismal. Sales of American Silver Eagles were the lowest since 2007, and sales of both American Gold Eagles and American Buffalo gold coins were the lowest since those programs began respectively in 1986 and 2006.
The good news (potentially) is that sales of two versions of Gold Eagles were low enough to matter. And once again, it was the half- and quarter-ounce coins that came in with lower sales, as buyers tend to gravitate to the one- and tenth-ounce pieces. This is also true of the Proof versions.
In late November the Mint sold out of its supply of the $25 half-ounce coin, whose mintage came in at 30,000 pieces – the second-lowest for the series since 1991 when they were 24,100. The 1991 coin has a current Red Book value of $3,300 and trades for around $2,000-2,500 raw and in MS69 and much more in MS70. That coin has had many years to establish its market premium and is not readily available as the 2019 coin still has. However, dealers have begun increasing the premium on the 2019 coin, and it may continue increasing depending on future mintages in this series. Expect supplies of the coin to dry up soon.
The other Gold Eagle to watch is the 2019 $10 one-quarter ounce with 38,000 sold, which came in at third lowest after the 1991 at 36,100 and the 2007 at 34,004 coins sold. So far that one does not carry a premium, but that could change if supplies disappear.
Sales of the American Buffalo Gold were 61,500 for the bullion and 13,771 for the Proof – the lowest to date for both versions based on the latest data available, which is likely to change in January when the second half of December sales are included. It is not likely that either coin will command a premium as buyers are used to declining numbers for these coins.
Typically, at the end of each year buyers study the weekly numismatic sales reports from the Mint, checking to see if any coins have low-enough sales to come in as new lows. This year that was vastly complicated by the announcement from the Mint in early December that the staff member who compiled the report and that person’s back-up had both left the Mint. This is why no new sales reports were posted after November 6.
On December 17 the Mint provided data current as of the prior day and said it planned to resume issuing the reports in January. The coin of greatest interest is the 2019-W American Legion $5 Uncirculated gold coin, whose sales in that report were 2,756, which is more than 200 below the previous low, the 2017-W Boys Town $5 Uncirculated gold issue. The coin went into backorder status the following week and then became currently unavailable. Sales through December 31 came in at 2,929, just below that of the Boys Town issue at 2,994, though the final audited number may be higher. The Boys Town coin sold out unexpectedly early and at the time took out the previous low by a wide margin – neither of which is true in the case of the American Legion coin. It remains to be seen how much of a premium the coin may carry.
The other item of interest is the 2019-P Frank Church-River of No Return five-ounce silver coin, whose sales on that same report were 12,170, which would have put it well below any other coin in the series. But that coin, which had been unavailable for weeks, then came back in stock in December and is still available, so again it appears unlikely a new low will be set.
World Modern Coins
There were a number of world issues that did well in 2019, but in terms of increase from issue price to current value, the best was probably the third release in Italian dealer Powercoin’s “Micromosaic Passion” series of three-ounce Proof coins issued for Palau that recreate famous art masterpieces using thousands of carefully arranged colored tiles. The 2019 coin is called “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” and depicts the famous 17th-century painting of Dutch master Johannes Vermeer.
The coin was in pre-order from the spring with an issue price of around 400 euros that quickly increased as demand vastly outstripped the supply of this coin. Powercoin’s director Antonello Galletta said that he received orders from distributors for five times the amount of coins minted (which remains at 499 like the first two issues in the series). The coin hit the streets at the very end of the year with just a limited portion of mintage, and the remaining coins should be available by the end of January.
There were only two recent sales of the coin on eBay for $839 and $929, and there are four current Buy It Now offers between $850 and $1,500. This coin benefitted from the huge success of the first issue, the Birth of Venus in 2017, which won a Coin of the Year Award for Most Innovative Coin in Berlin in 2019 and a 2018 Coin Constellation award in 2018 in Moscow, and whose value is around $2,000 today (with the latest sales at $1,556 and $2,456), and the success of the second coin in 2018, the Mona Lisa issue. Antonello said the series will continue in 2020 and end in 2021 with the fifth issue.
Earth and Beyond Modern Coins
Another coin that did well was the first issue in the Royal Australian Mint’s latest series of domed silver coins with an astronomy theme called Earth and Beyond, which depicted the earth as seen from space. There are no recent sales of the coin, but current offers range between $375 and $608. The coin’s issue price was about $100 as were the other coins of this type from the mint. 5,000 were minted.
A third stand-out issue was the two-ounce silver Proof from the Perth Mint called “The Simpsons Family” that depicts the entire TV family and their pets in front of their house on Evergreen Terrace. With only 2,000 minted, the coin was one of the debut releases of the mint’s very popular series in February. It sold out quickly at an issue price of $152 and is now the series key. Recent sales have ranged from $293 to $580 with most over $400.
It is noteworthy that graded Proof 70 examples typically bring less than coins in original government packaging, which like all current Perth releases come with a beautiful hard plastic display case that uses magnets to keep the two pieces together. Other coins in the Simpsons series have been strong sellers too, especially the one-ounce Donut Proof coin, and the one-ounce silver and gold Homer Simpson bullion coins.
Libertads Modern Coins
Finally, as discussed previously, the Mexican Mint’s Libertad series saw a large number of new lows this year. To date, the best performers are the one-ounce coins in Reverse Proof and with an Antique finish, which both have mintages of 1,000. The RP coin, which is hard to obtain ungraded but was originally priced at $60 from one distributor, recently brought between $127 and $162, and there are current offers at $199. PL70 examples sold for between $146 and $148, but the one current offer is priced at $299 (and one in a two-coin set with the regular Proof) and many have sold for around $250 in the top grade.
In addition, the two and five-ounce Reverse Proof and Antique silver coins and the half and one-ounce Reverse Proof gold coins all had very low mintages and should perform well, especially the gold pieces.
If there are coins you know about that did well, please let readers know in the comments section. There are so many world mint issues coming out now that it is impossible to be aware of everything.
Stay tuned in 2020 for in-depth analyses from the Coin Analyst of key issues and interesting coins in modern numismatics!
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Louis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer, specializing primarily in modern U.S. and world coins. His work has appeared in CoinWeek since 2011. He also currently writes regular features for Coin World, The Numismatist, and CoinUpdate.com, and has been published in Numismatic News, COINage, and FUNTopics, among other coin publications. He has also been widely published on international political, military, and economic issues.
In 2015, his CoinWeek.com column “The Coin Analyst” received an award from the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) for Best Website Column. In 2017, he received an NLG award for Best Article in a Non-Numismatic Publication with his piece, “Liberty Centennial Designs”.
In October 2018, he received a literary award from the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists (PAN) for his 2017 article, “Lady Liberty: America’s Enduring Numismatic Motif” that appeared in The Clarion.