By Louis Golino, special to CoinWeek …..
The fifth annual Coin Analyst review of modern coins that performed best among those issued in 2020 includes some coins dated 2019 and 2021 that were released in 2020.
2020 may have been the year from hell for most of us because of the coronavirus and its many economic and social repercussions around the world, but it was a very good year for the numismatic hobby and the coin market, including the modern coin market.
These trends reflected the shift in the market towards even higher levels of online trading than previously and they were also buttressed by the rise in precious metal prices with gold, silver, and platinum all up sharply in 2020.
More so than in most recent years, the discerning modern coin buyer had some excellent opportunities among this year’s collector coins issued by the U.S. and world mints.
The United States Mint typically issues at least one coin a year that (at least temporarily) becomes hot and increases substantially in value. This year there were more such pieces than usual – including, of course, the ultimate winning lottery ticket for those lucky enough to purchase the 2020-W V75 privy mark American Gold Eagle. It had the greatest resale potential of any modern U.S. coin ever issued, which explains the frenzy to get it and the poor performance of the Mint’s website when it was released.
The two big winners from the U.S. Mint were the V75 privy mark American Eagle coins issued to mark the 75th anniversary of the allied victory in World War II – the silver coin having a 75,000 mintage that instantly made it the fourth-lowest of the series, and the gold coin with a symbolic mintage of 1,945 coins for the year the war ended that many collectors sharply disagreed with since dealers would inevitably scoop up a very substantial number of coins and reap enormous financial rewards. Many collectors have expressed not just their disgust at how the release was handled but used the opportunity to end their already strained relationship with the Mint.
The V75 Silver Eagle was sold for $83 USD to those who could get an order placed successfully before the coin was gone within the first two hours. In subsequent weeks it reached as much as $1,000 raw and $2,000 for Proof 70s – and even more for coins with special labels like First Day of Issue. However, most sales in November and December were closer to $600 raw and $1,000 for 70s.
As more coins have been graded and reached the market, the piece is now trading for quite a bit less – $375-400 raw and a little under $600 for a 70–still a handsome increase from the issue price. Mint State and Proof 70s with First-Day labels bring substantially more despite the fact that almost the entire mintage was sold on the first day.
As for the gold, that disappeared even more quickly, peaking at about $15,000 to $16,000 in sales during the first few weeks with dealers asking as much as $20,000 for a PF70 (and prominent dealer Kevin Lipton reportedly having offered to pay $1 million for 100 of the coins if anyone could supply them, which is doubtful, as most dealers I know only got a couple of the coins). In the most recent eBay auctions, PF70s sold for $12,500 and $13,200, and two-coin V75 silver and gold sets in PF69 traded for $10,000.
It is hard to even imagine what the gold coin will do down the road. On the one hand, it is by far the lowest-mintage gold eagle ever and one of the lowest mintage modern U.S. coins. On the other hand, there are not many collectors who can spend $10,000 on one coin.
The V75 silver seems priced at the moment to reflect its place in the mintage chart, with about 30,000 coins over that of the 2008-W with Reverse of 2007 and about 25,000 below the two key coins from the 2011 25th anniversary set.
WWII and Mayflower
There were other quick sellouts, including the World War II 75th anniversary silver medal and $25 gold coin. The silver medal issued at $75 temporarily reached about $200 but is now around $120, or $250 and up in PF70, and the $1,300 $25 gold coin is selling for about $1500-1700.
Then there are the various Mayflower 400th anniversary products with excellent designs by Chris Costello that most collectors were pleased with. The two-coin US-UK gold set and $10 Reverse Proof gold were also quick sellers, but they are not bringing much more than their issue prices at the moment unless graded 70 or sold in the Royal Mint’s packaging.
The US-UK silver coin and medal set priced at $150 that briefly returned last week without a household limit after being unavailable since release day (November 9) is bringing $235-275 or more and generally around $300 or more for the ones issued by the Royal Mint with slightly different packaging.
2020 was a memorable year for modern world coin enthusiasts with all kinds of innovative releases, reinterpretations of classic designs, and appealing new designs on a huge range of topics, including these standouts.
Powercoin, the Italian coin company that also partners with CIT to produce stunning coins of its own, added a second art-themed series of 3-ounce silver Proofs to its lineup called “Micropuzzle Treasures”. The concept is legendary paintings in the form of a partially complete jigsaw puzzle made of hundreds of tiny colored pieces with several resting on top. Amazingly, this is all made with one die.
The debut release was launched in March (though dated 2019 as the coin’s production was delayed) and featured the most well-known work of Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night (1889). Limited to 499 coins and issued for Palau, this coin was launched at a price of about $500 that quickly rose. The average of the last five eBay sales of the coin is $1,101, and current retail offers for it are in the $1,500-2,000 range. Like the first coin in Powercoin’s other art series – “Great Micromosaic Passion” – that won several awards, the Starry Night coin just received a nomination for Coin of the Year in the category of Most Innovative Coin. In October, the second coin in the series was released, depicting Renoir’s Two Sisters (1881), which is also selling for well over its initial price.
Una and the Lion
Coins that depict or reimagine classic coin motifs have been very popular in recent years, and few classic coin designs are better known or more beloved than the Una and the Lion that originally appeared in 1839 on a British gold coin designed by William Wyon issued to celebrate the coronation of the young Queen Victoria the year before.
Last year the Royal Mint issued outstanding silver and gold coins that used the original dies from the 1839 coin to create amazing restrikes. Those coins have been one of the greatest success stories in modern collector coinage with the 2-ounce, £2 silver Proof that was $200 from the Mint selling today for about $4,000 and even more in PF70.
The East India Company in the UK, which issues collector and bullion coins for St. Helena featuring classic numismatic designs, issued a new version of Una and the Lion designed by Glyn Davies, who has designed coins for the Royal Mint. Issued in 1-ounce silver Proof with a very low mintage of 400 coins and in a bullion version in the same size limited to 5,000 coins (as well as in gold), this coin has also been a winner. The silver Proof was available for about $100 initially. Today it is rarely seen for sale raw and recent sales for NGC PF69 were $650 and $735 and an amazing $1,737 for NGC PF70! The bullion coin is about $125 raw (about $40-50 initially) and graded examples recently sold for $310 for NGC MS69 and $988 for NGC MS70.
The same company recently launched a series of 1-ounce silver and gold Proofs called “The Queen’s Virtues” that focuses on virtues associated with Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II that is worth keeping an eye on. Five coins will be issued at the rate of one design each six months for the next 2 ½ years.
Octagonal Lafayette Coin
The other standout coin issued in 2020 that pays tribute to a classic design of the past is the French Mint’s 25-euro, 2-ounce silver proof coin – the first French coin made in an octagonal shape like the original medal it reproduces – that was issued to mark the 240th anniversary of the arrival of the Marquis de la Lafayette in Boston on the frigate Hermione in 1780 along with 6,000 troops to assist the effort led by George Washington to secure independence for the American colonies from the British monarch – assistance that proved to be decisive in winning.
Also issued in a 10-euro Proof version in the normal round shape (and in ¼-ounce round and 1-ounce octagonal gold) versions, the octagonal coin is truly striking in hand and was limited to 1,500 pieces. Available from the mint for 165 euros, the coin is selling for $300-350 raw and for as much as $600 in NGC PF70 first day. However, as of the time of writing some of each version of the coin was still available from the mint. The 2-ounce piece is one to watch because of its unique shape and because it is the first coin in a new series that will focus on American independence, giving it an appeal that goes far beyond French collectors.
Kookaburra Turns 30
The Perth Mint’s longest-running bullion series, the Kookaburra, celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2020 with the release of all kinds of special 1-ounce coins with different floral privy marks, a colored Proof coin, the first pink gold-gilded 5-ounce silver Proof, and the real standout for many in both appearance and price performance – a 2-ounce silver Proof in which the kook and the inner rim are gilded (the first coin of that format) with a mintage of 1,000.
Available from the Perth Mint for about $130, the piece today sells typically for about $300, though some sales including for PF70s are $400 or more.
Homer Simpson in High Relief
The only mint that has secured licensing rights to issue coins on the enormously popular and long-running animated television franchise, “The Simpsons”, is the Perth Mint, which began issuing its collector and bullion Simpson coins for Tuvalu in 2019. To date, the key coin is the 2-ounce colored Proof that depicts the entire family, which was one of my picks for this annual review last year. That coin has continued to increase in value.
At the end of November, the Mint released its first–and, according to the mint’s press office, only–planned 2-ounce high relief silver Proof Simpsons coin that features a great portrait of Homer with big eyes on the reverse and an incuse inscription for his name. Limited to 2,000 units like the family piece, it sold out in about a day at the mint, where it was priced at $226 AUD, or about $170. It has been selling for $300-400 on eBay recently with some sales over $500. I would expect it to continue to do well. As with Star Trek and James Bond coins and certain other pop culture themes, there seem to be quite a few coin collectors who are also fans of The Simpsons.
These are just some of the 2020 coins that have performed well in the market. Others include the recent Back to the Future 35th-anniversary issues from the Perth Mint, the Royal Canadian Mint’s Ultra High Relief Proud Eagle and the latest release in its Peace dollar series, and others.
If you are aware of a coin issued this year that has done well or that you believe is especially noteworthy, please tell us about it in the comments.
Best wishes to my readers for a safe holiday and a better year for everyone in 2020!
All sales data compiled on December 21, 2020
* * *
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.