HomeCollecting Strategies'Tis the Season for Silver and Gold and Santa

‘Tis the Season for Silver and Gold and Santa

For the new collector, young or old, on your shopping list: go buy the book!

By Jim Bisognani for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation ……
‘Tis the season. The mere utterance of that well-known phrase evokes fond memories of our youth, childhood recollections of holidays and wish lists. While still an exciting time of year as we young-at-heart age, that idiom conjures up careful budgeting, fighting through crowds on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Fuzzy Wednesday or whatever. Linus said it best in A Charlie Brown Christmas way back in 1965 – “Christmas is not only getting too commercial; it’s getting too dangerous.”

Numismatically speaking, it doesn’t have to be that way. Lee F. Hewitt, founder and editor of the Numismatic Scrapbook, articulated the sentiment very well with his famous adage, “There is no Santa Claus in numismatics.” Now that’s not to say there is no Santa Claus, because of course we know there is. Yet, as it pertains to our hobby, there aren’t really any massive price cuts for properly graded, problem-free coins. Some discounts to be sure, but no one will be selling gold or silver eagles at half price.

For those of us who live, talk and dream of coins, pass on that passion and excitement to the next generation.

For the new collector, young or old, on your shopping list go buy the book!

Buy the book before the coin. There is so much to learn; it could truly take a lifetime to educate the new hobbyist. The A Guide Book of United States Coins, the “Red Book,” is the mainstay in every collector’s library since 1948. Introduce the tech savvy youth (that should cover all of them) to the NGC website. For free you can access price guides for US and world coins, check census and auction data and view upcoming sales for the coins of your dreams. For the pre-teen set there are many topical themed coins, commemoratives and well-known cartoon characters on our favorite metal discs.

Thinking of holiday characters, my thoughts race back to Sunday, December 6, 1964, enjoying the first broadcast of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. I was seven years old and that stop–motion animated program was the hot topic at Whipple Elementary School the Monday morning following the broadcast. I recall at recess sharing favorite moments and songs and just the fun of the season. Of course, I loved Rudolph, Hermey and Sam the Snowman but dare I say that Yukon Cornelius got me interested in numismatics? I mean all this talk about “Silver and Gold” got me thinking. I really wanted a $5 gold piece of my own. I did finally get one but it was a few years later! Today the cries of silver and gold from Yukon are great and affordable options for collectors on your shopping list.

For the slightly advanced collector on a modest budget there are many options. The classic Morgan Silver Dollars and US Silver Eagles are probably the most coveted and collected silver coins in the world. At last count, according to the NGC Census, these two silver mainstays account for just under 11.7 million of the total coins graded at NGC. That equals a little over 47% of all US coins graded in nearly 30 years! A true testament to the wildly popular following!

A quick check of one of the electronic trading networks reveals NGC-certified common-date Morgan dollars offered at the following: MS 63 at $45, MS 64 at $58 and MS 65 at $115 per coin! Truly a great buy in my estimation for coins that are over 135 years old and yet still affordable in these desirable grades. An interesting and affordable choice is to put together a set from all the mints that produced the Morgan dollar: Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans, Denver and, of course, Carson City! The latter mint is the most expensive in this Type set, but even a nice, say, MS 63 1884-CC would only set the gift-giver back a little over $200. The immense popularity and fascination with the classic silver cartwheels series never gets old.

The new generation of silver dollar, the US Silver Eagles, remains the most populous on the NGC Census and for good reason. The coin is absolutely gorgeous. A. W. Weinman’s Walking Liberty design from the famed half dollar adorns the obverse while a robust eagle protects the reverse. First introduced in 1986, she is celebrating her 30th anniversary this year. Produced in both Mint State and Proof formats, for me a dazzling NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo of any date is the way to go with this coin. To get acquainted, a new collector may like a 2016 30th Anniversary Silver Eagle graded NGC PF 70 Ultra Cameo and housed in one of the black NGC Retro Holders! The coin looks like royalty adorned with the 30th Anniversary lettering on the coin’s edge. Those with Early Releases designation labels have been great and affordable sellers on eBay bringing around $85. Hey, I won’t mind if someone wants to buy one and put it in my stocking!

As for gold coins, hands down the most popular according to the NGC Census is the $20 Saint-Gaudens, reporting in at just under one million coins graded. This coin contains nearly 1 ounce of gold, which equates to a melt value of $1,133 at press time. With this in mind, a common NGC MS 64 type coin (usually the 1924) will set the giver back only about $1,400. Although this is a good value I actually found a much scarcer 1914-S $20 Saint-Gaudens graded NGC MS 64 available at $1,335! I guess there are a few great deals out there. Take time to look on line for auctions and the giant coin store known as eBay.

For the well-established numismatists looking for an adventure and that hard-to-satisfy collector, try obsolete state chartered banknotes featuring Santa Claus! All notes featuring the jolly old gent of the North Pole are highly collectible and quite rare. One of my favorites is a rather heavily worn example from my native state New Hampshire’s Lancaster White Mountain Bank. This popular themed $2 note reveals a rather Revolutionary Era George Washington-esque type Santa complete with a pipe, donning what appears to be a tri-corner hat and glancing over his shoulder while guiding his eight reindeer above the snowy housetops.

White Mountain Bank, New Hampshire $2. Image courtesy NGC

Another St. Nick themed piece of currency from my neighboring Pine Tree State of Maine is an 1854 $50 note issued by the Bucksport Bank. The Santa Claus design featured on this note is recognized as “Santa Type III” and was created by noted engraver George D. Baldwin. This truly exceptional interpretation is visually more in character of the Dickens/Clement Moore-style holiday aberration we often think of: a jolly, whimsical St. Nick, joyfully guiding his obedient team of reindeer high above the township’s snowbound rooftops.

Santa Claus on front of Bucksport Bank $50. Image courtesy NGC

There are several other notes issued by state banks predominantly in New York and New England that feature Mr. Claus. So popular are the Santa Claus notes that they rank #23 in the 100 Greatest American Currency Notes by Bowers and Sundman. That said these are all highly popular with collectors and do not appear with any regularity at auction. So you better be good when you put these on your wish list.

This great hobby never really goes out of style. As we old coindexters know, this is something special that the young collector will appreciate more and more as years pass. A few books, a topical collecting theme and you’re on your way.

Until next time, happy collecting!

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Jim Bisognani is an NGC Price Guide Analyst having previously served for many years as an analyst and writer for another major price guide. He has written extensively on US coin market trends and values.

Jim Bisognani
Jim Bisognani
Jim Bisognani has written extensively on US coin market trends and values and was the market analyst and writer for a major pricing guide for many years. He currently resides in Southern California and frequently attends major coin shows and auctions.

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