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First flight worthy cause for commem

When a lot of commemoratives are released and some start moving to higher prices, it’s easy for another issue to get lost in all the excitement. That may very well be the case with the First Flight silver dollar marking the centennial of the first manned flight by Orville and Wilber Wright in Kitty Hawk, N.C. on Dec. 17, 1903.

Commemorating the centennial of the first manned flight probably seems much more important to older collectors than young ones who don’t even remember Alan Shepard lifting off for a short voyage into space. In fact, since you have to be in your 40s to remember the first landing on the moon, something as simple as a short flight on a North Carolina beach can seem like ancient times. It’s sort of like having a commemorative for the discovery of fire. That said, it was extremely important, but you could not really tell that by the first sales totals.

The First Flight commemorative program was a three-coin program, and that frequently results in low mintages for some of the coins involved than would normally be case. There is no precise reason for that, but it seems to happen with some regularity. Few commemorative silver dollars ever sell out their entire authorizations. Franklin silver dollars did when they were part of a two-dollar set. Their total authorization of 500,000 for the two was really the same as a normal authorization such as the First Flight dollar had, but only for one coin and not two. So even the Franklin dollars selling out is not really the same, as divided by two the authorization was about one-half the normal number.

The First Flight dollar was authorized by Public Law 105-124 and was designed by T. James Ferrell and Norman E. Nemeth.

The proof version was offered for $33 in the pre-issue period and $37 in the regular ordering period. The BU version waspriced at $31 in the pre-issue period and $33 in the regular ordering period. It is hard to determine expected sales for dollars that are part of three-coin sets as the totals can vary significantly.

Certainly, had someone attempted to project the likely sales the totals of 190,240 proofs and 53,535 BU examples would probably have not been the estimates. Even more surprising is the latest proof price of $28.50, which is lower than the regular issue price. Today’s BU price is higher than the proof at $33.50, which is just slightly higher than its regular issue price.

What makes the prices surprising is that the First Flight dollar is actually fairly low mintage. In fact, with a combined total of roughly 243,000 pieces, you would think both the proof and the uncirculated coins would rise in price.

However, at a minimum, the uncirculated mintage of just over 50,000 would seem to suggest that a significant price increase is coming at some point once collectors realize that the fact that it did not sell out should have no influence on its price. Price at the end of the day should be based on supply and demand and in this instance supply is on the slim side. Demand could stay low, negating the advantage of a low mintage, but I wouldn’t want to bet on that fact.


2011 U.S. Coin Digest: Commemoratives 1982-Present
Your best reference for the latest details and values for these circulating and non-circulating coins.

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2011 U.S. Coin Digest: Dollars

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