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San Francisco commemorative coins awaken memories

HarperD_color.jpgHave you ordered your San Francisco Old Mint commemoratives yet? I hope so. We collectors from the circulation finds era love our ?S? mint. Even after decades, the memory of the thrill of finding a coin with an ?S? mintmark is still fresh. Newer collectors seem to share our passion.

Sure, I know not all ?S? coins are rare. I ran across enough 1952-S cents and 1968-S nickels to realize that, but the storied Old Mint still gets my collector blood running hot. I can?t resist tales of the Gold Rush, the 1894-S dime and the remarkable survival of the San Francisco earthquake that is the theme of the coins.

I am betting that many other collectors feel the same way I do.

Who can resist that magic mintmark on the reverse of the silver dollar, which will look just like the old Morgan dollar? Just think of it, a proof Morgan with a mintmark. That?s a first. The old $5 reverse design is appealing, also, but my ?olden day? experiences didn?t include $5 gold pieces.

The American Legacy Collection set featuring a proof example of the Founding Father Ben Franklin commemorative dollar will likely be the first to reach the sellout milestone. It is limited to a total of 50,000 and that number has mesmerized the online trading population for several years now. I expect it to be no different this time.

The Aug. 15 order period start date is just two days before this issue goes to press. It is conceivable that we could get the news of an initial Legacy set sellout before then, but not likely. We will see how tied up the Mint?s Web site and phone lines get at noon Eastern time that day. I will be in Denver, home of another mint, attending the American Numismatic Association convention.

I hope to get my order in, probably by proxy with someone who stays behind in Iola, but like everyone else, whoever does it for me can get jostled and delayed by the electronic crowd.

Personally, I am less attached to the American Legacy Collection set than the San Francisco Mint commemorative coins. I bought proof and uncirculated examples of the Franklin coins in January and it won?t break my heart to miss out on the Legacy set because I will have all of the coins in other holders.

 However, if I or my proxy gets through the electronic crunch before the sellout occurs, I will probably buy a Legacy set in addition to proof and uncirculated silver dollars and $5 gold pieces.

It will take longer to sell out the 500,000 silver dollars authorized. Collectors who want them should have sufficent time to buy examples. After all, it took 11 days for collectors to buy 450,000 Franklin silver dollars, but that included two different designs.

The gold commemorative sales results will be an interesting reflection of how collectors respond to new coins in a metal that has been skyrocketing in price the past couple of years. Rising metal prices are an inducement to buy, especially because issue prices don?t seem out of line (as compared to the last program featuring a $5 coin, the 2002 Winter Olympics piece).

We went through quite an extended run of fairly low-mintage gold $5 commemoratives in recent years. We have to look back to the 1994 World Cup to get a combined uncirculated-proof mintage that exceeds 100,000. That means if the San Francisco $5 sells all 100,000, it will be forever tagged as a fairly common coin when compared to other $5 commemoratives.

Sure, we have some modern $5 commemoratives that trade like bullion. The Statue of Liberty, Constitution and 1988 Olympic coins come to mind. However, these were products of a fairly prosperous numismatic period when we were all starved of both gold coins and commemoratives.

The 1980s saw U.S. gold coins being struck again after an interruption of more than 50 years.

There is no pent-up demand that I know of for $5 gold commems this year. This may be an exercise where collectors give a thumbs up or thumbs down based on the design and not on the metal itself. I am buying one of each. How about you? 

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