Some people made a lot of money on the Statue of Liberty $5 commemorative coin. Others probably ended up losing money on the volatile coin. But whatever side collectors ended up on, many would agree the Statue of Liberty $5 coin secured a spot for modern commemoratives and was a fun coin to boot.
The first thing to remember is that back in 1986 when the Statue of Liberty $5 coin was issued, officials approached gold coins like they might cause a rash. There had been a Los Angeles Olympic $10 commemorative gold coin, but there had not been any other gold coins since 1933, and no gold commemoratives other than the Los Angeles coin since 1926. Some were concerned about the impact of commemoratives and the whole idea was still on probation.
The caution was probably appropriate. However, no one could deny that a program helping the Statue of Liberty was a very popular idea. Even so, the program had an authorization set at just 500,000 pieces.
It was a very different time. If a gold $5 commemorative today sold even 100,000 coins, officials might be found pouring champagne in glee over the great sales. In 1986 however, they sat down and started doing the math to figure out whether 500,000 coins could sell. The $5 Statue of Liberty was half the price of the $10 Los Angeles Olympic, about $170 depending on when you ordered.
One factor to the $5 Statue of Liberty commemorative was that the coin featured and supported the Statue of Liberty. Many people like and support the Olympics, especially when the games are held in the U.S., but the Statue of Liberty is to many the symbol of what is best and most inspiring in the world. It was rightly assumed that its popularity meant more sales.
There was also the $10 Olympic commemorative sales to consider, the only coin to compare the prospective sales of the $5 Statue of Liberty to. The $10 Olympic’s sales were eye-opening. The West Point sales alone of proof and brilliant uncirculated coins were over 450,000. To that number could be added the sales from the other three mints, which amounted to around 115,000. That made the rough minimum sales for the Los Angeles $10 Olympic commemorative total about 560,000.
That created the belief that you better order early and often, as the Statue of Liberty $5 was likely to have sales in excess of 500,000. I did, others did and when the Mint reported on early sales, they were near 400,000, which caused a wave of additional sales.
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It’s hard to know how many Statue of Liberty $5 coins the Mint might have sold. There were probably orders for 100,000 more than the authorization, but a higher authorization could have caused orders to decline.
For a brief time those ordering in the hope of profit had their wish. When the announcement of a sellout came, the Statue of Liberty $5 coin started to move. The coins were not even delivered and the price kept rising, finally reaching roughly $500. Even the empty cherrywood boxes to house the back-ordered coins were commanding high prices.
Then the Statue of Liberty $5 ran out of momentum and headed the other way in price. Some managed to bail out, but others were stuck as it dropped to about $140. It has since risen back to $446 thanks to escalating gold prices.
The $5 Statue of Liberty created a lot of fun for collectors, and the enormous surcharges turned over to fund repairs on the statue also can’t be overlooked. Because of these two factors, the idea of modern commemoratives was safe, since no one could ignore their potential after the $5 Statue of Liberty commemorative.