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Community Voice Responses (01/31/2012)

From the Dec. 30 Numismatic News E-Newsletter: Should the Mint stop making modern commemorative halves? Here are some answers sent from our e-newsletter readers to Editor, Dave Harper.

Are there too many commemorative coins being sold by the U.S. Mint these days? The question lies with the U.S. Mint’s ability to market these coins and sell them in sufficient quantities to justify production costs and make a reasonable profit. I believe that a market exists for all of the current commemorative issue coins.

Robert McKenna, Belleville, Mich.

One of my favorite collections is my commemorative silver dollars and classic silver half dollars. I make no effort to put together a complete set, rather, I obtain those whose designs I find artistically attractive or which commemorate an event that I strongly identify with.
So for me, the answer to your question is no. Two commemorative themes per year is not too many. In fact, many years there have been none that met my personal criteria for purchase.

Richard Graff,  Hillsboro, Ore.

When the first special commemorative 50-cent piece came out for the Columbian Exposition, it was a novel concept, a product of a process that took a long time to decide what was worthy to commemorate. It gave the public something new to look at, a welcomed break from the pattern of boring look-alike Barber coins.
Even commemorating minor or relatively unknown events resulted with a new coin was greeted by the public with excitement, a little something different in your pocket change, or to keep in your collection in a mint or proof set. Five score and 10 years later, they are producing commemorative coins like quarters at the pace of several new ones a year for your pockets and untold special commemorative dollars just for mint sets that the public never even sees.
It is possible today to have a pocketful of change and have no two coins of the same denomination look the same. Too much already. Let’s put the “special” back in “special commemorative” and stop issuing these assembly line commemoratives that they have become.

Gary Makowski, Bellevue, Wash.

In answer to the question if there are too many commemoratives: yes. That’s true for the U.S. and also most of the countries issuing commemorative coins.
It wouldn’t be a problem if the coins would be decently priced. My opinion is that the most of the commemorative coins should have face value high enough to sell them close to that face value.
A few years ago, the Netherlands sold simply packed uncirculated 10-euro coins and silver 10-euro coins at face value, like Germany does. Canada has started to issue 1/4 ounce commemoratives at their face value, $20. Great Britain sells base-metal versions of £5 commemoratives (about the size of a U.S. silver dollar) for one to two times the face value, depending on packing.
High mintages doesn’t preclude rarities and from the European point of view, coin grading is very unpopular: I estimate that a in case of the top-quality modern coins, having it graded and slabbed may increase the price for under 5 percent.
As a European, I don’t collect modern U.S. silver commemoratives due to the price. It’s not just the issue price but, in the Finnish case, there will be taxes and duties for over 25 percent (in most European Union countries, it’s usually way over 10 percent). With postage and packing, not to mention the trouble, it means that the value needs to rise over 30 percent to break even.

Ossi Halme, Pori, Finland

I don’t think that there are too many commemoratives. I enjoy the themes that each represents. If you compare the U.S. Mint to Canada’s mint, our mint makes a quarter of what Canada puts out. I hope the U.S. Mint continues to put out as many as possible, but it would also be nice if they kept the mintage down like they did on the 2011 Army commemorative.

Ronn Johnson, Pierson, Mich.

I am finding it harder to get excited about Mint products, including commemoratives. I bought the 2011 commemoratives proof/mint state silver coins this year but did not buy the gold coins.
Looking at the next few years and the subject material (does a multi-billion dollar company need the money for a commemorative coin?), horrible designs and skyrocketing prices, I will opt out.
I could spend $200 on modern commemoratives each year or buy a nice, pre-1959 Lincoln cent that in the long run, will be worth more and someone will buy it. This year, my total Mint expenditure will be the proof Eagle and that is it.

Mike Budzynski, Cincinnati, Ohio

There are way too many for the average collector. The hobby will truly be the hobby of kings if there is not some realization that beginners do not have a fortune to spend.
If there is not more effort to accommodate the young people who want to enter the hobby, there will only be the rich and wealthy left. When this small number is left with small demand, what will there prized collection be worth?
I am not a youngster griping about the old. I am 75 years old and remember how easy it was to accumulate a collection of circulated coins, because so many people were eager to assist, and then begin upgrading to uncirculated coins. The Mint should limit the amount of dollar coins and if need be, increase the half dollar issues.

Robert R. Thomas, Address withheld

Yes I think there are way too many commemorative coins available to collectors from the U.S. Mint.
For an example, just take the America the Beautiful quarter collection, which I know is presently going to be 56 different coins made available in all types of combinations, from the clad quarter representing each state and U.S. possession, to the 5-ounce silver quarters that the U.S. Mint can’t make a decision on how much to sell them to the public for, and everything in between.
This one collection will take approximately 10 years to complete, and could be very costly.
A collector could feasibly invest way over $10,000 just to purchase the 5-ounce silver quarter versions of the America the Beautiful quarters, and no telling how much more to collect every coin version associated with the America the Beautiful quarters.
Then you have to count the Buffalo $50 gold proof coins at approximately $2,000 per coin, and at least two different commemoratives that are approved each year by Congress.
The average collector just doesn’t have the time or money to collect all of the U.S. minted coins.

Larry W. Young, Tyrone, Ga.

Most definitely there are way too many commemorative coin options currently available to collectors. I’m all for celebrating anniversaries, and who wouldn’t want their anniversary commemorated in some way? But do they really need to memorialize so many of these events by means of a commemorative coin? There are other options: stamps, tokens, gift cards, etc.
Yes, I feel that too many people are getting their way and as a result, the production of commemorative coin has gotten way out of control. The real question is why would we need to commemorate a certain event? And who really should have the choice as to whether they are commemorated?
It is my opinion, since we as coin collectors bear the brunt of the excessive proliferation of commemorative coin, should be able to set up a panel that decides what is worthy of coin commemoration and whether or not we even need another commemorative coin.

Mercury R. Williams, Seattle, Wash.

Option by its very definition is “the freedom or right to choose.” So how can there be too many options? I have either a brilliant uncirculated or proof version of every modern commemorative half and dollar.
I don’t bother buying them directly from the Mint anymore. I can usually get a proof or MS-68 or better coin certified by a major grading company on eBay for about the same amount the Mint charges when you consider shipping and handling costs.
I started collecting the $5 gold coins when gold was under $1,000 an ounce, but it is too price prohibitive now. I think a better question would be, “Are the commemorative coins being produced during the past 10 years worthy of being commemorated?” This is a point that I would agree on. I feel obligated to keep my collection up but I have to admit, do I really need a 2007 Little Rock silver dollar? It holds little meaning to me.
Another good question to ask would be, “Would you be more willing to buy a commemorative half if it was made of 90 percent silver?” I read the Numismatic News article last week about the Army half dollar having the lowest mintage for that denomination in the modern era. I know that when silver was $40 an ounce, commemorative silver dollars seemed like a good investment. I think that the same would be true with the half dollars.

Rick Snow, San Lorenzo, Calif.

I have been collecting commemorative coins for several years and enjoy the pursuit. I try to learn about why each was produced as I go along.
There are a lot of commemorative coins to collect. I think for one to be a commemorative collector, one needs to specialize in a certain area. For example, collect the older commemorative half dollars, or the modern commemorative silver dollars. Even within the silver dollars, one can collect just proofs, just uncirculated or both. There is even a mini-series of modern commemorative half dollars to look into. One can also consider collecting commemorative gold coins, if one’s budget will allow.
To make it more interesting and fun, compare the mintages of commemoratives against “big name” coins such as a 1931-S Lincoln Cent or a 1909-S VDB. I think you will be surprised.
Of course, how does one define commemorative? Are state quarters commemoratives? Territorial quarters? National Parks quarters? I consider them commemoratives: how about you?

Kevin L. Bruner, Owensboro, Ky.

Yes, the Mint only cares about how much they can scratch out of the collectors and others. Has the past had so many commemoratives? It seems as though there is a commemorative a week (remember Joe Louis’ Bum of the month boxing matches).
There needs to be an assessment as to what we are commemorating, how often and an appropriate time. Just my humble opinion, since I’m not really into commemoratives anyway.

Ken Kassen, Shawnee, Kan.

Lately the letters to the editor have had a lot of “collectors” wanting to eliminate the $1, nickel and cent. Now there are too many designs, and too many numismatic editions of circulating coins. Now the circulation presidential dollars have been cut back.
No one does what is recommended by most experts and collects what they like and can afford. Take care of your coins and you might have saved something that will be appreciated in the future. No guarantee other than learning and enjoyment. I think there are too many “complainers” about coins I collect. Collect what you want, but don’t give the Mint any excuses to cut current programs. The traditional commemorative program is sticking to the two programs per year. There are a lot of military themed commemoratives. I would like to see other historic events and people from civilian life.

Donald Cantrell, Address withheld

Absolutely not, for the armed services especially. Our boys and girls over there are fighting to protect our country by taking out any future threat to our people, country and possessions. The enemy has openly threatened the Western way of life.
We need commemoratives to raise awareness, to be vigilant, strong and steadfast, to defend our way of life. There is no room for subservience, slavery, apology, or dictatorship. That is not freedom and liberty for what we believe. Our motto is “In God We Trust.”

Kenyon Miers, Esperance, N.Y.

There is absolutely no way a single collector can collect all of the commemoratives (not including the “States & Territories” and “ATB’s” as well as the Dollar Commemoratives: “Prexies” & ANHs) that have been produced during this round of commemorative production (1982 to the present). Even if a collector was lucky enough to get each commemorative on the first day of its striking, he/she would have to have “deep pockets” to pay for each coin and/or round.
I am a collector who is caught between the two eras. I started collecting around 1956. The only commemorative I bought was a 1893 Columbian half dollar for $2.95. I did manage to get a Washington Carver half dollar from the bank my parents went to in 1962. But I never purchased any other “First Era” commemoratives. After I got married in the late 1970s, I left collecting coins for a while.
I didn’t start collecting coins again until around 2000, well after the “second era” of commemoratives had begun. I was never that interested in collecting commemoratives, so I haven’t purchased any. The only way I will collect the commemoratives will be if one (or so) enter circulation.

Bill Tuttle, Cleveland, Ohio

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