In 1982 and 1983 the annual U.S. Mint uncirculated set was abolished.
It was a cost-cutting measure by the Treasury.
We collectors howled.
It was brought back in 1984. It has been sold annually ever since.
Were we mistaken to object to the abolition of the uncirculated set?
Our position was understandable.
All the Mint offered collectors in 1981 were proof sets and the uncirculated sets and a few medals, including the American Arts Gold Medallion series.
Most collectors bought a proof set and mint set and that was their yearly expenditure for new issues.
In 1981 issue price for the proof set was $11. The uncirculated set was an identical $11 because it had a high face value due to the PDS Anthony dollars in it.
Today, 36 years later, you can buy the proof set for $8.95. The uncirculated set is retailing for $7.95.
In other words, collectors lost money.
When into the void the Olympic commemorative coins arrived in late 1982 you could get a three-coin proof set for $352.
In it was a $10 gold piece and two silver dollars.
The $10 contains nearly a half ounce of gold. The silver dollars contain .7734 ounces of silver each.
Let’s figure melt value today with $1,204 gold and $16.96 silver.
The gold weight is .4838 ounce. Melt value is $582.50.
The 1.55 ounces of silver are valued at $26.20.
Combined, the coins are worth $608.70 at melt value.
The set retails for more, sometimes hundred of dollars more.
Collectors bought huge numbers of the Olympic sets. As a result, they are common.
Over time, collectors came to feel like suckers for what was perceived as overpaying for commemoratives.
When gold and silver were low, these charges stung.
But today, as common as the set is, because it contains precious metals, buyers who still have them have made money.
Heirs would thank dear old Dad for having bought the set way back in 1982 if they are looking at inheriting it today.
You know what they would think of the 1981 proof and uncirculated coin set.
So as battered and ridiculed as modern U.S. commemoratives are today, when heirs 36 years from now take a look at what dear old Dad was buying way back in 2017, what do you think they will conclude?
If they are also collectors, they will be grateful that the money wasn’t spent on clad proof sets and uncirculated coin sets.
Perhaps we all should be buying the Lions silver dollar and the Boys Town gold $5 and silver dollar.
It won’t make us financial geniuses, but we will have a little fun and leave our heirs something of real value.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."
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