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Commemorative dollar makes us think

The 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended fighting in World War I arrives on Nov. 11. It will be a major event, but you cannot prove it by the sad sales level of the World War I Centennial silver dollar.

Only 54,130 individual proofs have been sold to date. Add the 61,522 that collectors purchased as part of coin and medal sets and you get 115,652.

Commemorative coin honoring the end of World War I. Courtesy of US Mint

Commemorative coin honoring the end of World War I. Courtesy of US Mint

For the uncirculated, sales are worse at just 19,553.

Expectations were never high. Only 350,000 were authorized. For those of us who remember the heyday of the modern commemorative series back in the 1980s, this number would make the issue a rarity.

But not today.

That is sad.

As school kids, we learned the conflict was called the War to End All Wars. The irony of that name has hit all future generations right between the eyes.

But family ties made sure that stories of duty to country were faithfully kept alive.

Both of my grandfathers fought in France as American soldiers to aid the Allies fighting imperial Germany.

That generation would probably have bought the current commemorative silver dollars in 10 minutes without the aid of online purchasing.

But time passes. Memories fade.

Cynical coin collectors have learned not to jump too strongly into the new issue commemorative market because they only get burned on the secondary market.

I get that.

But perhaps there will be a second act to the present commemorative offer. Perhaps as Veterans Day approaches, potential buyers will reflect on the sacrifices of a prior generation and act.

The Nov. 11, 2018, anniversary date will make headlines.

President Donald Trump will go to Paris for the occasion, as an echo of President Woodrow Wilson arriving there a century ago for the Peace Conference.

Collective remembrance could boost sales.

Buying these coins is not only the action of a collector, but also a solemn act of honoring past sacrifice.

Some have done this already. Otherwise sales figures would probably be closer to the 41,168 proof and uncirculated Breast Cancer Awareness silver dollars. The 135,205 combined sales figure for the World War I silver dollar is more than three times Breast Cancer. Can another 214,795 be sold?

Perhaps not. 100 years have given us new things to think about.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today