Are clad commemorative half dollars making a comeback?
Since modern commemoratives began in 1982, there have been relatively few of them issued.
The most popular commemorative is the silver dollar followed by the $5 gold piece.
A long way behind is the clad half dollar.
However, texts of three pieces of legislation in Congress include quantities of clad half dollars.
Are collectors warming up to them, or are sponsors of legislation simply deluding themselves?
On June 26 the Congress sent to the President legislation calling for commemoratives celebrating the centennial of Father Flanagan’s Boys Town in 2017.
Maximum quantities of coins specified are 50,000 gold $5 coins, 350,000 silver dollars and 300,000 clad half dollars. Surcharges per coin are the standard $35, $10 and $5, respectively.
Proceeds go to Boys Town to continue its mission of “saving children and healing families” as described in the legislation.
Proposed legislation for Breast Cancer Awareness calls for up to 750,000 clad half dollars in 2018 in addition to 50,000 gold $5s and 400,000 silver dollars.
A proposal for the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing in 2019 also calls for 750,000 clad half dollars in addition to 50,000 gold $5s and 400,000 silver dollars.
The moon landing bill is made even more interesting as it calls for up to 100,000 5-ounce silver dollars – not quarters as the current 5-ounce coins are – and a much higher $50 surcharge on them. However, this is a topic for another day.
Here we have three commemorative coins bills for three consecutive years and each one calls for clad halves. This reflects an increasing frequency of issue.
In the 33 years since 1982, there have only been 15 years that have had clad halves offered in commemorative programs.
More recently, there were no clad halves issued between 2003 and 2008. Then came issues in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The 2003 First Flight issue had sales of 166,832 clad halves.
The 2008 Bald Eagle was 340,757.
The 2011 U.S. Army was 107,774.
In 2013 5-Star Generals sold 85,434.
In 2014 403,989 baseball coins were sold.
So far in 2015 80,962 US. Marshal Service coins have been sold.
While the increased frequency of issue of clad commemoratives is obvious in these numbers, the sales figures do not yet show collectors to be wildly enthusiastic about them.
Obviously, sponsors would like sales similar to the baseball coins or the Bald Eagle issue rather than the 5-Star Generals result.
I think it is safe to say that the Breast Cancer Awareness and Moon Landing legislation sponsors are being over optimistic with their 750,000 maximum mintage figure, while the sponsors of the Boys Town legislation were much more realistic at 300,000.
In the meantime, collectors who are ignoring clad commemoratives are missing what is turning out to be a respectable set in its own right.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."