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Don't overlook real rarities

I am not aware of any clamor to purchase copper-nickel three-cent pieces. Perhaps there should be.

On Tuesday we saw what a 40,000 mintage of an expensive First Spouse gold piece can do in terms of selling out in three hours.

It might interest the eBay posse to know that every single mintage of the proof copper-nickel three-cent pieces is significantly less than 10,000. Some years the mintages are as low as 500. The top mintage of the proofs in the 1865-1889 run is the 1883 at 6,609. Why aren’t buyers freaking out about these? Must be price, right? Wrong.

The prices of proof copper-nickel three-cent pieces can be lower than the issue price of a First Spouse coin.

What’s going on? Two factors. The first I will borrow from John Maynard Keynes, the famous father of Keynesian economics. He was also a speculator in currencies, commodities and stocks. He knew markets. He knew what made them tick. He said the object of investment wasn’t buying stocks that you thought would go up in value. Instead, it was buying stocks that the other guy thinks will go up in value.

What does that mean? Well, it means you need a buyer on the other side to make a profit. If you are in some obscure area like copper-nickel three-cent pieces, you probably would have to explain to possible buyers what the coins are in the first place – not a happy condition to face when trying to unload something at a profit.

The second factor is availability. There is no single vendor like the U.S. Mint to go to with a credit card to buy quantities of possibly rare dates. With copper-nickel three three-cent pieces you hardly find more than a handful in any individual dealer inventory. This isn’t a happy prospect either for a rapid pump and dump scheme.

For long-term pleasure and investment, though, few things beat out the satisfaction of actively seeking out these corners of numismatics and putting a set together. If you have the $429.95 to buy a First Spouse gold piece, you are in the ball park to consider a rare copper-nickel three-cent piece. Why not give it a try?