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For mint sets, some things change, some things don't

When the U.S. Mint’s uncirculated coin set, popularly called the mint set, is released Oct. 1, some collectors will probably have the same reaction I did when they see the price.


That’s a lot of money.

The very first set I ever purchased from the Mint was the 1969 set, which was priced at $2.50.

Naturally, I can’t just let it go at that. There is always another way to look at things and the mint set is no different.

The set I purchased for $2.50 in 1969 had nine coins in it with a face value of $1.33. The face value works out to 53.2 percent of the sale price.

The 2009 mint set has many more bells and whistles in it in the form of commemorative designs. There are 36 coins in it with a face value of $14.38. That works out to 51.4 percent of face value.

That’s remarkably consistent pricing for sets 40 years apart.

This year’s hobby has been excited by the four Lincoln cent designs. Counting the coins from both mints, Denver and Philadelphia, that is eight pieces. And their alloy is that used in 1909, 95 percent copper, 3 percent zinc and 2 percent tin.

There are two nickels, two dimes and two half dollars.

The quarters add up to 12 pieces and the dollars to 10, four Presidential designs and one Native American dollar from each of the mints.

It makes the 1969 set shrimpy in comparison. But in 1969 we were just glad to have mintmarks back having just returned to the coinage in 1968.

There was an “S” cent and an “S” nickel. It seemed exciting to have that mintmark back, too, since San Francisco supposedly had closed coin production forever in 1955 only to be reopened to cope with the coin shortage of the mid 1960s.

The set also did not have a Philadelphia nickel in it, something that still confounds newcomers. That mint simply didn’t make nickels that year or in 1968 or in 1970.

The one half dollar in the 1969 set was from Denver. It had a 40-percent silver alloy. Collectors considered themselves fortunate to have any silver in the set at all, but were still disappointed at the loss of 90 percent silver coinage due to the Coinage Act of 1965.

Conflicted feelings? Sure. But still true.

Somewhere, sometime, somebody is going to have conflicted feelings about this year’s set and fondly remember buying it as I remember buying the 1969 set.