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Hidden scarcity in modern U.S. gold

At the huge Baltimore show this past weekend, a new reference catalog titled “American Gold And Silver: U.S. Mint Collector And Investor Coins And Medals, Bicentennial To Date” debuted.

New book helps reader look for  hidden value in modern bullion coin and medal issues.

New book helps reader look for hidden value inmodern bullion coin and medal issues.

Authored by Dennis Tucker, this 374-page hardbound book is published by Whitman Publishing. List price is $29.95.

Whenever a new reference catalog covers a previously little-covered area in numismatics, invariably collector demand in that niche expands. We saw that with the variety of catalogs covering U.S. coins that appeared around the 1940s, such as “A Guide Book Of United States Coins” also known as the Red Book. When multiple references for paper money appeared in the 1980s, a similar collector surge developed with U.S. currency.

Now that this book has hit the market, will that lead to a surge in collecting interest in such U.S. Mint issues such as the U.S. American Arts Medallions that were issued from 1980 to 1984, or the First Spouse gold bullion coins issued from 2007 through this year? That could definitely happen.

In particular, the American Arts Medallion series of five one-ounce and five half-ounce gold issues could gain much more appreciation because they are much rarer than most people realize. The Medallions have only appeared in the Red Book in two editions thus far this century, so many collectors have little or no familiarity with them.

R.W. Bradford, who founded Liberty Coin Service in 1971, retired from day- to-day operations in 1980, and wrote the company’s newsletter through 1994, did significant research on the number of surviving medallions once the U.S. Mint released preliminary mintage figures for the series in early 1986. The mintage figures did not match the relative scarcity of many of the issues.

After extensive work to dig out information to estimate how many were melted, Bradford published his estimates of surviving supplies late in 1986.

Since then, I updated Bradford’s data on surviving populations of the American Arts Medallion series. Chapter 3 of the book, one of the longer chapters, used much of Bradford’s and my research on the medallions, which we made freely available to the author.

As readers of this lavishly illustrated catalog enjoy the contents, I expect a number of collectors will come to appreciate just how rare both the American Arts Medallions and the First Spouse gold bullion coins really are, especially when you consider the current prices at which they can be obtained. The First Spouse issues have some incredibly low mintages.

The 1982 one-ounce Gold American Arts Medallion depicts the musician Louis Armstrong. Because Armstrong’s cheek is in such high relief on the pieces, virtually all surviving specimens have marks in that prominent spot. Top quality specimens are extremely elusive. I have examined 100-piece groups of Armstrongs and not found any without a mark right there. So, even though this issue is considered one of the more common Medallions of the series, pieces grading Mint State-66 and higher are probably now undervalued for their rarity.

Side note: when my father worked for the U.S. government’s foreign aid program in Sudan from 1958 to 1961, Louis Armstrong came to the country for a goodwill tour. My father ended up being his chaperone, possibly because he understood Arabic better than the other Americans there. I have a photograph of my parents walking with Armstrong, though neither I nor my siblings ever met him personally.

World coin collectors will want to check out the Chicago International Coin Fair, held April 15th to the 17th.

World coin collectors will want to check out the Chicago International Coin Fair, held April 15th to the 17th.

Other series covered in this new book are coverage of the American Eagle bullion program (a limited discussion), the Buffalo gold bullion coins, the America the Beautiful silver bullion coins, the special gold and silver commemorative coin issues that began to appear in 2009, and the Mint’s silver and gold medals beginning with issues for the Bicentennial.

If you collect any of the modern American gold and silver coins and medals by variety and date, it would be well worth your investment to pick up a copy of this book. If you bring your copy to my store, or see me at any shows I attend, it would be my pleasure to autograph it for you.

Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He is the owner emeritus and communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at Other commentaries are available at Coin Week ( His radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express.
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