This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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“What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation?” my mother would sternly ask of me if I was slow at getting to an assigned task when I was a kid.
Since I became a coin collector, I have received many invitations from the U.S. Mint to purchase its many fine products. While I don’t remember any of these sales materials being engraved, they did have the knack of making the offering seem special and to create in me a state of mind to want to act.
Even the e-mail reminders that I receive today about upcoming offerings leave me thinking in similar fashion.
If I wanted to rate each commemorative offering I received as an investment, though, I would probably have to do it in the reverse order as to how I felt about it.
When the modern commemorative program began in 1982 with the Washington half dollar, I wanted the coins in the worst way. I ordered them.
What’s my reward nigh on three decades later?
I have two coins worth hardly more than bullion value – not a stellar investment performance, considering that they are still below issue price.
In 1983, the Olympic coin program began. I had to have those coins, too. Once again, look at today’s prices. For the silver dollars, we are once again at little more than bullion value.
The story of the gold Olympic coin of 1984 is a bit better, but only because that precious metal has gone up enough to push the bullion value above issue price.
Had you asked me in that long ago time whether I was making a bullion investment, I would have said no.
What was I thinking?
The sad fact is that many modern commemoratives that I find most attractive are the very same coins that other collectors find most attractive. The result is a pretty dismal track record as far as price performance goes. High initial demand means high mintages and high mintages are the raw material for dismal investment performance over time.
I even told my Dad about the 1983-1984 Olympic coins. Though he is not a collector I got him so excited when they were issued that he bought a set. Such was the magic of the first U.S. gold coin struck since 1933. Thanks to $1,250 gold bullion I can finally tell him that he is no longer in the red.
To be sure, my record isn’t all one way. I have purchased some winners. I liked the 2001 Buffalo silver dollars as many others did and despite its initial popularity, it still is trading nicely above issue price, though it certainly hasn’t improved on that level for quite some time.
Any honest evaluation of my performance, though, means that I should only buy a new commemorative issue if I absolutely, positively don’t like it. That seems to be the surest route to price gains in the future.
2011 U.S. Coin Digest
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