Sometimes there is no reason to say a coin will do better other than on the basis of a gut feeling. It is not scientific. It is like saying your team will win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the football season.
There is something of a similar feeling in me about the 1868 Indian Head cent. It is not common, nor is it a key date. Almost everyone can agree on those two points. What the 1868 cent is at present is one of the lesser dates in what is the heart of an Indian cent set, which are the dates 1866-1877.
The dates from the period have a lot in common in that they are routinely extremely tough especially in Mint State. In fact, dates from this period are tough in any grade.
The G-4 1868 is $38.50, which is up from $28 in 1998, but when compared to most of the other cents of this period the 1868 has one of the lower prices. It is the lowest when compared to the 1866-1872 issues.
The G-4 grade might just be one of the grades where the price seems about right. After all, the 1868 had a slightly higher mintage at 10,266,500 pieces and that total was more than for any date until the 1873. The 1873-1875 mintages are higher, but they also have lower G-4 prices. It makes a certain amount of sense that the 1868 and other dates might be available in lower grades because they circulated for a long time. There has even been some suggestion that some might have been melted in a copper shortage in the early 1870s. That seems unlikely as it would have been in circulation for only a few years and it would have been in high grade at the time.
For higher grades, things are more uncertain. In MS-60, the 1868 is $265 and it is $985 in MS-65. That is up from $205 and $800, respectively, in 1998, but prices in those grades have stalled in recent years.
The 1868 is the cheapest by far in MS-65 of the 1866-1873 dates. On the other hand, the Proof-65 at $5,750 outranks all of the dates of the 1866-1873 stretch except the 1867, which is $6,100. Years ago, the MS-65 and Proof-65 prices were almost identical, meaning the proof has jumped by a factor of nearly six times. This would have been the coin to put away in 1998.
The present price differential is justified when you look at grading service totals. At Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, fewer than 30 are graded in Proof-65 while the MS-65 total is almost 120. At the Professional Coin Grading Service, the difference narrows, but still roughly twice as many MS-65 pieces have been certified as Proof-65 pieces. That is surprising as in most other Indian cent cases, we find the proofs to be more available than the MS-65 pieces.
Part of the reason for the small proof supply is that the proof mintage is estimated in the case of the 1868 at perhaps 600 coins. That is unusually low. The 1867 and 1869 are also around the same number, but the very expensive proof 1877 had a mintage of 900.
The question for the 1868 proof is whether there is room for it to run even higher. It is generously priced today. Perhaps the 1868 in MS-65 is the better bet. Just closing the gap with the next cheapest dates on the 1866-1873 list would mean rising by over $300. That’s a healthy percentage gain and one that might just be worth taking a chance on. That, of course, is what is meant by a gut feeling. Coins don’t always rise in price because they seem cheaper than similar pieces, but in this case it feels more likely.
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