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Letters to the Editor (February 7, 2017)

‘Average’ collector values history, geography in coins


Reading Dave Harper’s editorial and the Viewpoint of the Jan. 3 issue I’m responding to both giving my collection preferences and my general agreement with the Viewpoint column. I collected coins as a child with my father and probably stopped in high school and didn’t start again until I was a young man seeing the 1986 Statue of Liberty commemorative coin being issued. Since then I began collecting again, picking up on some of the folders my dad gave me and continuing to complete those folders and by purchasing commemoratives offered by the U.S. Mint and even a few from the Royal Mint in Great Britain. I only order commemoratives that interest me, usually for some historical reason.

I also collect foreign coins from circulating coinage and am trying to obtain coins from all current countries and former countries, and attempting to make collections from these counties of my birth year.

I don’t collect for silver or gold and most of the thousand or so I have are or have been circulating coins. In regards to the Jan. 3 Viewpoint, I tend to agree with the writer and find myself reading less articles and skimming ads because the coins described are out of my range. I sense that the topics are designed to appeal to investors, not collectors. NN is still the best for average collectors and some of the best articles are Clifford Mishler’s column, Dave Harper’s column, Letters and Coin Clinic.

I remember collecting for the historical and educational aspect and continue this today. I learn a lot about geography and history looking up foreign coins in the foreign coin guide books and from the commemorative coins I collect.

I am writing this for your informational purposes only and prefer not to be identified, if printed.

Name withheld

Collect coins for pride of ownership, not investment

Are rare coins a good investment or not? I say ... Who cares! If you are trying to save for retirement by investing in coins, then I think you are in serious need of a financial advisor. Can you make money in rare coins? Of course, but this just misses the point. I have always saved and invested my money for retirement, and at one time was a licensed stockbroker that managed other people’s assets. So, I know a little bit about investing and managing money. The vast majority of my net worth is in stocks, bonds and real estate. But I love to buy rare coins!

I don’t buy rare coins for the “big score.” It’s for the pride of owning something rare and valuable. It may or may not go up in value, but I don’t care. Investing in an S&P 500 Index fund does not give me pride of ownership. It is just something that I do so I can retire comfortably. My motivations for buying a rare coin are more personal than simply investing in something. I think this is true for most coin collectors.

If you listen to the stories in the coin publications every week about the sale of this coin or that coin, you start believing that rare coins are good investments. For example, just this week I read about a well-known collector who sold a Seated Liberty coin from his collection that he purchased for $175,000 and sold for $470,000 about 19 years later (I can’t remember the exact numbers but these are close). The article touts that his “buy and hold” strategy “paid off.” Did it? Basic math would tell us otherwise. A simple ROI calculator shows that he averaged a little over 5 percent return annually during that period. That return is far from impressive, but is window-dressed to look otherwise. I can’t speak for this collector, but my guess is that he doesn’t care what he made on the coin. He had pride of ownership for all those years and is probably taking the proceeds to buy yet another amazing coin that he will be proud of.

So, the point I’m making is don’t buy coins as investments. They are much more personal and enjoyable than a simple investment. You can’t put a price on the pride of ownership you will feel when owning a piece of history. And if and when the value of your coins go down, who cares! It’s still an awesome coin or you wouldn’t have bought it in the first place.

Scott McElmeel
Edmond, Okla.

Mark Twain, Park Service commems show promise

On Jan. 3, 2017, the U.S. Mint published the mintages for the coins that went off sale Dec. 31, 2016.

Even though they previously announced that the ordering deadline would be Dec. 31, 2016, at 12 p.m., consistent with past years all commemorative coins were off sale as of Dec. 29.

Of interest are the mintage figures for both the Mark Twain and the National Park Services commemorative gold coins. The mintage figures for the Mark Twain $5 proof was 13,271, and for the uncirculated version it was 5,701, the fourth lowest in the modern commemorative series.

For the National Park Services proof the mintage was 19,510, consisting of 4,915 individual coins and 14,595 coins in the three-coin proof set, and 5,201 uncirculated gold coins, the second lowest in the modern commemorative series.

Comparatively speaking, the mintages of the uncirculated gold coins as the second and fourth lowest modern commemorative gold coins, with the only lower mintages being that for the 1997 Jackie Robinson $5 uncirculated gold coin of 5,174, and the 2013 Five Star General uncirculated gold coin with a mintage of 5,667, which is only 34 fewer coins than the uncirculated Mark Twain gold piece. In my opinion, a lot more people would rather have a Mark Twain coin that a Douglas MacArthur coin.

As of Jan. 4, eBay shows several Mark Twain $55 uncirculated coins ranging in price from a low Buy It Now price of $429.95 raw piece to an NGC MS-70 piece at $545.

With the National Park Service uncirculated coins, on Jan. 4, eBay has three coins for sale, with one ungraded coin offered at $485, another at $536.82 and a third in a mint-sealed box at $750.

In comparison, the 2013-W Five Star General $5 uncirculated coin is offered on eBay at a low of $635 in an NGC MS-69 slab, and several 1997-W Jackie Robinson uncirculated $5 coins are being offered on eBay at prices ranging from a low of $1,357.78 in a PCGS MS-69 slab to $3,499 in a PCGS MS-70 slab.

Time will tell what happened with the 2016 issues; however, if the past repeats itself, either the 2016 Mark Twain $5 uncirculated or the 2016 National Park Service $5 uncirculated coins will be real winners and prices are bound to jump.

William H. Brownstein
Rumson, N.J.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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• If you enjoy reading about what inspires coin designs, you'll want to check out Fascinating Facts, Mysteries & Myths about U.S. Coins.

• When it comes to specialized world paper money issues, nothing can top the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Specialized Issues .