Apparently we in the numismatic press need more space to really give you all the information you deserve. I say that simply because there are always coins that should be highlighted yet which receive very little attention. One good example is the Smithsonian $5 gold of 1996.
From the start, the Smithsonian commemoratives marking the 150th anniversary of the Smithsonian Institution have received very little attention. That is not meant to criticize anyone but rather is simply a fact.
It’s certainly clear that a large part of the problem was that in 1996 there was the second year of the Atlanta Olympic program. With that flood of coins, it was pretty easy to forget the Smithsonian.
Numismatic publications keep their ear to the ground pretty well in terms of what news you might want. Back in 1996 they correctly sensed that many collectors were simply not interested in hearing about more commemoratives, which happens when too many commemoratives are approved. As in 1936 when there were commemoratives for just about everything, collectors lost interest and orders dropped. Collectors who did not have enough money or interest to buy everything simply bought nothing.
Since 1996 there has also been little information. While the Smithsonian coins have done awfully well, they have been in the shadow of the 1997 Jackie Robinson coins. That’s especially true of the $5 gold as the Jackie Robinson BU is at $4,950 while the Smithsonian BU $5 is only at $1,175.
That price of $1,175 for the BU along with a price of $565 for the proof deserve some attention. The cost of the proof was $195 in the pre-issue period and $225 in the regular ordering period while the BU was $180 in the pre-issue period and $205 in the regular ordering period. Put simply, the 9,068 buyers of the BU have done awfully well in a decade and the 21,772 proof buyers have not done that badly either.
The Smithsonian $5 has an obverse designed by Alfred Maletsky and a reverse by T. James Ferrell.
Perhaps we can say the Jackie Robinson $5 is paving the way for the Smithsonian $5. In 2002 it was remarkable that any modern commemorative $5 was over $1,000, but now there are a few. Every time the Jackie Robinson breaks another price barrier, it opens the door for the others. The Smithsonian BU is about twice the mintage of the Jackie Robinson, but less than one-quarter the price, so it has room to move higher.
Moreover, high prices produce added demand for proofs as type buyers opt for the lower priced coin. As demand for the BU increases, the proof will benefit as well. That gives both bright futures, although the BU continues to be the Smithsonian $5 gold coin to watch.