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Modern commemoratives

The time to buy something is when everyone else wants to sell and the time to sell is when everybody else is buying. That’s darned hard to do in practice.

The time to buy something is when everyone else wants to sell and the time to sell is when everybody else is buying. That’s darned hard to do in practice. Even coin collectors, who are known for their tight-lipped nature and security concerns, are remarkably apt to run as a pack.


They take their cue from what is being written online and in Numismatic News and other periodicals.

However it is not like we collectors are not self aware. There is an old term called “Sleeper.” This means a coin has been identified by someone using the term as having an unaccountably low current market price. The judgment might be based on mintages that are extremely low as compared to the million or two hard core collectors who are out spending their money to the point their spouses get concerned about it. A sleeper might be a coin or a whole series that has been out of the limelight for a while.

I take up this topic because I was doing one of my favorite activities. I was paging through the ads. I love ads. I like to see what is being offered. I like to check prices. I like to see what grabs my attention.
A recent Coast to Coast ad grabbed my attention because it offered a large listing of modern commemorative half dollars and silver dollars.

Modern commemoratives have been out of the limelight in recent years. They have been put in the shade by all the attention paid to gold and silver issues that have soared in response to the uptrend in the bullion market that started in 2001.

Well, back it 2001, we were all going crazy because the Buffalo nickel design was being adapted for use on a new Buffalo commemorative dollar. The gold articles I ran then pretty much disappeared without a trace.

Now it is the reverse. Everybody is thinking gold, gold, gold. Who wants to look at the very first modern commemorative, the silver Washington half dollar that can still be purchased in proof or uncirculated for less than issue price?

Who wants to buy the first Olympic silver dollar also below issue price?

I am as bad as everybody else. I and millions of others bought the Washington halves and the Olympic dollars. The lemming-like rush of collectors starved of commemoratives for 28 years prior to the release of the new series created a situation where those first commems will always be common. But even common coins can rise above issue price if the series comes back into favor.

Looking at the list of coins, the series makes a nice collection. The mintages of some of them are remarkably low, especially if you are comparing them to the Washington half dollars.

Some 30 years after the 1930s heyday of the old commemorative series, advisory letters began citing their low mintages and investment potential. I remember being captivated by thoughts of buying coins that had mintages in the low thousands when the annual proof sets that I was buying were three million. How could collectors pass up those bargains I wondered? Prices jumped.

Somebody else will start wondering about the modern commemoratives in a similar way before long.