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Silver made powerless

This has been an exciting year for collectors of the Presidential Coin and Chronicles sets.

Collectors were drawn to them because the Mint changed the quality of the Presidential dollar in the sets from a regular proof coin to a reverse proof coin.

This got the attention of enough hobbyists to inspire rapid sellouts of the Truman and Ike sets June 30 and Aug. 11, respectively, as well as a near sellout of the Kennedy set Sept. 16.

The Kennedy set was no longer available from the Mint when I checked the website this morning. At last all 50,000 seem to be spoken for after more than two weeks of uncertainty.

It was the change in the dollar that prompted renewed interest in Coin and Chronicles sets, but by conventional collector definition the most valuable contribution to the inherent value of the set should be from the one-ounce Presidential medal, not the dollar coin because it provides $15.30 in intrinsic silver value to a set that had an issue price of $57.95.

That at least is an interpretation derived from collectors’ marked preference for coins made of precious metals rather than base metals.

But there is another aspect to collector conventional wisdom that needs to be acknowledged.

Precious metals trump base metals, but there is also the fact that coins trump medals.

All other things begin equal, collectors value one-ounce of silver in coin form more than in medal form.

Should that be the case? Perhaps not, but opinions matter less here than the cold, hard reality of market pricing.

If the medal matters, we can ask why the Franklin D. Roosevelt Coin and Chronicles set is still being sold by the Mint 10 months after it went on sale with a maximum mintage of just 20,000.

But we have an answer in the plain fact that we know the regular proof dollar in the Roosevelt set can also be obtained in standard proof sets, silver sets and Presidential proof sets.

The 20,000 mintage in this instance is a set limitation rather than a limitation on the number of proof dollar coins that will ultimately be available to collectors.

There simply was no other way to obtain a reverse proof Truman or Ike dollar other than from the 17,000 of each sold in the Coin and Chronicles sets and the 50,000 in the Kennedy set.

These low numbers were the basis of the speculative mania that grabbed hold of buyers in 2015. They are what underpin the secondary market.

But for how long?

Will the great mass of collectors who do not have these reverse proofs have any sort of continuing interest in them as the months and years go by?

Popularity of speculative favorites often changes over time.

The Coin and Chronicles sets were the toast of the secondary market during the summer, but next year it will still be true that coins made of precious metals will be more popular than coins made of base metals.

Will there be enough ongoing interest to sustain prices in this new base metal reverse proof dollar series once the speculators have moved on to their next targets?

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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