Many of my readers watch their change. I do, too.
The day before yesterday in the course of my daily routine I received five quarters in my change. I took a look at them. What caught my eye were two of them. One is a 1982-P. The other is a 1983-P. Both of these coins tell a story of what might have been.
Their mintages don’t tell the full story. The 1982-P has a mintage of 500,931,000. The 1983-P has a mintage of 673,535,000. Both are indicative of common coins.
The two coins in my possession definitely are common. The 1982-P is better than the 1983-P. It probably grades AU-50. The 1983-P spent some time in a casino. The edge is nearly smooth as the reeds were worn away in the slot machines and coin counters.
I wouldn’t want to grade it because there are so many hairlines and contact marks that the surface is anything but original or pleasing to look at.
But what if I had saved a roll of each of these back when they were new issues? The Coin Market price guide says the uncirculated 1983-P roll of 40 is $1,500, or $37.50 for each coin. The 1982-P is $220, or $5.50 each. Neither price is a bad return on investment. Imagine what an MS-65, -66 or -67 could bring.
Why are they so valuable? The reason is that the U.S. Mint did not produce uncirculated coin sets, popularly called mint sets, in either year and hobby habit from the 1960s of saving roll or bag quantities of coins had pretty much died out.
The result is that anyone trying to put an uncirculated quarter set together has to work a bit to find examples of 1982-P and 1983-P quarters.
I don’t think the collectors of those years believed that today’s prices could be possible with such high mintages, but then that scepticism is what kept me and millions of others from saving them in any quantity. In the end, that’s what makes a coin valuable.
If you still have the Numismatic News subscription premium from those years, which were uncirculated sets that we assembled privately, take a look at those quarters. You might want to get them out of your junk drawer.