Skip to main content

Will Morgan dollars push gold aside?

Would you buy a house in a neighborhood that you did not know and had no information about except from a real estate agent trying to sell it to you?

I would expect not.

But in 2008 numismatics experienced an influx of noncollector buyers who were panicked by the world financial crisis and were scrambling to buy gold coins before the price of bullion went to the moon.

They knew nothing except what the sales people were telling them.

Because American Eagle bullion coin supply cannot be ramped up in the face of an extreme increase in demand, rationing was set in motion by the U.S. Mint.

Premiums, the percentage that must be paid over spot price, went through the roof.

Gold coins, any gold coins, were like tickets to a popular rock concert that had sold out quickly. If you choose to buy a ticket from a scalper or even just a ticket holder, you pay up.

The decision in 2009 by the U.S. Mint not to strike proof versions of the American Eagle bullion coins to use the blanks for regular bullion coins amplified a sense of shortage and the need to get into the market quickly.

Demand that could not be satisfied with Eagles spilled over into classic pre-1934 U.S. gold coins.

Prices for coins in the grades MS-60 to MS-64 went higher and higher.

It was a classic case of too many buyers chasing too few available coins.

But many of the gold coin buyers seemed not to realize this.

Now these coins are coming back to the numismatic market. It has been three and a half years since the price of an ounce of gold peaked in August 2011.

Naturally, with less demand and lower gold prices, these classic coins are coming down in price. A recalibration of the market is occurring.

At times like this, there can be recriminations.

Some disappointed gold coin buyers might blame the field where their hopes were disappointed.

The key thing for collectors to do is to continue to urge investment coin buyers to become collectors.

Collectors know the price relationships. They know when a coin is relatively expensive. They know when it is a good deal.

Investment buyers can learn this as well if they will make the investment in time rather than just in sales pitches.

The hangover after the 1980 bullion peak lasted for three years or so and then the market began to build on a growing interest in Morgan silver dollars and classic rarities that provided a supply of coins to be sent to the new commercial third-party grading services that began appearing in 1986.

Our modern way of doing things took root.

Going forward, collectors will do what they always do. They will pick up bargains when they find them. They will work in fields that they find rewarding.

Is it a coincidence that Morgan dollars have been gaining ground during the past year?

These large, attractive silver coins might provide the market boost they did back in the 1980s.

That would be a good thing.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."