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Are Pre-1934 US Gold Coin Prices Tracking Gold Price Increases?

From the New York COMEX closes on Dec. 28, 2018, to Sept. 3, 2019, the price of gold jumped 20.2%.  How have the prices of common-date Pre-1934 U.S. Gold Coins fared over them time period?

At my company, here are how the retail selling prices have changed for the 8-piece $2.50-$20.00 Liberty and Indian type sets:

 

Extremely Fine condition:      +17.1%

Mint State-62 condition:         +14.1%

Mint State-63 condition:         +10.3%

Mint State-64 condition:         +2.6%

Mint State-65 condition:         -1.2%

 

None of these 8-coin sets appreciated to the same degree as the rise in gold’s price.  Further, as the quality increased, the price changes diverged even further from the change in gold’s price, where the set in Gem Mint State-65 quality actually cost less earlier this week than at the end of last year.

This pattern of price changes pretty much matches what has happened in previous times of soaring gold prices.  The typical pattern is that the price of gold rises first.  Several decades ago, it could take as long as six months for the prices of Pre-1934 U.S. Gold Coins to start rising as coins back then were selling at much higher premiums above gold value.  When prices on the numismatic coins did start to rise, the change was greatest on the types and grades that sold for the lowest premiums above metal value.  The prices of the numismatic coins that sold for the highest premiums above gold content would initially move up the least and could actually drop in price.

How could such a pattern occur?

As best I understand it, early during a time of rising gold prices, more Americans are inclined to sell their gold coins and ingots.  Most of these sellers don’t take particular note whether the prices of their numismatic gold coins have actually increased.  Instead, they are focused on the change in the spot price.  At the same time, collectors of numismatic coins assume that Pre-1934 U.S. Gold Coins prices are appreciating along with the spot price, and tend to hold off on purchases.  Thus, supplies on the market could increase as the value of the gold content is going up.  With higher supplies and reduced demand, the prices of Pre-1934 U.S. Gold Coins would tend to lag rising spot prices.

If the rise in the gold spot price is sustained for several months, even more supplies of the numismatic coins will be liquidated.  However, when collectors notice that the collector coins have not appreciated to the same degree as the spot price, demand tends to increase.  Should the spot price reach a plateau, demand continues to build up and eventually may lead Pre-1934 U.S. Gold Coins prices to outperform the change in the spot price.

In recent years, as information on changing gold spot prices and related collector coins has become more readily available, the time lags between higher spot prices and rising numismatic coin prices have shortened—though not disappeared.

Another factor is that gold’s price is now much higher than it was late last century and in the early years of this century.  The premiums of numismatic gold issues over their gold value, for US and coins of other nations, have trended downward.  Today you can purchase many common-date Pre-1934 US Gold Coins at or near to bullion-related prices.  This is one reason why numismatic coins would more closely parallel a rising gold spot price than occurred in decades past.

More so than in years past, the less common dates and mintmarks of Pre-1934 U.S. Gold Coins are today selling closer to gold value.  So, while a number of numismatic common-date gold coins may appear to be of desirable value right now in relation to the value of their gold content, the less-common and better-date issues that can be obtained at or near the price of common-dates could end up proving to be an even better long-term value.  Detecting these anomalies in prices over time is part of what makes gold coin collecting so interesting.

 

Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2018 Glenn Smedley Memorial Service Award, 2017 Exemplary Service Award 2012 Harry Forman National Dealer of the Year Award, and 2008 Presidential Award winner.  Over the years, he has also been honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild (including twice in 2019), Professional Numismatists Guild, Industry Council for Tangible Assets, and the Michigan State Numismatic Society.  He is the communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Michigan and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects.  Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com.  Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 AM Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and become part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com). 

 

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