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New key to commem halves

By William H. Brownstein

Did you buy the 2011 U.S. Army commemorative half dollars before they went off sale Dec. 16?

The uncirculated U.S. Army commemorative half dollar, with a provisional final mintage figure of 39,461, has taken the crown of key to the modern commemorative half dollar series. As a consequence, it now has a huge potential for increase in value. It should make anyone who has already bought the coin feel good about their purchase.

Because it is a must for anyone who wants to have a complete set of modern commemorative half dollars, delay in buying it may turn out to be costly.

Modern Commemorative Coins

Do you know which modern commemoratives have the best potential for profit? Start here!

Many collectors were watching the low totals of 8,261 for the uncirculated gold U.S. Army and 8,062 for the uncirculated gold Medal of Honor commemorative $5 coins. However, this article will address only the modern commemorative half dollars. The U.S. Army uncirculated half dollar now has the lowest mintage to date at 39,461. It also has the distinction of having the lowest proof mintage to date, of 68,349 pieces. Let’s look at history to put these numbers in context.

The history of the modern commemorative half dollars started with the 1982 George Washington half dollar, which was issued in 90 percent silver, and which had a mintage of 2,210,458 for the 1982-D and 4,894,044 for the 1982-S.

Starting in 1986 all issues of commemorative half dollars were in copper-nickel except for the 1993 Madison Bill of Rights pieces, with the Statue of Liberty half having a mintage of 928,008 uncirculated and 6,925,627 proof versions.

In 1989 the Congress Bicentennial half dollar was issued with 163,753 uncirculated and 767,897 proofs minted.

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1991 was the next issue, the Mount Rushmore 50th anniversary edition. That had a mintage of 172,754 uncirculated and 753,257 proofs.

Then there was the 1992 Olympics half dollar. The mintages were of 161,607 uncirculated and 519,645 proofs.

The Columbus Quincentenary copper- nickel half dollar also was issued in 1992. The uncirculated mintage was 135,702 and the proof 390,154.

The 1993 Bill of Rights half dollar followed with 193,346 uncirculated silver coins and 586,315 proof silver pieces.
The next commemorative half dollar, the copper-nickel World War II 50th anniversary clad half dollar dated 1991-1995, had mintages for uncirculated and proofs of 197,072 and 317,396, respectively.

1994 saw the issuance of the World Cup Soccer half dollar. The mintages were of 168,208 uncirculated and 609,354 proofs. These totals were in line with prior issues.

The 1995 Civil War Battlefields half dollar saw mintages of 113,045 uncirculated and 326,801 proofs.

The 1995 coins for the Games of the XXVI Olympiad in Atlanta, had issues for basketball (169,527 uncirculated and 170,733 proofs); baseball (164,759 uncirculated and 119,396 proofs); swimming (50,077 uncirculated and 114,890 proofs) and soccer (53,176 uncirculated and 123,860 proofs). Until the most recent 2011 U.S. Army commemorative issue, the swimming commemorative was the key to the series and had the lowest issue, followed closely by the soccer commemorative.

In 1998 a special edition 90 percent silver matte finish Kennedy half dollar was issued with a mintage of 62,000 coins. It was issued as part of a two-coin collector with a Matte finish Robert F. Kennedy silver dollar. The set had an initial cost of $59.95. That coin is technically not a commemorative coin, but as a special issue half dollar it is being show for purposes of comparison. The current market price for that coin in MS-63 is $150 and goes up to $500 in MS-70.

The 2001 Capitol Visitor Center had a mintage of 99,157 uncirculated and 77,962 proofs.

In 2003 the First Flight Centennial half dollar was issued and it had 57,122 uncirculated and 109,710 proofs minted.

The most recent issue was the 2008 Bald Eagle half dollar, which had a mintage of 101,912 uncirculated and 174,411 proofs.
Finally, the last and most recent issue was the copper-nickel uncirculated 2011 U.S. Army commemorative, which had a final mintage of 39,461. That dwarfs the next lowest mintage issue for the Atlanta 1995 swimming half dollar, which shows a mintage of 50,077.

It is priced at $140 in MS-65 and $165 in MS-69 and the uncirculated 1995 soccer commemorative, having a mintage of 53,176, coming in at a close second at $135 and $155 in MS-65 and MS-69, respectively. These numbers seem to show that the 2011 uncirculated U.S. Army half dollar has great potential for appreciation.

Of course, one possible explanation for the low sales is the fact that the U.S. Mint priced the 2011 halves too high at $15.95/$19.95 for the uncirculated and $17.95/$21.95 for the proof. The previous issue of an uncirculated commemorative half dollar, the 2008 Bald Eagle, was priced at $7.95/$8.95. Were the bureaucrats at the U.S. Mint mistaken in more than doubling the prior highest price when pricing the 2011 issue? This remains unanswered.

After reviewing these mintage figures, the secondary market will now become the final arbiter of price and the original issue prices might no longer seem high.

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