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For mint sets, some things change, some things don't

When the U.S. Mint’s uncirculated coin set, popularly called the mint set, is released Oct. 1, some collectors will probably have the same reaction I did when they see the price.


That’s a lot of money.

The very first set I ever purchased from the Mint was the 1969 set, which was priced at $2.50.

Naturally, I can’t just let it go at that. There is always another way to look at things and the mint set is no different.

The set I purchased for $2.50 in 1969 had nine coins in it with a face value of $1.33. The face value works out to 53.2 percent of the sale price.

The 2009 mint set has many more bells and whistles in it in the form of commemorative designs. There are 36 coins in it with a face value of $14.38. That works out to 51.4 percent of face value.

That’s remarkably consistent pricing for sets 40 years apart.

This year’s hobby has been excited by the four Lincoln cent designs. Counting the coins from both mints, Denver and Philadelphia, that is eight pieces. And their alloy is that used in 1909, 95 percent copper, 3 percent zinc and 2 percent tin.

There are two nickels, two dimes and two half dollars.

The quarters add up to 12 pieces and the dollars to 10, four Presidential designs and one Native American dollar from each of the mints.

It makes the 1969 set shrimpy in comparison. But in 1969 we were just glad to have mintmarks back having just returned to the coinage in 1968.

There was an “S” cent and an “S” nickel. It seemed exciting to have that mintmark back, too, since San Francisco supposedly had closed coin production forever in 1955 only to be reopened to cope with the coin shortage of the mid 1960s.

The set also did not have a Philadelphia nickel in it, something that still confounds newcomers. That mint simply didn’t make nickels that year or in 1968 or in 1970.

The one half dollar in the 1969 set was from Denver. It had a 40-percent silver alloy. Collectors considered themselves fortunate to have any silver in the set at all, but were still disappointed at the loss of 90 percent silver coinage due to the Coinage Act of 1965.

Conflicted feelings? Sure. But still true.

Somewhere, sometime, somebody is going to have conflicted feelings about this year’s set and fondly remember buying it as I remember buying the 1969 set.

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2 Responses to For mint sets, some things change, some things don't

  1. Brad says:

    The thing that has always been nice about the Uncirculated or "Mint" sets is the built-in "stop loss" they have in the form of their face value. Those of us with enough dough can take a chance with buying these sets in bulk, just in case they appreciate nicely on the secondary market after sell-out. If they tank (as has sometimes been the case in recent years), the most you can lose is the excess you paid over face. They can always be broken out and spent in the worst-case scenario.

    It still blows my mind when I see sellers in online auctions selling the sets for LESS than the face value of the coins they contain. It just isn’t very bright!

  2. I think this is a testimony to that we have too many circulating commemoratives. The only coins that are not commemorating anything but their portraits are the nickel, dime, and half dollar. Interestingly, the half dollar does not circulate any more.

    I thought we would get a break after this year. But in a measure of pure greed, Mike Castle (R-DE) pushed the National Parks Quarters through congress last year that GWB signed on the last possible day. With congress not in session, he could have pocket vetoed the measure, but he had no guts anyway. Now we have another 11 year circulating commemorative series.

    I was going to say that some day, congress will get its act together and change the way coinage designs are done in the US but that requires congress to change its act and give up some power. The chances of this happening is slim to none and slim just left town!

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