The holidays can be that “most wonderful time of the year,” filled with family, friends and some amazing, fun parties – or a time of high anxiety, wondering just what sort of presents we ought to get for people, including for the seldom-seen relative or friend who just happens to pop in unexpectedly and unannounced, but with a present in their hand. No matter though whether we think of the holidays as one of these extremes, or as something in the middle, there are always quite a few excellent coin-based gifts we might buy, gifts that should satisfy everyone we’ll come across. Here then, for our consideration, is a list of some glittering offerings, often at very low prices, that will with a bit of luck satisfy both the collectors and the non-collectors among us.
American Women Quarter Proof Sets
This year was the first of a new quarters program, the American Women Quarters, which honors five women in 2022, and which will stretch out into the future for several more years. Many of us have been having some fun trying to find them in change; and some of us have undoubtedly had to explain the new look of both the obverse and the five reverses to one or more friends who are not collectors. When it comes to the idea of gift-giving and this quintet of 25-cent pieces, the United States Mint has produced and marketed a gorgeous set of proofs. They are extremely affordable, have a fantastic look to them and can become a gift for people who are new to collecting, as well as to the seasoned veterans. Many dealers have these sets for sale.
Annual Proof Set in Silver
What is now an old, established gift possibility is an annual proof set. They are perfect to present to a relative or friend when someone has had a significant event for the year, such as a birth, or a milestone wedding anniversary. In a neat twist, since 1992 we have the option of purchasing precious metal, silver proof sets, with the dime, quarter and half dollar at the same fineness as the circulating coins our nation used everyday, prior to 1965. This can be a wonderful gift for someone who is not a collector, since the lure of silver might get them thinking about building a multi-year collection of their own. On top of it all, the silver proof sets are not particularly costly.
For those of us who really want to keep the costs down, but still want some handsome looking gifts that might inspire future collectors, or that might be well received by current ones, what is now the standard proof set – meaning a set containing clad coins for the higher denominations, instead of silver – still remains a good, solid choice. The Mint produces excellent-looking sets and has managed to keep the prices as attractive as the coins for decades now. For either this or a silver version of a proof set, we can shop at the Mint website, or talk to any well-stocked dealer. Many will have some for sale.
Two Sets of Little-Known Dollars
For decades now the United States Mint has produced what it calls golden dollars, with the first being the Sacagawea dollars, issued from 2000 to 2008. Presidential dollars were made from the same manganese-brass composition from 2007 to 2016, and then one final time in 2020. But the golden dollar sets that now have some history, and that get overlooked even by many collectors, are the Native American dollars, which have more than a decade of history to them, and the American Innovation dollars, which launched in 2018.
The Native American dollars have been produced with a different reverse design each year, and since they first came out of the gate in 2009 we now have an impressive run of images and themes. Actually, the entire series is a fascinating one to really delve into, and an educational one as well. Themes commemorated on the reverses, such as the “Great Law of Peace” and the “Wampanoag Treaty” can make anyone receiving such dollars want to dig a bit deeper into the history of our nation when it was young. Similarly, themes such as the Mohawk ironworkers, or the Code Talkers of World War II, might prompt people to look more deeply into history that is a bit more recent. When it comes to holiday giving, these coins are not particularly expensive, even as high-grade proofs. They certainly have the potential to wake up anyone who receives one or more of them, since several of the reverses honor the deeds and accomplishments of Native Americans – accomplishments such as those we just mentioned, which many of us may not know much about. In addition, since these are not made for what we can call “normal” circulation, most folks have never seen them. This element of the unknown can definitely add to the surprise when it comes to gift giving.
American Innovation dollars are far newer than any of the other dollar coin programs the Mint has been in charge of, with the very first one having been issued only in 2018. The first year is something of a stand-alone piece, sporting what would become the common obverse image of the Statue of Liberty, and a reverse design which shows both emblems of industry and President Washington’s signature on the first patent for the new nation. Since that first year, 12 others have been issued, each for a different state, each with a novel design, which means there will be plenty more to come in 2023 and beyond. These are also not being released for circulation, and so a large number of people have never seen one, and may have no idea they even exist. But what better way to give a gift that sparks the imagination, and gets a person interested in the hobby, and in what Americans have been able to pioneer?
If the idea of these new American Innovation dollars is intriguing, it might be worth mentioning that they are not only being offered as a proof set of four for a year, but are available as reverse proofs as well. For the person who wants to give something that is not only a collectible, but that is a real eye-opener as well, a reverse proof set might do the trick, with its mirrored designs, and matte field. The fact that these cost only about $50 qualifies as another plus when it comes to a sharp-looking gift at a wonderful price.
The Silver Proof Set – All the Silver, That Is
Although we have just mentioned silver proof sets, we have to say that the United states Mint has done a wonderful job of examining all the possible ways folks might consider fun when it comes to collecting various different Mint offerings. One of the more recent is the silver proof set that is nothing but silver – meaning no cent, nickel or golden dollar coins are even in it. Thus, we now have the possibility of a proof set containing a silver dime, five silver quarters, a silver half dollar and even a 1-ounce silver American Eagle. There’s no other way to put it: that’s a lot of silver! Because this is a proof set, the price tag will admittedly be higher than just the value of the precious metal in the coins. But in the black cases in which they are sold, each one of these looks beautiful, and again a person has the choice of purchasing straight from the Mint, or from a well-stocked dealer.
The Great White North
When it comes to year sets, uncirculated sets and proof sets, we do not have to stay within our own borders. Our northern neighbor has a truly first-class facility in Ottawa – the Royal Canadian Mint – which also has built over the course of decades a tremendous program for all types of years sets and commemoratives. The proof sets are as attractive as those from the US Mint, reasonably priced and potentially great gifts for just about anyone on our list. As for commemoratives? Well, there is a huge span of them, from very inexpensive pieces, to an array of big, gold commems, which have been issued for many years now. Plus, the bullion silver and gold Maple Leafs can make excellent gifts – and the RCM has pioneered that tiniest of gold pieces, the 1-gram Maple Leaf, which is undoubtedly the most affordable. Any of these might qualify as a present that will put the proverbial smile on someone’s face.
When it comes to fascinating coins that will grab a person’s attention, not all gifts have to be brand, spankin’ new. There are some tried and true coins that can also make wonderful gifts. Last year’s hype about the Morgan and Peace dollars dated 2021 certainly got collectors thinking about the classic series once again – one of which ended in 1921, while the other began that year. These coins even made quite a bit of on-line press among folks who have never collected at all. So why not consider some common date, classic Morgan or Peace dollar as a gift, perhaps for a non-collector, be they young or old? Any of the three possibilities for the 1921 Morgan dollar are going to be pretty inexpensive, even in one of the lower mint state grades. Even the least common of the trio, the 1921-S, saw a total of just over 21.6 million minted, meaning it is very common today. Similarly, the 1922 Peace dollar is amazingly common, with the Philadelphia issue sporting a whopping 51.7 million pieces as its official tally. Finding one of these that still has some decent eye appeal should be neither difficult nor expensive.
For those of us who want to see just what sort of effect a classic coin has as a gift, there are certainly some other possibilities. One is a British silver crown. They are big silver pieces with an excellent heft in the hand, with some history to them, and with the potential to interest everyone from the youngsters on our holiday list to the most “chronologically superior” grandparent – all of whom will probably get a kick out of receiving one. The crowns go back a long way, but in a great piece of news, even those of Queen Victoria are available and affordable today, more than a century after they were minted. It will probably surprise many of us to see that something like $100 will land one of these with minimal wear.
Since we have tossed onto the table the idea of a classic silver piece, and have gone to a wide, international base, let’s put one more possibility out there: a foreign coin that can be considered both old and new. We’re talking now about a Maria Theresa thaler, the big, silver piece that has been made for centuries – really! – but always dated 1780. This coin, often called the MTT, is a fascinating piece of history, and has the Austro-Hungarian Empire, lands in eastern Africa and the Middle East, and quite a few foreign Mints all rolled up into its saga-length story. To be brief, this coin is one of the world’s early trade coins, and has been used widely throughout the world. The trust in this design among a great many people is why the date has never been changed, and why mints beyond that in Vienna have coined them. Since they have been made well into the 20th century, many are out there still in some Mint State grade and with prices far below where we think they ought to be – sometimes not much more than the value of the silver metal in them. As a gift, an MTT is such a surprise that it may very well make someone who has never thought about collecting choose to reconsider.
With all these options for different gifts, why not enjoy something for ourselves? Sure, all of the possible gift coins and sets we just mentioned would be great, even if someone unexpected comes-a-calling. But depending on our budget, two great potential gifts for us and our own collections are a United States gold Eagle, or one of its smaller siblings – or for those of us with smaller budgets, a silver Eagle. Both of these numismatic bullion coin programs now have decades of history under their belts, and both are wonderfully collectible. The price of gold has actually dropped somewhat this year, making larger pieces like the gold half-Eagle and gold Eagle more affordable than they were a year or so ago. This also brings the price of the little 1/10-ounce Eagles down to a level most of us can go for. As well, the price of silver is low enough that silver Eagles are quite affordable. And with a new reverse Eagle design, the silver Eagles have entered what might be considered a new chapter in the series.
Holiday gifts don’t have to be a chore, or a mystery to be solved, even when we are part of a big family, or have a wide circle of friends, or both. We’ve seen that there are quite a few handsome offerings connected to the United States Mint, some neat possibilities from the Royal Canadian Mint, some classic coins that will make people take notice, and even some great possibilities for us to give to that most deserving of individuals, ourselves. Enjoy the holidays. Have fun giving out some great coins.