There are different ways to analyze how numismatic prices are changing over time, especially since there are so many niches that do not necessarily move in concert.
At the company where I work, we have focused on examining different indices of the U.S. numismatic market. The baseline we use for the coins was in June 1989; the baseline for the U.S. large size currency was in the summer of 1987.
Our indices also treat each item equally in weight in its index. If you have two items in an index, one priced at $100 and the other at $1,000, it doesn’t matter which one increases by 50 percent in price and the other one stays stable, the index for these two items will reflect a 25 percent increase for the year.
Also, we use published data in the various Greysheet and Greensheet publications, without considering any changes in how the wholesale and retail markets trade in relation to that data. As a consequence, such indices are only an indicator of market trends but are not necessarily precise.
For the year 2021, here is how our various price change indices performed:
U.S. Proof Silver Eagles, 1986-1998 up 59.0 percent
U.S. MS-65 Morgan Silver Dollar, pre-1921 up 36.8 percent
U.S. Silver Proof Sets, 1950-1964 up 19.1 percent
LCS Investor Rare Coins Index up 16.9 percent
U.S. Proof Sets, 1968-1998 up 14.9 percent
LCS Collector Generic Coins Index up 12.7 percent
LCS Investor Generic Coins Index up 12.1 percent
LCS Collector Key Date Coins Index up 6.8 percent
LCS U.S. Large Size Paper Money Index up 4.3 percent
U.S. MS-63 $20.00 Liberty up 2.5 percent
U.S. MS-63 $20.00 St Gaudens up 1.9 percent
The results for the MS-65 Morgan silver dollar and the MS-63 double eagles were more impressive than shown, and the prices of gold and silver content both declined in 2021.
In general, I suspect that results for 2021 were even better than these indices reflect. The reason for that is that coins and currency today are mostly trading stronger relative to the bid prices listed in these references than they were a year ago.
To give you one example, without identifying the precise item, one coin in one of the indices has a Greysheet bid in Very Fine condition of $725. However, the company where I work has several customer want lists for this coin. Those pieces we have recently acquired that met our standard for solid quality have cost us $850-$900. A couple years ago, we were unwilling to purchase these coins unless we could obtain them at a discount to bid. So, obviously, the current reference bid number is too low. The price of this coin has increased by a greater percentage than our index would show.
It may be even more difficult today than in the past for a collector to judge what would be a fair or a bargain price to pay for a numismatic item. Collectors (and dealers) need to stay on top of the market by checking current auction results, dealer price lists, and other sources. There is no single source of information that would be accurate and up-to-date, so keep this in mind.
Patrick A. Heller was honored as a 2019 FUN Numismatic Ambassador. He is also the recipient of 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. Over the years, he has also been honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild (including in 2021 for Best Investment Newsletter), 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, Mich., and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at 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 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio archives posted at www.1320wils.com).