Long-time collectors know that they will get the best results when they sell by acquiring coins and paper money that other collectors would desire. What that means is that attractive coins and currency have an edge over ones that are not. If you dig deeper, ones that are more attractive for the given grade than other pieces of the same technical condition will be easier to sell.
However, fads in collecting can and do change. In the early 1960s, the collecting of uncirculated rolls of US cents and nickels was popular, which out of favor today. Also back then, in US proof sets, the condition of the cent was key where today it is the half dollar.
However, if you review the entire history of coins and paper money, you can discern some clues of what will likely be popular one hundred years from now. Here are some of my thoughts.
Ancient coins, especially those issued by major historical figures, will always be popular. By major figures, I am referring to Alexander the Great in the Greek world as well as the Athenian “Owl” silver tetradrachms. In ancient Rome, there are a number of issuers such as Julius Caesar, Brutus, Marc Antony, Augustus, Nero, Hadrian, and Constantine whose coins will stand the test of time. From the Middle East, the coins with ties to the Bible will be in demand such as the Widow’s Mites, Shekels of Tyre, and the Roman Emperor Tiberius Denarius (the Tribute coin).
From the Byzantine Empire, gold coins issued by Emperors Anastasius and Justinian I (the Great) are likely to be among the most desired. From the early days of the Muslim empire, issues of the most famous rulers will stand out. Any issues of Genghis Khan or Kublai Khan will find demand.
Moving into the Middle Ages up to more recent coins, those issued by famous or notorious rulers from almost anywhere will have staying power. For just a few names, think of British Prince John (of Magna Carta fame), British King George III, issues of some of the more famous Holy Roman Emperors, French ruler Napoleon I, and any other people important in the history of a particular nation in which a collector has an interest. The Spanish colonial 8 Reales from the New World will be popular, partly because they formed the basis of the value of the original US silver dollar
The earliest paper money issues in history came from China. They will always draw interest.
As for American coins and paper money, I suspect the ones that will have the most enduring interest are those that depict the most famous Founding Fathers—George Washington, Benjamin Franklin (especially the paper money he printed), and Thomas Jefferson. The $20.00 Saint Gaudens will likely be popular because of its beauty. There is even the possibility that the coins and paper money featuring Abraham Lincoln could still be of interest a century from now.
What you may notice is that I’m not listing any current or recent coins or paper money. In my mind few, if any of them, are likely to stand the test of time for popularity.
This is a subject where every collector will have their own opinions. I’m sure there would be a wide variety of issues proposed. We’ll just have to wait one hundred years to know for sure which ones will be most popular, but it can be fun today to try to forecast the future.
Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2018 Glenn Smedley Memorial Service Award, 2017 Exemplary Service Award 2012 Harry Forman Dealer of the Year Award, and 2008 Presidential Award winner. He was also honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild in 2017 and 2016 for the Best Dealer-Published Magazine/Newspaper and for Best Radio Report. 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 becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com).