With so many new coin design changes coming between 2021 and 2030, I anticipate a huge expansion in the number of coin collectors, possibly on the scale of what happened when the Kennedy half dollar debuted in 1964 or the first Statehood quarters came out in 1999.
However, the increase in numismatic niches will not all be impacted the same. To try to get some idea of where attention might be focused, I reviewed the price changes in several categories that I tracked from the end of 1998 (right before the Statehood quarter series began) and the end of 2002, four years later.
During that time period, the price of gold rose 20.3 percent while silver declined 4.2 percent. As you can see from the results, it is obvious that changes in precious metals prices were not much of a factor in price changes.
I used data from The Coin Dealer Newsletter and The Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter to calculate changes in wholesale bid prices for the following categories over that four-year time period.
U.S. silver proof sets, 1950-1954: Up 75 percent
U.S. proof sets, 1968-1998: Up 40 percent
U.S. proof silver Eagles, 1986-1998: Up 110 percent
U.S. uncertified key date collector coins: Up 43 percent
U.S. uncertified common date coins: Up 27 percent
U.S. certified rare date coins: Down 18 percent
U.S. certified common date coins: Down 26 percent
For the proof sets and proof silver Eagles, I used one issue from each year in the sample (no Type 2 or other varieties). For the other categories, I selected 12-30 items per category. For these latter categories, a sample that included different coins would likely produce different results.
However, these results confirm some general themes that I then witnessed as the owner of a coin shop in a major shopping center. Here are a few of my observations:
- New collectors of the Statehood quarters grew bored or impatient waiting 10 weeks before the next issue was released. As they shopped around displays in the store, many expanded to collecting other coins and sets. In particular, pristine, beautiful – and mostly very affordable – coins and sets were popular. We had lots of customers assembling sets of proof or uncirculated silver Eagle dollars by date.
- With the silver spot price around $5 at the time, a wide range of silver coins were especially popular.
- The more expensive coins, especially in higher grades, did not draw as much interest from new collectors.
- On average, rarer-date coins outperformed common date issues.
- As a new collector would finish collecting one series, several went on to begin buying a different series. Again, new and beautiful typically won out over worn and historic.
So, what existing U.S. coins might be popular with novice numismatists in the coming years? Here are some of my ideas:
- Presidential and Sacagawea/Native American dollars, proof and uncirculated
- Proof sets, including the quarters only and the silver sets
- Silver Eagle dollars, proof and uncirculated
- Kennedy half dollars, uncirculated
- Statehood and America the Beautiful quarters, circulation issues
- Lower-priced modern silver commemoratives, proof and uncirculated
- Affordable Morgan and Peace silver dollars in a variety of dates, mintmarks and grades
One other category might become more popular with experienced numismatists are Colonial issues, especially when the 2026 250th Anniversary of American Independence coins enter circulation.
Those dealers who have stores or who serve the public at coin shows may want to make sure they beef up their inventory in these categories.
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 twice in 2020), 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).