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Coin Collecting: Values That Go Up And Up!

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( Published 1963 )



In the last 15 years or so, the prices of many coins have risen-some slightly, some spectacularly-and some prices have gone down.

Which ones may be expected to rise in the future is almost anybody's guess. The public (and that includes those who collect coins) has a fickle taste. What is in great demand today may price itself out of the collector's pocketbook tomorrow. The neglected coin series of the present may have a spectacular future.

One area appears fairly safe for continued price rises the very early coins of the United States. Those dated from about 1807 back to the start of U. S. Mint production in 1794 are almost certain to increase in value. The reason is quite obvious; there simply aren't enough to go around. For in those days, the annual mint output was reported in thousands, not millions or even billions, as today. And the number that survived over 150-odd years is even smaller.

Most persons are likely to consider that coins are not nearly as good an investment as common stocks. Possibly SO. If you're interested solely in making money, there are undoubtedly other ways of making it faster, as well as losing it faster.

Of course, there's the reliably reported story of a man and his wife, each with $10,000 in cash to invest some 5 years ago. She was given the money by her husband to invest in the stock market. He put his $10,000 into coins. Not long ago, they compared gains. Her investment was nearly double the original $10,000; his had more than tripled in those 5 years.

It's interesting to compare coin prices over a i5-year period. Some will show spectacular rises, others will have had an increase of only 50 per cent or so, but almost all will at least have held their own.

If you could just be sure you'd be able to sell your coins for as much or a little more than you paid for them, you'd not have to worry about how much money you spent on your hobby. There are pitfalls, it is true, but as a person's knowledge of coins and their value increases, he's better able to follow old Ben Franklin's advice: “Don't pay too much for your whistle:”

Let's take a look at some rarities in the United States coin world and see how they've fared. The 1799 large cent, in Fine condition, was quoted for $100 just 1.5 years ago. Now you'd have to pay more than $400 for the same coin.

The 1794, half dime, the first one issued by the U. S. Mint, was quoted at $30 in Fine condition; today the catalog value is close to $180. But the half dime of just one year later, 1795, a far commoner coin in terms of the number minted, shows a much more spectacular jump in value. From a quotation of $7.50 in Fine condition, the current price is around $125-an increase in value of more than 1,600 per cent.

You may wander why the value of the coin of the earlier date increased only about 6 times, while the commoner half dime jumped more than 1.6 times. The answer is not too difficult. The type collector, eager to round out his collection of examples of half dime types, is quite content to buy the less expensive example of that first type.

Then the old economic law of supply-and-demand goes into action. An increased number of type collectors and a greater demand for the less expensive example of the 1794-1795 half dime sends the price up faster.

Some examples of the 15-year price rises in Rarities in Fine condition:

THE COIN DATE  THEN  NOW<br>

One Cent--1799--$100.00--$475.00<br>

Half Dime--1794--30.00--175.00<br>

Half Dime--1795--7.50--125.00<br>

Dime--1796(1st year)--35.00--325.00<br>

Quarter--1796(1st year)--60.00--1,700.00<br>

Half Dollar--1794(1st year)--40.00--300.00<br>

Half Dollar--1796--225.00--1,650.00<br>

Dollar--1794(1st year)--300.00--2,000.00<br>

Dollar--1795--20.00--125.00

Now let's look at some Scarcities (rather than Rarities) -all relatively modern coins, in Uncirculated condition:

THE COIN DATE  THEN  NOW<br>

One Cent--1909-S V D B--$12.50--$165.00<br>

One Cent--1914-D--8.50--410.00<br>

Dime--1916-D--60.00--400.00<br>

Quarter--1916 (Standing Liberty)--65.00--500.00<br>

Quarter--1918/7-S--150.00--1,500.00

Silver dollars after i878, with one notable exception, almost all show a decrease in value. The exception is the 1895 silver dollar of the Philadelphia mint in Proof condition. It has zoomed spectacularly from a value Of $20 to $1,500 in about 15 years.

The 1878 silver dollar was cataloged at $5 in those days; now it's quoted at $3. A 1923 dollar, worth $10 then, is rated a $2.50 coin in Uncirculated condition today.

Silver dollars from 1794 to 1804 are quite valuable in almost all conditions. The Seated Liberty design, issued when dollar coinage was resumed in i84o, also has considerable premium in the better conditions. But, starting with the Morgan dollars in 1878, the best advice presently available is: spend 'em.

Collectors generally fight shy of the later dollars-and for a good and sufficient reason: there's no way of knowing how many of a supposedly scarce date will suddenly glut the market. In Federal Reserve Banks across the country are stored unknown thousands of bright and shiny silver dollars, all done up nicely in regulation canvas bags.

Each Christmas, or possibly for some other special occasion, some manufacturer or merchant or banker may decide to do the unusual-pay the employees or hand out bonuses in the form of bright silver dollars. He applies to his bank, the bank doesn't have enough on hand but can get them from the nearest Federal Reserve Bank, and the bags full of silver dollars are brought out of hiding. Overnight, a dollar of a date that was supposedly scarce may appear in quantity, and the value goes down to just what it says on the coin-One Dollar.

So, for the most part, collectors are unwilling to pay premium prices for coins that are bulky, difficult to handle and house properly, and may suddenly lose all or most of their premium value.

However, the silver dollar series after 1878 may some day experience a great boom. There are a few dealers and some collectors betting on it.