In the Dec. 5 issue of Coin World, Paul Gilkes wrote that it would cost a collector $23,500 to purchase each coin offered by the U.S. Mint during calendar year 2011. To put that number into perspective, the average per capita income in Ohio in 2009 was $24,830.
Stamp collectors have it easier, as the cost to buy 2011-issued U.S. stamps and postal stationery dropped to $77.01, even though more varieties were issued in 2011 than in 2010.
The diversity of coins produced by the Mint in 2011 is dizzying, ranging from traditional Proof and Uncirculated Mint sets to the sometimes forgotten American Buffalo 1-ounce gold coin, First Spouse half-ounce gold $10 coins, America the Beautiful 5-ounce silver quarter dollars and Presidential dollars.
This wide range makes one wonder if future generations will want to keep up with these series. For example, will tomorrow’s collectors want to put together a complete set of nearly 40 First Spouse half-ounce gold coins?
The mintages for the First Spouse coins can be tantalizingly low: for example, the 2009 issues each had combined Uncirculated and Proof mintages of fewer than 10,000 coins for each type. Yet, these low-mintage issues trade at a modest premium over their issue price, with examples trading at the $1,300 level.
Collectors with $23,500 to spend could purchase some genuinely tough coins in the present market. Recent auction results at this level have included a Mint State 61 1889-CC Morgan dollar, an MS-63 1812 Capped Bust gold $5 half eagle and an MS-63 1907 Saint-Gaudens, High Relief $20 double eagle. An example of one of these rarities would be easier to store and keep track of than the many 2011 Mint products.
One cannot predict which of the 2011 issues will be long-term winners or what issues will rise above their original issue prices. In fact, some issues will likely depreciate, due to either unsustained demand or a decrease in the price of bullion.
For collectors, as the quest for completeness in modern Mint products has become nearly impossible for all but the most well-heeled and dedicated collector, one has to wonder what series will capture the attention of the next generation of collectors and which of today’s low mintage issues will become tomorrow’s rarities. ■