Some coins historically have been considered classic key coins, and
acquiring these relatively expensive coins signals a purchaser’s
commitment to collecting.
Key coins in collector-friendly circulated grades have
historically been among the strongest stores of value in numismatics.
A look at their prices over the past decade shows a trend: that
quality collector coins increase in price over time.
While common examples of Morgan and Peace dollars appropriate for
type purposes can be purchased for little more than their silver
content, Trade dollars and Draped Bust dollars require effort and
selectivity to find a problem-free example that meets a buyer’s
personal standards of attractiveness.
For example, a handsome Extremely Fine 40 Trade dollar — an
infrequently found issue and unusual denomination — was valued at the
$135 level a decade ago. Today, nice-looking examples in that grade
are rarely found for less than $200 and typically approach $250.
Another example of a historically expensive, classic collectible
coin that is most popularly collected as a type coin is a Draped Bust
dollar in Very Fine 20. These too have roughly doubled in price in the
last decade. Ten years ago examples were trading at $1,200, while
today problem-free examples with pleasant surfaces trade for around $2,000.
This trend also shows itself with key dates.
A decade ago, VF-20 examples of a 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent
traded at around $600. Five years later they jumped in price to the
$800 level, and today dealers routinely price nice examples at the
$1,000 level. The 1914-D Lincoln cent, a lesser rarity in the series,
was valued at $150 in Fine 12 a decade ago. Today, examples in that
grade can sell for as much as $350 at local coin shops.
In recent months, 1916-D Winged Liberty Head dimes in Very Good 8
have traded at auction at the $1,500 level, but a decade ago an
example in that grade could have been purchased for half that price.
The upward trend in prices can be seen across nearly all classic
key issues in the $100 to $2,500 price range.
A development in the past decade that has perhaps contributed to
the increase in prices is that collectors are increasingly demanding
that their collector-grade key coins and expensive type coins be
encapsulated by third-party grading services. As many classic key
dates are commonly counterfeited or altered, and early type coins are
often repaired, third-party grading provides buyers with the
confidence that their expensive coins are what they appear to be.
Further, certification helps remove any surprises when it is time to