It is often hard to predict which modern issues will become
tomorrow’s key coins.
Some commemorative programs are obvious successes from the start,
such as the 2009 Abraham Lincoln commemorative silver dollar program,
which focuses on a beloved historic figure with a rich numismatic history.
A decade ago, the 2001 American Buffalo commemorative silver
dollar recreated James Earle Fraser’s famed design that appeared on
the Indian Head 5-cent coin, struck for circulation from 1913 to 1938.
The commemorative dollars remain popular today.
One would have thought that the 2011 coins honoring the U.S. Army
would have also fallen into the success category as the United States
Army is the largest branch of the armed forces.
During 2010, more than a million people were in active service in
the Army, Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve. Further, millions
more are Army veterans, creating a huge potential purchasing base.
Yet those factors were not enough to lift the mintage of the
Uncirculated 2011-D U.S. Army commemorative half dollar.
The paltry mintage of 39,461 coins makes it the lowest mintage
commemorative half dollar of the modern era, and combined with the
68,349 Proof examples, just over 14 percent of the authorized mintage
of 750,000 coins sold.
For comparison, the most common commemorative half dollar of the
modern era is the 1986 Statue of Liberty coin with a combined Proof
and Uncirculated mintage of nearly 8 million.
The commemorative half dollar mintages in recent programs have
been modest. The 2008 Bald Eagle commemorative half dollar had a
mintage of 222,577 Proof coins and 120,180 Uncirculated coins for a
total mintage of 340,757 coins. In 2003, the First Flight Centennial
program saw half dollar sales at 169,295 coins: 111,569 and 57,726
coins in Proof and Uncirculated, respectively.
Collectors who purchased the Uncirculated 2011-D U.S. Army half
dollar at its introductory price of $15.95 or its regular issue price
of $19.95 received a relative windfall, as recent online transactions
have shown the Uncirculated piece trading at the $75 level while Proof
examples have been selling for as much as $50.
Why the modern commemorative half dollars have not gained more
popularity in recent years is a mystery. It is a relatively accessible
set in that it has fewer than 20 coins, and but for the two 1996
Olympics issues depicting swimming and soccer and the 2011 U.S. Army
coins, all of the half dollar types can be easily found for less than
$25 each. Further, they continue the rich tradition of U.S.
commemorative half dollars that began in 1892 with the World’s
Columbian Exposition issues.
Steven Roach is associate editor of Coin World. Email him