Would you believe that a modern era commemorative silver dollar with
a mintage of 135,203 pieces could sell for more than a representative
1907 Saint-Gaudens, High Relief gold $20 double eagle with a mintage
of 12,367 pieces?
At an Oct. 5, 2014, GreatCollections.com auction a 1989-D Bicentennial
of Congress silver dollar graded Mint State 70 by Professional Coin Grading
Service brought $7,150. This past summer a different example sold
for $7,485.50 in another auction.
In contrast, examples graded MS-69 sell for $30 to $35 at auction.
Looking at the population report published by PCGS establishes that
this is not an issue that “comes nice.” The report lists 136 PCGS
MS-68 examples, 2,038 in MS-69 and just 10 in MS-70.
There is a variant on this dollar that is a rarity, but the coin
just sold is a “normal” one.
According to commemorative coin expert Anthony Swiatek, around 40 to
50 examples of this issue are known that have medal rather than coin
alignment. In other words, on typical examples when the obverse is
pointing up, the reverse is pointing down. In medallic alignment, both
the reverse and obverse point up. These appear in the marketplace
infrequently, but can sell for $2,000 and up.
Collectors are often surprised at the high prices achieved by the
conditionally rare, high-mintage issues. Part of the surprise
regarding their rarity can be attributed to broad changes in the rare
Back in the late 1980s, third-party grading services like PCGS and
Corp. were not certifying huge quantities of modern coins. Dealers
weren’t buying large quantities of new commemorative issues directly
from the Mint and submitting them directly to grading services as they
Also, some issues are produced better than others at the U.S. Mint, having a
higher percentage of coins that are without the sorts of minor
imperfections that separate a MS-69 coin from one that gets a
“perfect” MS-70 grade.
In a Dec. 14, 2014, GreatCollections.com sale, a 1984-S Los Angeles
Olympic Games dollar also graded PCGS MS-70 brought $3,850. PCGS’s
population report shows just nine examples of this issue in this
grade, with the vast majority at the MS-69 level.
Depending on one’s perspective, this sale may be seen as a good value.
In an April 26, 2013, Heritage auction a different example in PCGS MS-70
sold for $9,400. At that time, PCGS had graded just six examples MS-70.
Lest someone think that the top prices are reserved for silver
dollars, in an April 6, 2014, GreatCollections.com auction, a 1989-D
Bicentennial of Congress half dollar in PCGS MS-70 condition sold for
$4,180, and in a July 20, 2014, auction by the same firm a different
example in the same grade brought $4,400.
The population of this issue in PCGS MS-70 is just 15 pieces,
representing a tiny fraction of the 1,811 examples graded MS-69 by PCGS.
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