US Coins

Editorial Opinion: Coin pricing and the intersection of value, demand and rarity

It seems that in most every weekly issue of Coin World, a common theme slowly emerges as the issue is constructed. This week the concept of value is explored in many of our columns and news stories.

Pricing is typically the intersection of value, demand and rarity. As Q. David Bowers points out in his “The Joys of Collecting” column this week, for collecting areas such as 19th century shell cards a “common” shell card might be one where more than just one piece is known.

These often unique objects typically sell at the $200 to $300 level.

The price of a unique U.S. coin? That’s a lot more. For example the only known 1873-CC Seated Liberty, No Arrows dime realized $1.84 million at a 2012 auction.

Now take a classic “rare” modern U.S. coin: the Proof 1995-W American Eagle silver dollar. An example in “perfect” Proof 70 Deep Cameo sold for $90,000 earlier this year in a private transaction. This week’s Market Analysis looks at one that just sold for $55,550 at a Sept. 29 auction. With a comparable Proof American Eagle selling for $90,000 earlier this summer, is the $55,550 price now a bargain?

Although 30,125 Proof 1995-W American Eagle silver dollars were struck, Professional Coin Grading Service has given fewer than 20 coins its coveted Proof 70 Deep Cameo grade. As such, a Proof 70 Deep Cameo coin is conditionally rare, and the issue is rare for the American Eagle silver coin series, but neither a Proof 70 Deep Cameo or the issue itself is really rare in an absolute sense — especially when compared to an area like merchant shell cards.

Even an impaired Proof 1995-W American Eagle may sell at the $3,000 level because there are tens of thousands of people collecting the American Eagle silver bullion series versus the more esoteric shell cards, which are more the realm of the specialist.

The upcoming publication of Bowers’ book on shell cards, written with token specialist David E. Schenkman, will likely increase the interest in the series and perhaps the price levels. But will the pieces approach American Eagle style popularity? I certainly wouldn’t bet on it.

The monetary value of Civil War stamp envelopes isn’t huge right now, but their educational value is high, and the envelopes can have amazing stories behind them as Fred Reed notes in his “Spare Change” column. Fred shares the story of a circa 1862 envelope from D.H. Gould’s Saloon and Hotel in New York City. The unique stamp envelope, Reed notes, exhibits messy, grease-stained fingerprints that may have been Mr. Gould’s (and he also issued store cards, another popular, esoteric area).

These rich stories provide yet another, less measurable, form of value: sentimental value, as Michael Bugeja explores in his “Home Hobbyist” column.

As he points out, monetary value of a wartime Jefferson 5-cent coin might be a dollar or so, for the bit of silver in it, yet when that same coin has a cherished family connection, its value is incalculable.


Steve Roach

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