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    Modern Numismatics

    Louis Golino has been a collector of American and world coins since childhood and has written about coins since 2009. He writes about modern coins and other numismatic issues for Coin World. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum.

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  • 2015 American Liberty Coin: Definitely More Like 2009 UHR than 2014 JFK Gold

    From the time it was released on July 30 collectors have been furiously debating whether the 2015-W American Liberty high relief $100 gold coin has more in common the previous high relief gold coin, the 2009 Ultra High Relief double eagle, or the 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollar.

    Of course those who compare the 2015 issue to the JFK gold coin do not literally think the two coins are similar, but they see them both as a “flipper’s nightmare” that is a big money loser for those who bought extra coins to sell.  So far that is not how things are shaping up. 

    The Liberty coin was intended by the U.S. Mint and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee as a continuation of the effort that started with the 2009 UHR to promote excellence in coin design.

    Second, the 2015 coin, like the 2009 UHR, has been found with a prooflike finish, and the main difference is that the 2015 prooflike coins are so far about five times scarcer than the 2009 prooflike coins.  As happened with the 2009 issue, I think that the search for prooflike coins, now that collectors are aware of them, will increase interest in and sales of the 2015 issue.

    Third, most individual buyers purchased the Liberty coin because they like it, not because they expected to turn a profit on it.  And many of those who purchased the coin say it is much nicer in hand than they expected it to be unless their coin had defects.

    On the other hand, those who see the Liberty coin as more like the Kennedy gold half believe that speculation by dealers and flippers played a large part in sales of both coins, and they still do not believe that collectors were big buyers of either coin.

    There have been a substantial number of returns of the Liberty coin, usually due to quality issues, but they pale in comparison to the much-higher level of returns seen with the Kennedy gold coin, especially during the first couple weeks.  The key difference is the JFK coins were returned because speculators quickly realized they would lose money if they did not return, whereas most Liberty returns appear to be related to quality problems, which have unfortunately been quite extensive. 

    Coin dealers lost tens of millions of dollars on the Kennedy coin, whereas they are earning solid profits selling graded examples of the Liberty coin.  Prices for 70-graded coins have held steady and for 69 coins they have only dipped a little from their initial value, which was not the case one month into sales of the JFK gold.

    The Kennedy gold coin was the biggest fiasco of any precious metal release from the U.S. Mint probably ever for dealers, who both overpaid to purchase it from those who stood in line to buy it from the Mint during last year’s ANA show in Rosemont, and overbought directly from the Mint, in both cases hoping to flip coins for a big profit after having them graded.

    Instead, prices for show label examples of the JFK gold declined very quickly, and prices for the non-show label coins have generally declined for PF69 coins and more or less held steady for 70s.  And raw coins have mainly been hurt by the decline in spot gold prices over the past year, whereas the 2015 issue price has so far gone up $50.

    It is true that after a strong start, sales of the Liberty coin slowed down, but in the past week there was an increase of 744 coins, which is a bullish sign.  I believe this has a lot to do with the fact that the coin is no longer listed as backordered, and sales through September 6 are 41,944. 

    It remains to be seen whether the Liberty coin will achieve a full sell-out at 50,000 units, but that is certainly still possible.  And it is worth remembering that the 2009 UHR did not follow a linear trajectory.  Sales of that coin also slowed at various points, and they picked up mainly after the household limit of one was removed, which allowed dealers to build up inventories.

    The jury is still out on the long-term performance of the 2015 Liberty high relief, but I have little doubt that the numismatists of the future will place it alongside the 2009 UHR.