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Stinkers and Stellars: An Update on the State of the Coin Industry

Modern Commemorative Silver Dollar

Periodically we like to update our readers on particular coins and sets that are in high demand and those that aren’t.  We’ll refer to them as stinkers and stellars in this article.  Not much has changed since our last update, but we do have a few particular coins and sets that we would like to highlight.  The summer is typically a slower month for the coin and bullion industry, which can make it easier to identify coins and sets that land on both ends of the spectrum.  We’ll begin our article with hot sellers followed by low demand items and conclude with where we believe that the coin industry is heading as we approach the second half of the year.

Stellars

  • Chinese silver pandas – The market for Chinese silver pandas lost quite a bit of momentum in 2014 and earlier this year, but it appears to have recently gained some strength. A Chinese coin specialist recently commented that a new investment product has recently been formed in China, which allows investors to indirectly invest in silver pandas.  This has reinvigorated the market and has caused prices to jump.  Generally speaking, earlier minted silver pandas tend to sell at higher rates than more recently issued coins, as the production levels were lower.  Additionally, coins in original government sealed plastic are in higher demand than coins in hard plastic capsules.  We keep close tabs on this market and pay competitive rates, so check with us first before selling your Chinese silver pandas at bullion prices.

 

  • Carson City coins – While most customers automatically think of silver dollars when they hear “Carson City,” there are plenty of other Carson City coins that have value and that are in high demand. Some coin dealers deal almost exclusively in Carson City coins (primarily those from Nevada) and are in the market for any Carson City issued coins, whether they be half dimes, dimes, quarters, 20 cent pieces, half dollars or silver dollars.  A recent search on Certified Coin Exchange over the past seven days, the leading coin dealer network in the nation, revealed 62 posts of individuals interested in buying or selling these coins.  There is clearly strong interest in these coins.  As was the case at the time of our last writing, Carson City silver dollars issued in GSA holders are hot sellers; especially those from 1878, 1879, 1880 and 1885.  Graded, or “banded” coins by NGC in high grades are selling at especially competitive prices at the moment.

 

  • Platinum coins – There has been a recent resurgence in demand for platinum coins as of late; particularly for American platinum eagles and Canadian platinum maple leaf coins. This is likely due in part to the relatively low price of platinum at the moment.  At the time of this writing, the price of platinum is below $1,100 an ounce, which is roughly $80 below the price of gold.  In recent years, the price of platinum has only dropped below gold a few times, so it appears as though individuals are doing some bargain hunting.  All denominations of platinum coins are doing well at the moment – not just one ounce coins.

 

Stinkers

  • Modern Commemorative Uncirculated Silver Dollars – Without question, the most difficult coins for us to sell at the moment are modern commemorative uncirculated silver dollars. These are 90% silver dollars that were first minted in 1983.  While modern commemorative proof silver dollars are also struggling, I don’t recall a time when demand has been this low for uncirculated modern commemorative silver dollars.  As is frequently the case, there are a few coins that are doing better than others, but by and large, these coins are sitting on the shelf collecting dust.  You can throw away your greysheet when attempting to arrive at prices for these coins, as it doesn’t come close to reflecting the current fair market value for these items.  If you have modern commemorative uncirculated silver dollars in your collection, we recommend that you hold on to them until demand increases.  If you’re in the market to purchase these coins, we recommend that you hold out for a bargain.

 

  • Cull silver dollars – Cull silver dollars refer to Morgan and Peace silver dollars that are off-quality and/or more recently refer to silver dollars that grade out as VG or lower. In the past, demand for these coins has been fairly strong; however, individuals and coin dealers are becoming more particular with the cull silver dollars that they purchase.  At one point in time, any Morgan or Peace silver dollar that had a date and that were without holes were in demand.  Now, individuals and coin dealers commonly reject coins that have been polished, have scratches, or rim issues.  Additionally, while pre-1921 cull Morgan dollars have held up fairly well, demand for 1921 Morgan dollars and Peace silver dollars have fallen by the wayside.

 

  • Low Quality Type Material – At the moment, demand for low quality type coins remains weak. Type coins refer to common date coins composed of nickel, copper or silver produced in 1916 or earlier.  Examples of type coins are large cents, two cent pieces, three cent pieces, five cent pieces, Seated Liberty coins, etc.   While many of these coins are quite old, they’re relatively plentiful.  Serious numismatists prefer type coins in higher end condition, which means that lower quality coins are primarily being purchased by coin collectors who are looking to fill holes in their coin albums.  We’ve seen a good bit of these coins as of late and have a difficult time moving them.  It’s not uncommon to find these coins with holes, as coin jewelry was popular back in the day.  Unfortunately, type coins with holes are next to impossible to sell; except at bargain basement prices.

 

Future Demand

As mentioned above, the summer tends to be a slower time in the coin industry, so we don’t expect demand for many of the “stinkers” to increase any time soon.  There also appears to be a general malaise in the coin industry, as collectors and investors are anxiously waiting for gold, silver and platinum to break through.  Unfortunately, whenever the metals take a step forward they tend to take two steps back.  As with the economy as a whole, the coin industry tends to be cyclical, so we would expect to see higher demand as the overall economy improves and once we see gold, silver and platinum break out from their tight trading ranges.  The fall and winter also tend to be better seasons for the coin industry, which may help to elevate prices of lower demand items.  A contrarian investor might take this opportunity to purchase some of the off-demand items that we highlighted above at discount rates in hopes that they’ll realize a nice profit once the market changes for these items.

Summary

In conclusion, we’ve highlighted several types of coins and sets that are stellar and those that are stinkers.  At the moment, demand for Chinese silver pandas, Carson City coins (primarily silver dollars) and platinum coins appears to be strong.  The price of platinum is currently below the price of gold, which makes it especially appealing.  On the other end of the spectrum, modern commemorative uncirculated silver dollars are struggling to gain traction along with low quality 1921 Morgan silver dollars and Peace dollars.  In fact, some coin dealers are referring to any coin that grades out less than “fine” as a cull coin.  Lastly, low quality type coins tend to be a dime a dozen and are only being purchased by coin collectors that are looking to fill holes in their collections.  While our crystal ball appears to be a bit cloudy, we believe that once we get past the summer malaise, see an increase in precious metals prices and an overall improvement in the economy, that we should see renewed interest in many of the out of favor items at the moment.

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Tony Davis
Tony Davis