Jay Turner revisits the highs and lows of an unforgettable numismatic year.
As 2007 comes to an end, we can reflect on another active and interesting year for modern coinage. As many popular series continued and new, well-received series began, all seemed to be hopeful for another fruitful year. We saw some dynamics and trends that led to changes in the market that will make 2007 a year not to be forgotten in numismatics.
The start of 2007 was buoyed by many highly lauded 2006 issues that were released late in the previous calendar year. The 20th Anniversary eagle sets and 2006 W uncirculated bullion coinage were still being shipped in January 2007, and these very popular releases caused a surge in modern coin popularity. The new 2007 American Eagles were in demand, just as in prior years. Series such as Eagles and Buffalo bullion coinage continued to be the focus for many active collectors.
New issues of 2007 contributed yet more to the modern coin marketplace. A series of circulating dollar coins featuring each of the Presidents in the order they served began in January 2007. These coins were unique in US history by including critical elements such as the date and mintmark on the edges, as well as the mottos IN GOD WE TRUST and E PLURIBUS UNUM. The discovery of 2007 Washington Presidential Dollars, the first coin in the series, without the edge lettering “IN GOD WE TRUST,” led to national news stories about the scandal of a “godless” coin. Collectors and the general public were enthusiastically searching through rolls looking for the errors. Unfortunately, altered coinage also started appearing to deceive collectors, making third-party certification necessary. NGC graded 35,000 of the Missing Edge Lettering George Washington Dollars.
The popularity of the new dollar coin continued with the Adams dollar and the discovery of thousands of doubled-edge lettered dollars and thousands of plain-edge errors. These events stirred incredible interest in the Presidential Dollar series and made it a hot collectible from the beginning.
There were, however, considerably less popular releases in 2007, including the Jamestown 400th Anniversary commemoratives and the Little Rock Desegregation commemoratives. In many past years, the “hot” commemoratives such as the Marines Dollar and Ben Franklin Dollars sold out earlier in the year. This year’s commems failed to spark strong collector interest and were available for sale until the final weeks of December 2007. Significant increases in the price of precious metals also forced the United States Mint to raise prices for several perennials, notably the American Eagles. Although final numbers are not yet available, from all appearances, sales figures of gold and platinum Eagles are off by over 20% from last year.
Another interesting modern coin story of 2007 is the First Spouse series gold coinage. The series was originally planned to be a four-coin set, but sold out through subscription programs before the coins were available for sale. This prompted the United States Mint to end the subscription program for spouse coinage and move to offering the coins individually. Because of widespread market speculation, the Martha Washington and Abigail Adams were released first on June 19, 2007 and were the quickest sell-outs the United States Mint had ever seen. This was quite surprising given the purchase limit of just five per household.
The Jefferson Spouse coin released on August 30, 2007 was a similar success. It sold out in one day with an order limit of one per household! The popularity of this coin, however, derives from its design, which on the obverse shows a reprieve of Robert Scot’s Draped Bust Liberty Half Cent from the time of Jefferson’s presidency. (He was not married while in the White House). The fourth coin in the series, Dolley Madison, still has not sold out. One possible cause of the diminished interest may be price sensitivity. Prices for the Dolley Madison coin are $99 higher per coin than the earlier issues, owing to the increase in gold. With two Liberty issues in the series in 2008 — Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren were both widowers during their presidencies — the series may show a big rebound in popularity. For now, the jury remains out on whether the First Spouse series is a success of 2007.
The most compelling story of 2007 might prove to be the Mint Set. It swelled to 28 coins! Included are a cent, nickel, dime, half dollar, five States Quarters, four Presidential Dollars, and a Sacagawea Dollar from both the Denver and Philadelphia Mints. This hefty set is by far the largest in recent memory. It will be interesting to note in forthcoming sales figures how this mammoth set fared with collectors, especially since future sets will be just as large.
Of course, 2007 is not over yet. The last product of the year from the United States Mint is a 10th Anniversary Set for Platinum Eagles. The two-coin set containing a half-ounce proof and a half-ounce reverse proof Platinum Eagles has been anticipated by many all year. Although with a mintage of 30,000, which is high for platinum coinage, it will again be up to collectors to determine the set’s popularity. The order limit is just one-per-household, which again can slow the sales process.
2007 has been an interesting year for modern coinage with such high collector demand for new series. However, with the low points for moderns this year, including high bullion prices and limited collector interest in some new issues, many are less than hopeful about the future. It will ultimately be up to collectors to decide how modern coinage will fare in 2008 and the years to follow. With promising new commemoratives, the end to the State Quarter program, more Presidential Dollars, and the possibility of fractional Buffalo gold issues, the decisions made by collectors will have an especially huge impact on modern coinage to come.