A Year in Review

Posted by Jay Turner, NGC Grader and Attributor on 1/1/2007

In 2006, modern coins reigned supreme! Jay Turner recounts all the factors that contributed to it, and all the major events that made this past year such an incredible period for moderns.

2006 may eventually be known as the year of the modern coin in numismatics. Never before has the market been so hot for modern coinage. Fueled by an increase in mint products, limited productions, marketing and an eager pool of collectors, moderns definitely reached new highs in 2006.

American Eagles created an immediate buzz when then were released on January 3rd into an already hot coin market where they were instantly in high demand. Also shaking things up was the scheduling change in product releases. In previous years, issues such as Proof Eagles were released later in a given year. However, in 2006, the Mint would deliver them earlier in the year and with the hot market, these products were bought in abundance.

Probably the most significant example of modern coins impacted by an earlier release would be the proof set. Prior to 2006, they were produced and released later in the year and sellouts would occur just as the holiday season approached. This was the case in 1999 and 2001, making those sets desirable and thus raising their prices significantly. With an earlier release date for proof sets, the Mint has the ability to make sets to order. So if supplies are running low by August, more can be produced.

With a glut of mint products being issued early in the year (little having any enforced mintage) the coin that took the spotlight was the Ben Franklin Commemorative Dollar. It had a limited mintage of 500,000 of each design and a strict purchasing limit of 99 per design, per person. The coins were quick to sell out and those lucky enough to secure an order could quickly turn their $33 or $35 investment into $50, should they decide to sell. Certified 70's sold for considerably more.

Before the public could settle from the excitement of the Ben Franklin Commemoratives, the United States Mint announced the release of the first .9999 Fine Gold coin issued by the United States Government. The coin would be a nearly exact replica of the popular buffalo nickel designed by James Fraser. The combination of a very popular design with a new alloyed gold coin and the growing price of gold produced a hugely positive response.

Near the end of summer 2006, many dealers who had once dealt only in classic coins now included moderns in their inventory after witnessing the success of moderns earlier in the year. The Mint was not through with its product line for 2006 and the announcement of 20th Anniversary sets commemorating the American Silver and Gold Eagle anniversaries, 21 years after their first release, was about to hit the coin market in a huge way.

The Mint's announcement of commemorative sets of bullion eagles was enough to excite even the infrequent collector when it was revealed that there would be two new coins included – a mint state issue with "W" mintmark and the first-ever "Reverse Proof" issue. These sets had an order limit of only 10 sets per person and a limit of 10,000 gold sets, 30,000 two-piece sets, and 250,000 silver sets would be produced. Certification played a major role in the fervor surrounding these sets with strict requirements for the application of the 20th Anniversary designation. Grading services required that sets be submitted in unopened Mint shipping boxes, meaning that anyone who opened their coins would lose the designation and, as a result, the population of this set was sure to be quite limited. The price for the gold sets were $2610 a set and the silver was $100 a set. A person would have to have a credit limit above $27,100 to order 10 of each set, limiting those who could even afford to order a single set or multiples. Yet the gold sold out almost instantaneously.

Those lucky enough to order a gold set and have it certified with the 20th Anniversary designation would see an immediate return on their investment. During the first days of release they traded at $3000 a set and quickly climbed to $3500 and increased even further to a high of $5000 a set. Silver traded for $150 to $250 a sealed set.

As the year's end drew near, the Mint rushed out 2006 bullion mintmarked coins for sale to the public. With so much money drained from the coin market due to activity earlier in the year, the amount dealers could and had to spend on these new mint issues was limited. Platinum turned into the major winner with its extremely low mintage, unique reverse design, and drastic price increase after sellout. The San Francisco Commemorative was also released late in the year. It found little success at the time of release and may be one of the sleepers of 2006.

Many factors contributed to the success of the coin market in 2006. The busy, neverending schedule of mint products gave dealers fresh inventory in a hot market and collectors something new to buy. Television played a great role in bringing new collectors into the hobby and increasing visibility of mint products and collecting. Also, certification is in part responsible for the success of moderns in this past year. The difference in value between a MS/PF69 and an MS/PF70 creates a lot of interest and can potentially generate a lot of revenue. Investors and collectors looking for that optimum grade rely on certification for safety and security in their collection. These factors and many more created a market that many will strive to keep going and an atmosphere that people will talk about for years to come — 2006, the year of the modern coins.