Jeff Garrett: The Hobby Catches a Break

Posted on 6/6/2019

The Mint shows leadership in boosting numismatics, but more publicity is needed.

In the last several years, most numismatic leaders have been searching for ways to stimulate the hobby. There has been a special emphasis on young people, as that segment of the population seems totally immersed in the digital age, with little interest in collecting anything other than memories.

I have been a part of dozens of brainstorming sessions in the last few years on how to grow the hobby.

One such brainstorming was at least the seed for one of the most exciting numismatic programs since the introduction of Statehood Quarters in 1999.

A few years ago, I was involved with the organization of the now annual US Mint Forum in Washington, D.C. The first meeting brought together major players in the hobby, US Mint officials and some collectors. The idea was to gather ideas on how the US Mint could do a better job with its products and to discuss ways to stimulate numismatics.

These meetings were incredibly productive, birthing a multitude of great ideas and suggestions, many of which have now been implemented. Most who have attended these events were greatly encouraged by the US Mint’s willingness to engage the hobby’s many stakeholders.

Actor Shawn Pyfrom holds the first ‘W’ quarter graded by NGC.
Click image to enlarge.

A ‘circulating rarity’

One idea that was suggested at many of the forums was for the Mint to create a “circulating rarity.” It has been decades since the general public could find something in circulation other than mint errors that were of real value. The thrill of the chase had long dimmed for our hobby. Initially, Mint officials expressed concern about creating such a coin that could be fairly distributed around the country. Luckily, they seemed to have solved that problem.

To create interest and excitement in the hobby, the US Mint will be issuing five 2019 Washington quarters with a “W” mint mark indicating that they have been struck at the West Point Mint. Only 2 million of each of the five issues will feature the unique mint mark.


2019-W Quarter - Lowell Historical Park, graded NGC MS 67.
Click images to enlarge.

The first coins were released during the “Great American Coin Hunt,” an effort by hundreds of coin dealers and collectors around the country to release vintage coins into circulation in celebration of National Coin Week in April.

The program gained the national spotlight, culminating in a morning segment of the “Today Show.”

The “W” Mint Washington quarter program began with the Lowell National Historical Park Quarter. The first 2019-W Quarter certified by NGC was found by actor Shawn Pyfrom, best known for his appearance in the “Desperate Housewives” series. This speaks to the broad appeal the public has found searching for these coins — even Hollywood has gotten into the act!

This year, the US Mint is producing 2019-W American Memorial Park Quarters, the War in the Pacific National Historical Park Quarters, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Quarters, and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Quarters.

My hat's off to the new Director of the US Mint, David Ryder, for instructing his staff to create this program. It has been many years since the US Mint has stepped out of the box to create interest in our hobby. His leadership so far has been amazing, and I’m very excited to see what they have planned next.

So, what are they worth?

One of the biggest questions on most collectors’ minds is: “What are these coins worth?” One thing that makes the West Point Mint quarter program unique is that they must be found in circulation. The Mint has distributed these coins fairly and evenly across the country. Coin dealers cannot game the “household limits” system to purchase inventory. Everyone is on an equal footing in the race to find these exciting coins.

So far, the market demand for examples has remained steady. I have seen several large groups sold on the dealer networks in recent weeks. Prices seem to start at around $10 for lower-grade mint-state coins and rise quickly based on quality. Gems have sold for hundreds of dollars on many occasions. A quick search of online sales found a few MS 68 coins being offered for nearly $10,000. There is also strong demand for coins with special labels denoting when they were found and submitted. NGC has several options in place for submitters.

The importance of the 2019-W Quarters should not be underestimated. These coins will be required for anyone who wants a complete set of Washington quarters. They will be listed in the Guide Book of United States Coins (the Redbook) along with the tiny mintage figures.

It should also be remembered that these coins are being placed directly into circulation, and a huge number of them will be lost to the “change jars” that nearly all Americans have in their homes. I doubt if more than 20% initially find their way into coin collections.

My only disappointment with the 2019-W Quarter program is that very few Americans know about it. Hopefully, the US Mint will make more of an effort in the coming months to publicize this amazing gift to numismatics. You can do your part by spreading the word as well. Finally, the hobby has some “wind in its sails” and we should all take advantage by involving as many people as possible.

If you have children or grandchildren, purchase some rolls of 2019 Quarters and let the search begin. Finding a couple of these hidden jewels could spark an interest in the hobby that would last a lifetime.

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