Jim Bisognani: Coins on the Move

Posted on 10/28/2021

The 2021 Morgan and Peace Dollars finally hit the market, while British royalty remains the king.

Well, the long wait is finally over and, as I sit down to my computer keyboard today, the UPS delivery van had just arrived, delivering my first batch of 2021 Morgan Dollars to my humble abode — the “D” and “S” coins are finally in my possession. To further my joy, the Mint has confirmed that my 2021 Peace Dollars should also be in my hands as this article posts!

Excited to have this modern treasure in hand, I conferred with various electronic trading networks and saw that the bids for the 2021 Morgan and Peace Dollars are as active as ever. Now, as these US Mint products are finally being delivered, more firm “bids” and “asking prices” are in place. With all the excitement surrounding these coins, it will be interesting to see where the secondary market will settle for this sextet.

Coins in circulation

Just the other day, I shared the news about the 2021 centennial coins finally being shipped to a friend, Jay, who then asked me, “Why can’t I find them in circulation or at a local bank?” I paused, as I knew Jay knows better, but went on to explain that these particular special issues or commemoratives were only made available through the US Mint for collectors and dealers at the designated issue price of $85.

My friend then retorted with a smile, “I thought coins were always made for circulation though.” I knew Jay was just instigating, but I was compelled to give a brief overview of how the US Mint had for about 200 years produced regular circulating coins in a special Proof format for the numismatic audience at a slight premium above the coins respective face value.

Then, near the end of the 19th and through the mid-20th century, silver (and gold) commemorative coins were all the rage and were produced for the collecting public. This was the first instance that a Mint State coin had a modest premium beyond the coin’s face value, which helped to defray costs with events and themes surrounding the coins’ release in the first place.

I then reminded my friend that any of those coins could still appear in circulation as they are all legal tender. Jay responded, “I used to pick up the occasional 1893 Columbian Expo Half from circulation when I was kid. I was thrilled. There were even a couple Stone Mountain and a Lexington, too. The last silver commemorative I picked up was at a bank in Lewiston, Maine: a 1951 Booker T. Washington five years ago.”

1951 Booker T. Washington Commemorative from NGC Coin Explorer
Click images to enlarge.

This notion of still locating classic silver commemoratives in circulation led me to the NGC Census, and to date, 98.25% of classic US commemoratives (1892-1954) are in MS 60 or better. With the plurality of those submitted, 33% are designated MS 65. So, by the numbers, any circulated classic commemoratives are “scarce.”

Our conversation then led to the numerous amounts of offerings that the US Mint and many world mints produce today. While they are legal tender, they are NCLT (non-circulating legal tender). This fact has always greatly dismayed my friend, who is a modest and very knowledgeable collector and has always maintained an interesting caveat to his collecting criteria. His collection only consists of coins that he has personally retrieved from circulation and/or from banks, for face value.

Jay has always maintained that modern issues may be legal tender coins “but they aren’t real for me; real coins circulate.” I cannot disagree with my friend, as his collecting strategy has given him joy for over 30 years.

Jay is neither a pauper nor a tycoon, yet the proverbial hunt for coins that are circulating has rewarded him with many bona fide finds. Below are a trio of coins he has retrieved from banks and credit unions in 2021! Just take a look; I mean, what collector wouldn’t be thrilled to find such coins still in circulation or, as Jay prefers, “at face value”?

A 1909-O Barber Half Dollar, a 1926-D Buffalo Nickel in VG, and an off-center Mint State 1998-P Jefferson Nickel are among Jay’s findings this year.
Click image to enlarge.

This discourse with Jay got me thinking: What makes a coin popular with collectors and, in turn, one that makes a big splash in the secondary market? Is it advertising, theme, price or, in the case of the 2021 dollars, having the consumer — that voracious numismatic audience — be put on hold for several months? After all, many of the US Mint releases are hardly ever heard from in the secondary market. There are occasions where coins, like the privy-marked World War II Silver and Gold Eagles released about a year ago, remain highly popular with collectors and prices continue to escalate well above their respective issues prices.

The 2020-W V75 Proof Gold Eagle and V75 Proof Silver Eagle, both with the NGC V-Day Special Label.
Click images to enlarge.

I told Jay that the 2021 Morgan (Philadelphia) and the 2021 Peace Dollar are my favorites. They are historically accurate with the added advantage of modern enhancements. Overall, it is a well-executed coinage. For old-timers, they represent a phenomenal renaissance of the historic coins from a century ago — you know, when these coins were truly available at local banks, just as Jay would prefer.

Personally, I would hope that this is a once-in-a-century offering and will not become a “regular” yearly production. For me, that would truly dilute the series; but then again, there might be great demand for it.

British coin breaks record, twice

World coins continue to make and even dominate headlines. The fabulous 1937 Edward VIII Pattern 5 Sovereign graded NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo is back in the limelight. As a premier component of the Paramount Collection, presented by Heritage Auctions, the example raced to $2.28 million, becoming the most valuable British coin on March 26, 2021.

Nearly seven months to the day, this British Royalty rarity reappeared for another curtain call as lot #1050 at an MDC Monaco public auction, advancing that record price to an astounding $2.45 million! I cannot recall a time when any million-dollar coin was back in the public arena in such a short amount of time, within the same year! On top of that, it still achieved a higher price to boot. In this instance, an approximately 7.5% or $170,000 advance is nothing to sneeze at. Also, for those keeping track, this is the “youngest” of the million-dollar-plus icons on the numismatic circuit at only 84 years of age.

Great Britain 1937 Edward VIII Gold Pattern 5 Sovereign graded NGC PF 67 Ultra Cameo and pedigreed to the Paramount Collection. Realized: $2.45 million.
Click images to enlarge.

Well, All Hallows Eve is upon us, and the coin market is short on tricks and definitely long on treats.

Until next time, be safe and happy collecting!

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