Jim Bisognani: Coins That Make Great Gifts

Posted on 11/11/2021

Morgan and Peace Dollars or Pilgrim Half Dollars are the perfect presents that numismatists will be thankful for.

After setting back one hour all visible digital and analog clocks in our house, it dawned on me: 2021 is running on its last legs. This year has been seemingly moving faster than ever! As I take a closer look at the calendar, there are a mere seven weeks remaining. I know it is all relative, but as we age, time seems to accelerate. With this in mind, it is not too early to contemplate a possible gift for that deserving coindexter or two on your holiday shopping list.

The gifts that keep on giving

The US Mint has already jumped on the holiday bandwagon, as I received their 2021 Holiday Gift Guide in my mail yesterday.

The front cover of this catalog does provide a beckoning holiday image of a Victorian-style lantern suspended above the front door, which provides a warm ambient glow over garland and ribbons and the snow-covered front steps… And what’s this? A mammoth-sized Proof Palladium Eagle and Proof Gold Buffalo are nestled on the steps slightly embedded in the snow. I mean what better way to display $5,540 worth of coins, I say! Seriously, this 20-page catalog does provide an exciting array of numismatics for all budgets.

Coins and just about every other collectible have been hotter than ever these past few years. There is so much to consider in this coin market and it really comes down to the budget to determine how little or how much you want to spend. Personally, I know there is a lot to consider. As there has been so much news and related ballyhoo in the media, including the trove of sales of million-dollar coins and records being smashed, this publicity has rekindled many dormant numismatists and ushered in so many more with designs on starting a collection.

One great coin (or two) would be from the exciting 2021 Morgan or Peace Dollars series. The US Mint certainly hit a home run and had most of the collecting world and distributing dealers tied up in knots with the announcement of the 1921-2021 Morgan and Peace Dollar centennial reboot coins. Collectors and dealers were ramping up acquiring from both classic series.

The impact was twofold: one was to satisfy the established Morgan and Peace Dollar aficionados, and the other to target new wave collectors who were intrigued and enticed by the 2021 dollars. Dealers were vigorously promoting and marketing the “old and new” strategy of having the old and new displayed together. This concept brought out the best of both, leaving the door wide open to build a collection.

2021 'CC' Morgan Dollar and 2021 Peace Dollar with special NGC label

Further adding to the angst was the huge delay in the delivery for these 2021’s. Nothing adds more fuel to the fire of desire than being told that you have to wait. Neither child nor adult wants to be patient. I was even quietly grousing.

Finally, collectors and dealers have been taking delivery of these spectacularly executed coins. Shipments have been fast and furious and presently, with a large supply on the market, prices are very attractive — for the time being. A quick check on the electronic trading networks reveal several dealers offering sets of six coins at $725, which is a relatively modest 42.16% above issue price.

At present, the 2021 Peace Dollar and “CC” Privy Mark Morgan are the “key issues.” I mentioned in my last article that the coins are very well produced and the NGC Census verifies this. In total, 25,601 of the five varieties of 2021 Morgans and the 2021 Peace Dollar are reporting, and nearly 90% are graded MS 70!

Wow! For those looking ahead at the US Mint’s 2022 production schedule, there will be a Proof version of the Morgan and Peace Dollars, each produced at the San Francisco Mint. Put me in for that next fall!

This half dollar is no turkey

However, with the great American holiday — Thanksgiving — a mere two weeks away when this article posts, a new tradition may take root of giving thanks to those coindexters on your list. Wondering what to get? My advice is to bring something a little different to the host and introduce something numismatic during the family festivities.

The classic Commemorative Half Dollar 1620-1920 Tercentenary of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock is the perfect gift, which screams Thanksgiving. Designed by Boston sculptor Cyrus E. Dallin, the obverse features the iconic pilgrim hat donned by the governor of the Commonwealth, William Bradford, with a lower border that reads: “Pilgrim Half Dollar”. You can’t get more Thanksgiving than that! The reverse displays the full side view of the Mayflower in all its full-sailed splendor.

1920 Pilgrim Half Dollar from NGC Coin Explorer
Click images to enlarge.

As many of you are aware, the classic commemoratives showcase proud moments in history such as the Pilgrim Tercentenary. However, many later entries to the series, shall we say, overstayed their welcome. In this instance, the original 1920-dated coin gave way to the total distribution of 152,112.

The second issue produced in 1921 had a mintage of 20,053. For these two, well over 275,000 coins were struck and yet 128,000 coins remained unsold and were returned to the mint to be melted. Even though the 1921 Pilgrim is scarcer, I have always preferred the original struck in 1920. At present, according to the NGC Census, the most plentiful grade for the 1920 Pilgrim Half Dollar is MS 64. So why not start there? Certified coins in this grade have been recently fetching around $150.

1921 Pilgrim Half Dollar from NGC Coin Explorer
Click images to enlarge.

Prices to sink your teeth into

A fond yet profound look back at the Bluesheet from the summer of 1988 (Certified Coin Dealer Newsletter) reveals sight unseen pricing for the Pilgrim Half Dollars were as follows: an NGC MS 64 was trading at $270 (just about double today’s market price), an NGC MS 65 was $2,175, an NGC MS 66 at $4,200 and an NGC MS 67 at $8,700!

How volatile the markets were then! A mere four months later, looking at the Bluesheet of exactly 33 years ago on November 11, 1988, the price of a graded NGC MS 64 had a modest decline to $250, yet an NGC MS 65 had swooned to $925. The graded NGC MS 66 reported in at $2,300 and an NGC MS 67 flopped to $5,600. In the ensuing years, the transparency of the census has surely defined the market.

All markets have changed and yet for the classic commemoratives, they have been stagnant for so long. At the current levels, I believed these to be true bargains.

The following are recent 2021 prices realized for 1920 Pilgrim Half Dollars graded NGC MS 64 through NGC MS 67:

An NGC MS 67 realized $2,520: Only 23 reside with this lofty designation and only three coins are graded higher.

1920 Pilgrim Half Dollar graded NGC MS 67. Realized: $2,520
Click images to enlarge.

An NGC MS 66 realized $348 with only 194 coins in like grade.

1920 Pilgrim Half Dollar graded NGC MS 66. Realized: $348
Click images to enlarge.

An NGC MS 65 realized $162: This attractive blazing gem shares this grade with 1,146 others according to the NGC Census.

1920 Pilgrim Half Dollar graded NGC MS 65. Realized: $162
Click images to enlarge.

An NGC MS 64 realized $140: This very choice example has the highest population at 2,340 total.

1920 Pilgrim Half Dollar graded NGC MS 64. Realized: $140
Click images to enlarge.

To me, these are bargains in all grades from NGC MS 64 to NGC MS 67. In my estimation, a coin graded NGC MS 66 is the biggest buy at current levels. I mean how many things, coins or otherwise, can you name that you could acquire today for 80% less than 33 years ago! Well, history confirms that sight unseen, the examples with grades of NGC MS 64 to NGC MS 67 would have traded at $15,345 in 1988 versus $3,170 in 2021’s market!

Of course, if you are considering a token for yours truly, a nice colonial, perhaps a 1652 Pine Tree Shilling or such, would make a wonderful gesture. Why, even a British Copper Penny from the 1600s would do nicely, but the choice is yours!

Until next time, be safe and happy collecting!

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