At NGC, we categorize any coin from 1955 to date as modern. As with classic coins, modern coins demonstrate a vibrant artistic heritage and historical significance, but they can easily be overlooked by collectors because of their recent vintage.
Welcome to our new eNewsletter series on modern coinage, Modern Coin of the Month. At NGC, we categorize any coin from 1955 to date as modern. As with classic coins, modern coins demonstrate a vibrant artistic heritage and historical significance, but they can easily be overlooked by collectors because of their recent vintage. As a result, many of these coins are affordable and offer significant opportunities for the value-minded collector. As with classic coins, among modern coins there are key dates, noteworthy varieties, and condition scarcities to engage the most sophisticated collectors. In this series of articles, we will explore some of the most intriguing modern coins and share a passion for what are destined to become tomorrow's treasures.
This month's coin is the 1983-P Washington Quarter, already a treasure to those who understand its current scarcity. The 1983-P Quarter is particularly scarce because no Mint Sets were released in 1983. To find high-grade coins, collectors must sort through rolls, bags or Souvenir Sets. Souvenir Sets are available for purchase only to visitors of the Denver and Philadelphia Mints. Because of the way they are distributed, many fewer sets are available to collectors than traditional Mint Sets. Other sources of 1983-P Quarters, such as original rolls and mint bags, seem to not have been saved by collectors at the time. As a result, most of the original mintage was likely released into general circulation.
A parallel among "classic" coins is the 1886-O Morgan Dollar, which was distributed at time of minting, and not saved in quantity by collectors. The only way they survive today in pristine collection is through the forward-looking saving of gem coins in 1983. This coin currently trades for around $25 or more in uncirculated condition, making it very affordable for a recognized scarcity. Still, to many, it seems amazing that a clad quarter is bringing 100 times its face value less than 25 years after its general release.
Whenever I attend a coin show or visit a coin shop, the 1983-P Quarter is always on my hit list. Yet in the past year, I have only seen four examples for sale by dealers. Two were in Souvenir Sets, and I have seen these sets rise sharply in price during the last few years. The most recent 1983-P Souvenir Set I saw for sale had a $55 price tag on it! The quarter in the set would have likely graded MS 64 at NGC. Even in the Souvenir Sets, the quarters are not always in gem condition and are often weakly struck, late die state examples. The other two 1983-P Quarters inventory that I located were circulated, but were advertised as BU. Furthermore, one had counting machine damage and the other was a problem-free AU coin, but had a $35 price tag.
Certified gem examples are also difficult to locate. At $25 a coin, one would think the market would be flooded with them, especially with its high mintage. At 100 times the face value, it seems amazing that people who salted these coins away would still be holding out for more. But those coins that were put away and since have made it into the market (or to NGC for grading) have numerous strike and die problems. They are often weakly struck and missing detail in the hair and eagle's breast. Because of this, it is very hard to find this coin in grades above a MS 65. The NGC Census confirms this claim with only a few dozen so certified: NGC Census Figures for 1983-P Washington Quarter. (When using the NGC Census to examine the scarcity of modern coins, it is important to note that inexpensive coins, which are not generally submitted for certification, may appear scarce but are not.)
Only time will tell if the 1983-P Quarter will turn into the 1886-O Morgan Dollar, being scarce in high grade, or if it will be a repeat performance of the Carson City Morgan Dollars, in which bags are just waiting to be opened in vaults somewhere. This is a perpetual concern of the advanced modern collector. Regardless, the 1983-P Quarter is a key of a modern Washington Quarter collection.