Special Commentary on Coin Collecting by Eric Jordan.
Today’s established collectors are to a large extent the product of the collecting environment into which they were placed when they started the hobby and its precisely these influences that have had a powerful and predictable impact on the current pricing structure of US coins. The new generation of collectors are starting out in a completely new collecting environment and the habits that are being instilled in them now will have a noticeable and predictable impact on the US coin market in the next 20 years.
Lets take a look at where we are and where we may be headed.
Collecting habits in the US are largely the result of long standing US Mint policies and America's relatively short coinage history. Looking back 200 years from 1805 to 1964 there were only about 70 different primary circulating coin designs and about 60 commemoratives issued. The US Mint's publicly stated preference for very limited design change to suppress hording of coinage and the extremely long series of Lincoln Cents, Jefferson Nickels and Roosevelt Dimes etc left beginning collectors limited options. Predictably an inordinate percentage of Americans interested in Numismatics became series date and mintmark collectors.
Europe in general has 2000 plus years worth of coinage history to draw on and thousands of different designs to choose from so type coin collecting is much more prevalent as would rationally be expected.
Since 1986 the US Mint has had a complete change in policy. We have seen roughly 200 different commemorative & type coins plus more importantly over 40 circulating series type coins so far including the hugely successful 50 state quarters program and the Westward Journey Nickels. There is no end in sight. Look for the new Jefferson Nickels after the Westward program is complete, the Lincoln cents representing the stages of Lincoln’s life, First Ladies.. the list goes on and on... The sales figures clearly prove that the mint can sell fantastic quantities of circulating coinage that are highly profitable for the government and enjoyable for the public as long as they keep changing the designs yearly.
According to the Mints own web site there are over 100 million series type collectors for the 50 States Quarters and Westward Journey nickels alone. The Mint's web sight called Hip Pocket Change that develops educational programs for students in grades K-12 is almost exclusively type coin oriented. The new generation of American coin collector is almost certain to hold an increased preference for type coins in general and series type coins in particular.
Almost without exception collectors as they mature gravitate from common inexpensive coinage to rarer and more expensive high grade material but they take their basic collecting habits with them as they move up the "food chain ". If you agree with the logic what are the probable ramifications of all this? Expect to see rare high grade type coins perform well over the next 20 years. Mint mark rarity will always be helpful but condition and type rarity should really excel as the new generation comes on line. Stay clear of paying high premiums for VAMs and other trivial distinctions among coins. If mint marks and years become a little less important in the future then trivial die varieties may go the way of Beanie Babies. You just can't go wrong with coins like MS65 DCAM Proof-like Morgans, Nice High Relief Saints and almost any high grade type coin or commemorative with a mintage of less than 10,000.
Probably the most reviled of all US coinage is the Proof Platinum Eagle Program and it may be the king of all sleepers. If you think the 50 State Quarters, Westward Journey Nickels, Pending First Ladies Series and Life of Lincoln Type coins will influence the next generation’s habits then you need to look at the small denomination proof platinum eagles. They along with the uncirculated commemorative gold coins are the rarest type coins issued by the US mint since shortly after the first world war. To be specific the Jackie Robinson and the 2004 1/4 and 1/2 oz proof platinum eagles all have mintages in the 5100 to 5400 range. The year by year design changes in a specific series coupled with outstanding relative rarity make them prime investment candidates.
Good Luck Type Collecting,