In 1916, the U.S. Mint began to circulate three iconic coin designs that remain favorites amongst collectors. To celebrate, the U.S. Mint issued 24-karat gold centennial versions of the Mercury Dime, Standing Liberty Quarter, and Walking Liberty Half-Dollar. The designs of the coins are the same as their century-old counterparts except the gold specification was added. Earlier this month, the U.S. Mint released the 2016-W Walking Liberty Half-Dollar 24-karat gold coin to complete the series.
With the release of the gold Walking Liberty Half-Dollar, every coin design that was part of President Theodore Roosevelt’s “pet crime” that has gone out of circulation, except the Bela Lyon Pratt quarter and half-eagles and the Saint-Gaudens $10 eagle, have been reproduced at least once. Only Victor D. Brenner’s Lincoln Head Cent design remains in circulation even though the reverse has been redesigned a few times.
Isn’t it time we move on?
Let’s forget the legal limitations placed on the U.S. Mint that only allows them to do a tribute like this in gold even though the original coins were struck in silver, how many collectors are really interested in buying these coins? How many can afford these coins?
Judging by the listings for online auctions and dealers that specialize in modern precious metals, it seems that the alleged sellout of the gold Mercury Dime was because of speculation. While there will always be some opportunists in any market, the appearance of the churn in that market feels more like people looking to make money rather than collect, especially since its $209 issue price is more affordable.
Now, both the Standing Liberty and Walking Liberty gold coins are still available. With the limited availability, why aren’t collectors buying these coins?
Aside from the cost of a gold coin, how many younger collectors or even those that are a part of Generation X have any connection to those coins? It is possible we Baby Boomers have seen these coins in circulation, even sparingly. I was able to find Mercury dimes and Buffalo nickels as late as the very early 1970s before they were all removed from circulation. My interest in collecting started when I found Indian Head cents in pocket change.
I am not saying that these designs are unworthy of a tribute. As a collective, they are arguably the most iconic designs of U.S. coinage. But what many consider the best of the best will live on as part of the American Eagle, Buffalo 24-karat, and the soon-to-be palladium bullion programs.
Isn’t it time we move on?
Sales of mint and proof sets are down. Sales of commemorative coins are not meeting expectations where only a few have been sellouts. And the only modern coin that has seen any respect from the Baby Boomer and older collecting community was the 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half Dollar gold coin.
It is time we move on.
The 115th congress will be sworn into office on January 3, 2017. Giving the congress time to get settled including my representative who will be entering his first term in the House, I will write to him to propose a that a silver program similar to the 24-karat gold program be created. Maybe, if coins are offered in silver, a more affordable metal, we can use those coins to generate additional interest in collecting.
It may not be much, but it is a start!