What would it take to put together a modern type set?
How would you define a modern type set?
This is the summary of the email conversation I have been having with someone looking for an interesting challenge to work on with his children.
For new readers and those new to numismatics, a type set is one coin of every type regardless of date or mintmark. Although some coins have one-year types, like the 50 State Quarters, there are others where one coin will represent an entire series, like the Roosevelt Dime.
While there are a lot of interesting coins types we focused on modern coins. Modern coins are those struck since 1965 when coins went from silver to copper-nickel except for the Kennedy half-dollar that was made of 40-percent silver through 1970. To budding young numismatists, modern coins are all they know.
In fact, all they know is that the quarter has a constantly changing reverse and they have seen differences in the Lincoln cent and the Jefferson nickel. They did not go through the fiasco of the Susan B. Anthony dollar or marvel at the first circulating commemoratives of the modern era: the dual-dated bicentennial coins. They were not around to search boxes of Cheerios for the new Sacagawea dollar coin or the millennial cent.
Obverse of the Susan B. Anthony Dollar
The 2000 Cheerios Dollar
Modern coins do not get the same love as some of the classics. Aside from not containing silver, there have been controversies over designs (see the “spaghetti hair” that George Washington was sporting on the 50 State Quarters) and how the relief on coins has been lowered by the U.S. Mint in an attempt to extend die life.
Some not-so-great designs
Obverse of the 50 State Quarters with Washington’s spaghetti hair
2002 Ohio Quarter with the hanging astronaut
2004 Florida Quarter with a jumble of stuff
Although people love the classic designs two of my favorite designs of the modern era is the Drummer Boy reverse on the Bicentennial quarter and the Thomas Jefferson portrait on the obverse of the 2005 Westward Journey nickels. And even though I have not written much about them, there are some fantastic designs in the America the Beautiful Quarters series. A few that you may want to take a second look at include 2017 Ellis Island, 2017 George Rogers Clark National Historic Park, 2016 Shawnee National Forest, and the 2015 Blue Ridge Parkway quarters just to name a few.
A few of the great America the Beautiful Quaters designs
2015 Blue Ridge Parkway – North Carolina
2016 Shawnee National Forest – Illinois
2017 Ellis Island – New Jersey
2017 George Rogers Clark National Park – Indiana
Sitting with a Red Book, I started to list the coin types that would make up a modern type set. If we limited the set to circulating coins (e.g., not including half-dollars and one-dollar coins) that can be found in pocket change, there would be 128 coins with a face value of $28.97.
No. in Series
Lincoln Memorial Cents
Lincoln Bicentennial Cents
Lincoln Shield Censt
pre-2004 Jefferson Nickels
Westward Journey Nickels
Return to Monticello Nickels
50 State Quarters
D.C. and U.S. Territories Quarters
America the Beautiful Quarters
The above table does take into consideration the entire 56 Amercia the Beautiful Quarters series including future issues. The kids have to understand the concept of future issues and maintain space for these coins in their album.
Starting the set with pocket change allows the kids to get used to the concept of looking at the coins to understand what they are looking for. To help with their search each child was given a Red Book and two apps on their iPads: PCGS CoinFacts and PCGS Photograde. They can use the Red Book as a handy off-line reference but use PCGS CoinFacts to learn more when they have access. Photograde is very useful to help them assess the condition of the coins.
While collectors have a basic understanding of coin grading, getting it right can be difficult. These kids were given a basic lesson on things to look for when trying to assess the condition of the coins they find. It will be interesting to see how they interpret this information.
Once we covered coins that can readily be found in circulation, we then discussed the other business strikes that are usually not found in ordinary pocket change.
After an interesting discussion, it was decided to make those a separate collection.
As a separate collection, this will give the kids an opportunity to go to dealers and coin shows to allow the kids to learn about buying coins in this environment. They will learn how to talk with a dealer, gain experience negotiating, and do some comparison shopping. It will let them get the experience and see different coins but maintain a collection discipline that will allow them to learn to collect on a budget.
What are the modern type coins that do not see a lot of circulation? Once again, I sat with the Red Book and came up with the following list:
No. in Series
Kennedy Half Dollars
Bicentennial Kennedy Half Dollar
Bicentennial Eisenhower Dollars
Susan B. Anthony Dollars
Native American Dollars
To complete the task, I came up with a checklist for all of the modern coins in two formats. One is a printed version that they could keep in their pocket as they go about their day. The other is a spreadsheet that can act as an official record. The paper version is a very basic PDF file that can be used to write notes. The spreadsheet offers more information. It also allows them to come up with their own catalogue.
Arriving in time to celebrate Festivus was my order from the U.S. Mint. The sense of timing was interesting since December 23rd was also the seventh day of Chanukah and the last of the eight candles would be lit that night and the day before Christmas Eve. Call it a celebration in a box!
In this order were my 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar products. I first opened the 50th Anniversary Kennedy 2014 Half-Dollar Uncirculated Coin Set. Shrink wrapped, the set that sold for $9.95 was in a nice folder with a card containing two uncirculated coins in capsules embedded in the card. The half-dollars, one from Philadelphia and the other from Denver, are well struck and if I were to have them graded would probably be assigned a high grade.
Some people may balk at spending $5.00 for a half-dollar, but the presentation makes it a nice collectible even for the budget conscious.
Next was the 50th Anniversary Kennedy 2014 Half-Dollar Silver Coin Collection. The set contains four 90-percent silver half-dollars struck in four different finishes: reverse proof, proof, enhanced uncirculated, and uncirculated. This boxed set contains a presentation folder, Certificate of Authenticity from the U.S. Mint, and a booklet documenting how the Kennedy half-dollar came into being following the President’s assassination.
There is a somewhat cheesiness quality about the presentation. First, the outer cardboard sleeve that surrounds the box has a design that is repeated on the box top. The same design is on the outer flap of the folder itself. Esthetically, this type of design is visually fatiguing by the time you are to the point of opening the folder. In the past, the U.S. Mint used their logo or a heraldic eagle. It broke up the visual monotony created by using the same imprint on three different surfaces.
Another problem with the product design is that the encapsulated coins are embedded into a holder that is only one sided. In order to see the reverse of the coins they have to be removed from what holds them into the folder. Unfortunately, the fitting is so tight that it I started to pull apart the part of the folder that attaches the capsules to the folder. Eventually, I used a letter opener to gently pry the capsules out of their slots so that I could see the reverses.
Packaging of the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver Set
The folder with all four coins in the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver Set
A close-up of the silver half-dollars in the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver Set
It was worth the trouble removing the capsules from their holders. All the coins were beautifully struck and looked great including the reverse proof struck in West Point. I love the look of the reverse proof coin. Aside from having Kennedy really standing out on the obverse, there is something regal looking about the heraldic eagle on the reverse.
At first glance there almost appears to be no difference between the proof coin, struck in Philadelphia, and the enhanced uncirculated coin struck in San Francisco. After placing the coins side-by-side it was evident that he proof coin was struck differently than the enhanced uncirculated coin. Proof coins are usually struck with more force and more than once. Looking at both coins together before using a loupe shows that the relief for the proof half-dollar was higher. You can really see the difference by looking at Kennedy’s hair which showed more definition in the proof coin.
Where the enhanced uncirculated coin has an impact is on the reverse. Whereas the elements on a proof coin are frosted the laser process used on the enhanced uncirculated coins allows the U.S. Mint to create the frosting effect on some of the elements. For the reverse of the enhanced uncirculated half-dollar, the U.S. Mint selectively frosted elements of the heraldic eagle giving a “pop” that would not be possible using any other method. By frosting some of the higher relief areas, especially around the eagle’s shield, it provides a visual cue of more depth which makes for a nice refresh of a 50 year-old design.
The obverse of the 2014-W reverse proof in the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver Set
The reverse of the 2014-W reverse proof in the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver Set
The reverse of the 2014-S enhance uncirculated Kennedy silver Half-Dollar
As I write this, the London Fix price of gold is $1,170 per troy ounce. If the PM Fix of gold stays below $1,200, the price of the 50th Anniversary Kennedy 2014 Half-Dollar Gold Proof Coin will drop to $1,165, down from its current $1,202 and will be $75 less than its first issued price of $1,240. Although it is not a good idea to try to time the market, I wonder if all those dealers who caused problems during the coin’s initial release are worried about their profit margins now that the price of gold is going down!
As the year winds down and the end of the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy Half-Dollar draws to a close, I am curious as to how many of my readers bought one of the special coins offered by the U.S. Mint. This is just a quick poll to satisfy my curiosity.
Did (or will) you buy a 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Coin
Yes, I bought the 50th Anniversary Collection (40%, 24 Votes)
Yes, I bought the uncirculated set (28%, 17 Votes)
No, it's not something I collect (18%, 11 Votes)
Yes, I bought the gold proof coin (13%, 8 Votes)
No, I just bought 2014 half-dollars to add to my collection (0%, 0 Votes)
A couple of quick news items that came out of the U.S. Mint on Tuesday.
The U.S. Mint reported that as of December 8, 2014, they had sold a record 42,864,000 one troy ounce American Silver Eagle Bullion coins for all of 2014. This beats the previous record of 42,675,000 coins sold in 2013. Sales of the 2014 bullion coins to authorized dealers will end during the week of December 15.
Taking a sample of five different bullion dealers, the average price is around $20 for one American Silver Eagle Bullion coin. If each coin is worth about $20 each, that means the U.S. Mint sold $857.28 million in silver bullion for 2014. Remember, this is for the bullion coin. This does not count the collectible versions such as the proof or the West Point struck uncirculated coin.
The other announcement was that the U.S. Mint will sell a new product, Coin Discovery Set — An Introduction to Coin Collecting. The set costing $24.95 will include three 2014 Kennedy Half-Dollars in three different finishes—proof, uncirculated and circulating. It will also include two coin tubes for quarters, a magnifying glass, cotton gloves, and a booklet that explains the coin production process. The box will the the size to store U.S. Mint proof sets.
Sales will open at noon Eastern Standard Time (1600 UTC) on Tuesday December 16, 2014. While there will be no household ordering limit, the U.S. Mint has set a product limit to 45,000 sets.
It has been a few years since I did an All-Hallows-Eve numismatic trick-or-treat that it seems like a good time to do add one. Here are my numismatic tricks and treats for this past year.
Girl Scouts need a values adustment
TRICK: It was announced in January that the 2013 Girl Scouts commemorative coin did not generate enough sales for the U.S. Mint to provide a payout of seignorage. This is the first time this has happened. Part of the problem was that the Girl Scouts are stuck in the 1950s mindset that does not see collecting coins as a girl’s hobby. Although values are important, this shows that he Girl Scouts’ values are behind the times and will not be the catalyst behind helping expand the hobby. They should be ashamed for contributing to this failure.
ANA Willfully Gives up its Premier Status
TRICK:The Professional Numismatists Guild and the American Numismatic Association announced in January that “the first” PNG-ANA Numismatic Trade Show the weekend prior to the 2014 World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont that it will be open to the public. While making it sound exciting it made the entire show 8-days long. This was a bad move because of the length and because it makes the ANA play second to PNG. If the ANA wants to be the premier numismatic organization, the one that anyone wanting to learn about and be about numismatics, The ANA should not play second fiddle to any other organization.
There are coin treats!
TREAT:In creating a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Kenney half-dollar, the U.S. Mint has made a coin that is not really circulated into something interesting for the collector. The dual-dated gold coin became an instant hit before the price of gold dropped and the silver sets are reportedly selling well. This was a good move by the U.S. Mint.
TREAT:For the most part, commemorative coins are sales do not meet expectation. While there are a few exceptions like 2005 Marine Corps 230th Anniversary silver dollar, most commemoratives do not come close to their maximum mintage. But the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemoratives appear to have hit a home run. The combination of the subject and the curve of the coin may be a significant factor in the coin’s success. The $5 gold and silver dollar coins are both sold out. There are some of the clad half-dollars available.
TREAT:Speaking of cool stories, what about the Saddle Ridge Hoard? After a couple found the hoard of gold coins while walking their dog, it spawned an interest in metal detectors and searching for buried treasure. It was such an amazing story that it even found its way into the national news cycle. But like everything else, another shiny story diverted the media’s attention and the coins went on sale to the general public on Amazon.com.
Not all coins are treats
TRICK:Colored and coins with gimmicks are proliferating in the market. So far, the U.S. Mint and the Royal Mint are resisting colored and other gimmicks while the Royal Candian Mint and New Zealand Mint are at a race to the bottom for gimmick coins.
Numsimatics and technology
TREAT: The ANA launched its new website with new technology ready for growth on time and under budget. This is the website that ANA Governor Laura Sperber said, “I can’t wait to see what a disaster the ANA new web site will be.” So far, there has not been a follow up from Sperber while the new site has been a success.
TREAT: More recently, the U.S. Mint had a great launch to their new website. After years of frustration with the online ordering of what would be popular items, the new site handled the launch of the 50th Anniversary Kennedy 2014 Half-Dollar Silver Coin Collection with no issues.
TRICK: The arts medals are medals, not coins. Even with the beauty of medals like the 9/11 silver medal, it did not sell like coins would. In fact, it grossly under performed without raising significant sums for the 9/11 Memorial at the site of the Twin Towers in New York. But this is what the CCAC is face with because of congressional dysfunction (see above).
So goodbye everybody, and remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian… it’s Hallowe’en.
— Orson Welles, The War of the Worlds, CBS Radio, October 30, 1938
Hobo Ike and Jefferson courtesy of Darth Morgan posted at Coin Community
If you are like me and forgot, the U.S. Mint began to take orders for the 50th Anniversary Kennedy 2014 Half-Dollar Silver Coin Collection yesterday, October 28. The set consists of four 90-percent silver coins from each of the branch mints using the original design of the Kennedy half-dollar as designed by Gilroy Roberts. For those who are not regular collectors of these coins, the design is known as the “accented hair” variety with deeper highlights of the slain president’s hair. The set will be in a special faux leather folder enclosed in a specially designed box.
Each of the four coins will have different finishes. There will be one reverse-proof coin from West Point, a proof coin from Philadelphia, and uncirculated coin from Denver, and an enhanced uncirculated coin from San Francisco. The enhanced uncirculated coin will be struck on dies that will use a laser frosting and special wire brush treatments to enhance the design. The wire brush treatment is something new to the U.S. Mint that has not been seen on any publicly released coins or medals.
What is even more impressive is that the new computer ordering system withstood the challenge of a new product offering. In years past, the computer ordering for popular U.S. Mint products had sent the computer system into fits while trying to keep up with the requests. By all accounts, the computer system not only processed every order in a timely manner, but the U.S. Mint reports that the site was working at a rate of 14 orders per second and that the average peaked at 24.9 orders per second.
Orders for the set began at noon and after a half hour, 36,000 units were sold translating into $3.6 million in sales. As of midnight, 12 hours after opening the sale, the U.S. Mint sold 85,670 sets. The U.S. Mint is reporting that by 8:30 PM, they shipped 14,000. They started with 180,000 sets in stock which means there is time to order yours and to have it processed quickly.
For those of us who suffered through the pain of ordering of products line the American Eagle 25th Anniversary Silver Coin Set, the performance of the new website is a welcome change.
While the new website looks good and sports more modern functionality, it seems to perform well and works more smoothly than the old site. Unfortunately, I am not sure that I like the way the site is organized. My primary complaint is that the site is designed as a shopping site that seems to have buried the information about the coin programs. There should be a better balance between their mission as the government’s manufacturer of coins and the sales of those coins.
After years of frustration with the U.S. Mint, it looks like they are really working to serve its clientele including the Federal Reserve, which it is required to produce coins for by law. Maybe it has served the country well by having a professional run the U.S. Mint rather than a politician.
If you have not seen what has been going on in the gold market, the prices have been falling. The financial press has not provided a single reason as to why the gold market is going down but there is a consistent view that the United States economy showing strength with unemployment dropping and low inflation may be alleviating fears in the markets. Stocks are rising and it is suspected that investors are selling their gold shares in order to participate in the bull market.
For collectors it means that the U.S. Mint could adjust the prices of precious metal products. In particular, the price is coming down that could affect the price of the Kennedy gold half-dollar. Based on the table published in the Federal Register [PDF], if the London Fix price of gold falls below $1,250 per troy ounce, the price of the coin will drop to $1,202.50 or $37.50 below the $1,240 issue price.
The London Fix is now managed by The London Bullion Market Association. Gold prices are set by an auction that takes place twice daily by the London Gold Fixing Company at 10:30 AM and 3:00 PM London time. Auctions are conducted in U.S. dollars. The benchmark used by the U.S. Mint is the PM Fix price on Wednesday.
On September 10, 2014, the London PM Fix was $1,251.00 which will leave the price of the Kennedy gold half-dollar $1,240.
London PM Gold Fix for the month leading up to September 10, 2014 London PM Fix on September 10 was $1,251.00 Prices are in U.S. dollars
A strong economy is good for many reasons. In this case, when the price of gold drops the price of gold coins also drops. While this is not good for investors, it benefits collectors who will buy one or two coins for their collections. It also means that the value of the inventory that the dealers who spent a lot of money and effort in order to be first will be worth less than previously. After all, if the U.S. Mint is going to produce as many coins as the demand, then the public is better off saving money and buy from the U.S. Mint.
As anyone who has invested money will tell you that it is dangerous to try to time the market. I am sure that if you can figure out when the price of gold will be at its lowest while the U.S. Mint is still selling the Kennedy gold half-dollar, I know a bunch of people on Wall Street who want to talk with you. That being said, I have a feeling that the trends are in favor of waiting to see what happens. Although I have not decided whether I will buy a coin, I am going to wait to see what the market does. If the price of gold continues to fall, I could be convinced to buy one of these coins for myself.
Pricing for the 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Gold Proof Coin
As published in the Federal Register (79 FR 38127) on July 3, 2014
London PM Fix
$1000.00 to $1049.99
¾ Troy oz
$1050.00 to $1099.99
¾ Troy oz
$1100.00 to $1149.99
¾ Troy oz
$1150.00 to $1199.99
¾ Troy oz
$1200.00 to $1249.99
¾ Troy oz
$1250.00 to $1299.99
¾ Troy oz
$1300.00 to $1349.99
¾ Troy oz
$1350.00 to $1399.99
¾ Troy oz
$1400.00 to $1449.99
¾ Troy oz
$1450.00 to $1499.99
¾ Troy oz
$1500.00 to $1549.99
¾ Troy oz
$1550.00 to $1599.99
¾ Troy oz
$1600.00 to $1649.99
¾ Troy oz
$1650.00 to $1699.99
¾ Troy oz
Fixing chart courtesy of London Gold Fixing Company.
Watching the scene from afar gives it a reality television-like feel. Just like reality television, I find it difficult to understand the appeal of having to be the first or one of the first to purchase the coin. In this case the people who bought the first coin had the coin slabbed and was paid $20,000 for the coin, what about the people standing in line behind them? Were they expecting to resell the coin to a dealer desperate to have the coin in their inventory? Was the line there representing dealers who will advertise that they have the coin from the first day of issue and mark up the price for those who collect the labels and not the coin?
If you are interested in purchasing the coin and not worried about the hype, I recommend that you buy the coin directly from the U.S. Mint. First, the U.S. Mint has already announced that there will not be a production limit. While there are initial sales limit, the U.S. Mint will strike as many as ordered. Second, those coins purchased at the U.S. Mint booth at the World’s Fair of Money will likely be removed from the U.S. Mint packaging and entombed in one of the third party grading company’s hunk of plastic. The price will be overly inflated.
When you buy the coin from the U.S. Mint, the price you will pay is the market price of three-quarters of a troy ounce of gold, the full cost of manufacture, and the packaging. According to the U.S. Mint, “The coins are encapsulated and packaged in a single custom-designed, brown mahogany hardwood presentation case with removable coin well and are accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity.” That mahogany hardwood presentation case is probably not cheap. If it is the same case that has been used for past special coin programs, then it is a nice package and should display the coin nicely. You will probably not receive the presentation case from the dealer that slabbed the coin. In fact, some dealers have started to sell the empty presentation cases without the coin—essentially, double-dipping at the expense of the purchaser of the coin.
The final reason to buy the coin directly from the U.S. Mint online or via the telephone is that there is a limit of five coins per household. When you buy the coin at one of the U.S. Mint facilities or this week at the World’s Fair of Money, you are limited to buying one coin and that there is a daily sales limit of 500 coins at each location.
With no offense intended to dealers who will have plenty of opportunities to make money on this coin in the future, I recommend that Coin Collectors Blog readers who want to purchase a coin for their own collection to buy it directly from the U.S. Mint. Even if the price of gold rises, the U.S. Mint pricing table [PDF] for these coins shows that the difference is about $35 per pricing band. I suspect that it will be less than the premium that many dealers will add to the price of the coin at the same time it is available from the U.S. Mint, except that they can sell you the coin now and you will not have to wait.
First Day Sales Figures
The U.S. Mint released their first day sales figures for the 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Gold Proof Coin:
Because of the expected overwhelming response, dialog with our customers and many others interested in the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Gold Proof Coin, the United States Mint is reducing the over-the-counter purchase limit to one unit per customer.
This change in the purchase limit will give more members of the public an opportunity to purchase this popular coin, essentially doubling the number of customers able to purchase it. The number of units available at each retail location (Philadelphia and Denver facilities, Washington, D.C., headquarters and Chicago ANA World’s Fair of Money) will remain the same. There will be 500 units available initially at each United States Mint location (Philadelphia, Denver and Washington) and an additional 100 units per day for the first three days after the product launch. There will be 2,500 at the ANA, 500 available per day of the convention.
The household ordering limit of five will remain the same.
UPDATE: The price effective for the August 5 opening day of sales for the 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Gold Proof is $1,240. See the U.S. Mint’s online catalog for more information.
NOTE: Usually I do not post press releases directly since there are many other places to see these announcements. Since there has been a lot of interest in these coins, I am posting this as a service to my readers.
U.S. Mint mock-up of the 24 karat gold 50th anniversary Kennedy half dollar
Those waiting for the U.S. Mint to release the Kennedy Half-Dollar coin 50th Anniversary Products will be happy to learn that the U.S. Mint announced the products that will be available.
The coin that seems to be the most anticipated is the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Gold Proof Coin (U.S. Mint product code K15) that will be struct at the West Point facility using three-quarters of a troy ounce of .9999 fine, 24-karat gold. The dual-dated coin will be encapsulated and issued in a wood box, probably similar to the wood boxes used for past special issue gold coins starting with the 2009 Ultra High Relief Gold Coin.
Fans of silver coins and the variations on the silver design will have to wait until the Fall for the release of the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Silver Coin Collection. The four coin set will include 90-percent silver coins from each of the U.S. Mint’s facilities in four different styles:
One reverse proof coin from West Point
One proof coin from Philadelphia
One enhanced uncirculated coin from San Francisco, and
One uncirculated coin from Denver.
The press release says that the “encapsulated coins are secured in coin wells within an embossed leatherette-type folder that includes the same image of John F. Kennedy that appears on the coins in this set, with patriotic imagery of stars and stripes.” Since this sounds like a new packaging style, we may have to wait until the set is released to truly understand the presentation.
Finally, for the budget conscious, the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Uncirculated Coin Set will feature two uncirculated half-dollars from Philadelphia and Denver in a commemorative folder. Although the set will go on sale on July 24, 2014, the U.S. Mint has created a catalog page for the set.
50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Uncirculated Coin Set
Are you going to buy any of the 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar tribute coins?
Yes, I am buying all three sets! (30%, 40 Votes)
Yes, I am buying the silver coin set only. (24%, 32 Votes)
No, I am just not interested. (16%, 21 Votes)
Yes, I am buying the gold coin and silver coin set. (14%, 18 Votes)
Yes, I am buying the gold coin only. (13%, 17 Votes)
Yes, I am buying the uncirculated set only. (3%, 4 Votes)