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Time to Shrink Gold Commems?
April 11, 2012

I have been thinking that it is time for the U.S. commemorative coin program to be reformed. I don’t want to touch the current 2-program-per-year limitation, but it strikes me as time to consider alternatives to the coins regularly issued.

Back when the U.S. commemorative series was young in the early 20th century and hadn’t settled into a pattern where commemorative half dollars dominated, the United States issued a number of $1 gold commemoratives.

Is it time to go back to that denomination with gold being as expensive as it is?

Currently the $5 coin is the dominant gold piece after trying the $10 denomination in 1984 for the Olympic Games and a bimetallic $10 that combined gold and platinum in 2000 to Honor the Library of Congress.

The gold $5 commemorative coins currently cost collectors $500 to $510 each depending on whether they are uncirculated or proof. Approximately $400 is simply the cost of the gold in the coin.

Wouldn’t it be better to reduce that figure to the $80 it would cost to buy the gold for a $1 denomination?

Commemorative collector budgets would get a break.

Some might object to the small size of a gold dollar as collectors of this generation often prefer large coins, but if you look at the popularity of the 1-tenth ounce gold American Eagles, you can make the case that small isn’t necessarily bad.

The gold in a tenth-ounce coin currently costs $165.70, about double that of a gold dollar.

A gold dollar has a whiff of history on its side. On the other hand, the tenth-ounce American Eagle offers a currently relevant coin that comes in a convenient troy weight.

Perhaps the commemorative series going forward should be reformed to be based on Eagle weights and denominations rather than the pre-1934 standards. It would be much easier to explain to a public that increasingly has no personal recollection of either the gold or silver coins that used to be used in circulation.

Instead of a commemorative silver dollar containing 0.7734 ounces of silver, future commemorative dollars could use the silver Eagle blank and contain an even troy ounce of the precious metal.

Instead of the 0.2418 ounce of gold in a current $5, commemorative buyers in the future could be offered a tenth-ounce coin with the $5 denomination currently assigned to the American Eagle coin of that gold weight.

This would make sense to anyone who is looking for a logical pattern to U.S. coinage.

What alternative do you like?

And while on the topic of saving money, check out Today and tomorrow buyers get 50 percent off on their purchases.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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