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Scarce Enough to Hoard?
May 05, 2009

April Mint production numbers have been released and those who have an interest have been focusing heavily on cents, nickels and dimes.

The cents make a natural focus because of the attention being paid to the four new designs this year, the second of which will reach the public beginning May 14. Almost 230 million more have been produced, all being of the second Lincoln design. This number leaves it on track to match the output for the first design, but of course, one month's production does not guarantee a pattern any further than to confirm a Mint preference to run at a fairly even pace.

Nickels and dimes are being scrutinized because there might not be any more struck this year. Through April, nickel production was just under 40 million at each of the two circulating coin production facilities in Philadelphia and Denver.

Dime production is higher than nickel production, reaching almost 100 million at Philadelphia and 50 million at Denver.

So what do I do? I decided to look at the Territorial quarter mintages.

What do they show? In the month of April Philadelphia struck 26.52 million coins. These are all very likely the Guam design. Denver struck 19.6 million.

Since there are six designs this year, that leaves two production months for each design, though striking the D.C. quarter began before the beginning of the calendar year.

If the quarter numbers are half of a two-month run, Guam totals would fall from the Puerto Rican mintage totals, but by less than you might think. Philadelphia would be on track to match its Puerto Rico ouput, and Denver would drop from 86 million to roughly 40 million, or 39.2 million if you precisely double the 19.6 million April production total.

May production could rise, knocking these numbers into a cocked hat, or the production rate could fall yet further, amplifying the sense of scarcity among collectors.

Mintages of 40 million or 50 million quarters is a novelty for collectors because it has been almost a half century since numbers like these were the norm.

Collectors being collectors will likely pay close attention to these numbers and perhaps squirrel away more of them than they should.

The low 1955 output caused that year to stand out for Washington quarter collectors, but because collectors of the time were guided by the mintage totals, quite a few have survived in high grades. The 1955-D has a mintage of just about 3.2 million, but right on up to about MS-63, the prices for the coin hardly differ from issues with 10 times that mintage.

Will that kind of pricing wll play out for Territorial quarters 50 years from now?

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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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