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Study Mintages to Find Best Value
By Debbie Bradley, Numismatic News
April 12, 2013

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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If you want to buy a 2013 commemorative coin with the hope that it may have numismatic value someday, think low mintage.

“In order to have collector value growth, a new commemorative, regardless of which metal it’s struck on, needs to be either widely popular like the Buffalo silver commemoratives or low mintage relative to their series siblings,” said modern coin expert Eric Jordan.

Mint State $5 gold commemoratives have been selling in the 7,000 to 8,000 coin range of late.

Last year’s Star Spangled Banner uncirculated gold coin had total sales of 7,027, while the 2011 Army and Medal of Honor gold commemoratives had final sales of 8,062 and 8,251 respectively.

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Those final sales are getting close to the all-time low mintage of 5,174 for the 1997-W Jackie Robinson $5 gold uncirculated. The going rate for one of those coins today is around $3,900 in MS-65.

Compare that to the 1991-W Mount Rushmore $5 gold uncirculated coin with a mintage of 31,959. That coin is valued today at around $400 in MS-65.

“Looking at a plot of price versus mintage for U.S. commemoratives issued since 1986 shows pretty clearly that gold issues with mintages well under 10,000 coins have favorable long term prospects,” Jordan said. “Silver starts to show strength in the sub 30,000 coin range and clad halves tend to need popular themes and/or sub 50,000 mintages.”

When it comes to buying gold or silver commemoratives, Jordan first looks at the mintage rather than the metal. But mintages aside, there are reasons to favor one metal over the other.

“New U.S. Mint gold commemoratives have a lower markup over the melt value of the metal than silver issues do, and the surcharges as a percentage of the purchase price are lower,” Jordan said. “Favorable moves in the precious metals markets show up much more quickly in gold commems than they do in silver or clad.”

Lately the gold commems have been creating new semi-keys to their large and well-established series, he said.

“As long as this trend continues and you are buying at the relatively small initial issue markups, it’s hard to go wrong,” Jordan said.

Key date silver coinage has the tendency to outperform key date gold on a percentage basis over a long span of time, he said, “but that’s not much help if the coin you are looking at is ranked 20th in its set.”

Mintages of commemoratives have dropped in recent years as the price of precious metals has risen and people’s disposable income has fallen.

“The real question is where is the mintage bottom?” Jordan said. “This is the thousand dollar question that none of us can answer with any degree of certainty.”

But keep an eye on the mintages and you may be able to pick up tomorrow’s great coinage for a song, Jordan said, regardless of which metal it’s struck on.

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