By Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………..
BHOF Commemorative Series
The most widely anticipated U.S. commemorative coin series in decades will be launched on Thursday, March 27. I expect there to be a feeding frenzy for the 75th anniversary of the Baseball Hall of Fame coins that will put a lot of stress on the Mint’s web site, though hopefully the new waiting room system will help. Dealers and other buyers who want early release/first strike grading labels plus buyers concerned about an early sell-out of the $5 gold coins and other buyers who want to get their orders in as early as possible will converge to create what is expected to be the most intense competition for a new issue since the 2011 25th anniversary American silver eagle sets.
At the same time, the coins will also be sold in limited quantities at the U.S. Mint’s booth at the Whitman Expo in Baltimore, Maryland, and Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC) will be doing on-site grading of the coins that are eligible for both the only official Baseball Hall of Fame grading labels and a special opening day of release designation. And PCGS will also be doing on-site grading at the show.
I anticipate there will be long lines for these services, especially in light of what happened last year when the Buffalo reverse proof gold coins were sold at the Chicago ANA World’s Fair of Money in August, and both PCGS and NGC did on-site grading and had a special designation for coins purchased at the show. The Chicago ANA Buffalo reverse proofs continue to command a premium over the same coin without the special grading labels.
The Baltimore venue is ideal for selling the HBOF coins given the city’s history as a place with many baseball fans because it is the home of the Orioles. The Mint appears to have made a late decision to sell the coins at the show, and the only place I saw it announced so far was on the Mint’s Facebook after the Mint posted a news release on Monday, March 25.
The baseball coins include a clad half dollar with a maximum mintage of 750,000, silver dollars with a 400,000 max, and surprisingly, $5 gold coins with only a 50,000 max, which many people think is low for a coin that has such widespread appeal. I doubt either the proof or uncirculated versions of the half or dollar will sell-out, at least not until the end of the year, but the gold coins could be gone on the first day. $5 gold commemoratives typically have a maximum mintage of 100,000, which would have been more appropriate for the baseball coins. Based on current gold prices the coins should be priced at approximately $420 for the uncirculated examples, and $425 for the proofs.
The appeal of these coins comes from a combination of baseball’s popularity and the novelty of the first American curved-shaped coins, not to mention the compelling design of the coins, especially the concave obverse side with the image of the inside of a baseball glove that was designed by artist Cassie McFarland through the public competition the Mint held, which resulted in 170 submissions. The reverse side that shows a baseball was prepared by Mint artists and complements the other side beautifully.
The Mint was inspired to make dome-shaped coins by the French Mint’s 2009 astronomy coins that had a similar shape, but as explained in a new article in Wired, Mint officials felt the French coin was too two dimensional and wanted to make a coin with more pronounced relief. Producing the coin was a complex and challenging project that was spearheaded by Stephen Antonucci, the Mint’s manager of digital development at the Philadelphia Mint, who also headed the effort last year to use laser and computer technology to create coins with different degrees of frosting like the Five Star Generals proof dollar and $5 gold coin.
I think that high enthusiasm for these coins, which is likely to only grow once buyers have the coins in hand, will also be good for the future of numismatics because it will bring in new collectors. Some of the baseball fans who purchase the coins will probably become intrigued by other coins.
2014 ATB 5-ounce silver coins
The 2014 America the Beautiful five-ounce silver coins, which are issued in two versions, will begin to be released soon, starting with the Great Smoky Mountains national park coins.
Dealers have started taking pre-orders for the bullion coins with the first coins shipping approximately March 24-27, and the special vapor-blasted collector coins sold by the Mint have the following schedule:
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park - April 7, 2014
- Shenandoah National Park - May 15, 2014
- Arches National Park - June 12, 2014
- Great Sand Dunes National Park - August 2014
- Everglades National Park - November 2014
Collector and investor interest in these coins, which picked up substantially in the past two years, is likely to remain high for a couple reasons. First, silver has remained in the $20-22 range for some time, which is much lower than the price it traded at for most of the last three years when previous coins in this series were issued.
That makes silver investors more likely to buy the bullion coins, which are priced about the same as silver bar of the same weight, yet have limited mintages that are determined by sales of the coins. Mintages for the collector versions are set in advance by the Mint but are also ultimately determined by how many coins are actually sold. The Treasury Secretary signed off on the 2014 mintages a couple weeks ago, which paved the way for the coins to start being released. However, I am waiting to hear from the Mint regarding these mintages.
In addition, the bullion and collector versions are priced very close to each other now, especially if one buys the Mint version with a subscription that for the first time comes with a 10% discount. That is likely to result in higher sales of the numismatic version than in the past couple years, which would for the moment solidify the place of the 2012 coins as series keys.
Secondary market prices for the sold-out numismatic coins are very healthy, which encourages buyers to stick with the series and brings in new collectors.
Finally, most collectors feel the 2014 designs, which were revealed last year, are among the very best so far, which will likely also support sales of the coins this year and interest in the series as a whole.
The main long-term drag on the series is silver prices that will likely be much higher in the coming years, which will make the coins more expensive, and the high number of coins needed to complete the series. This will probably mean certain specific issues will command the highest premiums due to either low mintages or high demand for that particular design.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His insightful retrospective on the American Silver Eagle is the cover feature of the February 2014 issue of The Numismatist. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.