by Louis Golino for CoinWeek

Late last year the 25th anniversary American silver eagle sets that were released at the end of November dominated the modern U.S. coin market.

There was literally a frenzy of interest in these sets. Thousands of opened, unopened, and graded sets traded on e-Bay and elsewhere, and for a while prices were rising almost daily, as is the usual pattern following the sell-out of a hot Mint item.

Interest in the sets remains high, and many were bought and sold at the recent FUN show held in early January in Florida, but the frenzy seems to have cooled a little bit, as collectors turn to other issues and prices begin to stabilize.

Price performance

Graded sets, especially those with a perfect MS/PF-70 grade for each of the five coins in the set, have been eagerly sought by collectors. But as I suggested would happen last fall, prices for 70 sets have fallen dramatically from what they were bringing when the sets were first released.

ase rev proof thumb The Coin Analyst: Market Analysis and Latest Developments on 25th Anniversary Silver Eagle SetsRaw sets have been bringing approximately $750, but many retail coin dealers charge $850-$1,000. I have noticed that many sell out quickly of their stock of sets.

Sets graded MS/PF-69 are now trading at the same levels, or just above, what raw sets bring. Not long ago they sold for a premium of a couple hundred dollars over a raw set.

Prices for 70 sets vary quite a bit. NGC sets sell for $1100-1300 on e-Bay, while PCGS sets are bringing $1400-1500 typically.

With all the sets being graded it will be interesting to see how many fresh, original raw sets remain in several years.

Prices for the 2006 20th anniversary sets recently saw a nice bump. I suspect this is because newer collectors who bought the 25th anniversary sets found out about the earlier sets and decided to get them too.

With more buyers and the same supply of sets (250,000 total but with no estimates of how many raw sets remain), prices went higher. Raw sets are now fetching close to $500, whereas before the release of the 25th anniversary sets they could be had for $400 or less.

I predict that unopened 25th anniversary sets, which are eligible for submission to the grading services, will be remain a hot commodity, and prices for them may eventually reach almost the same level as 70 sets. An unopened box of five sets recently sold for $4600, or $920 per set.

The Mint and grading companies

Meanwhile, tempers remain flared among many collectors, especially towards the Mint, but also to a lesser degree towards the leading third party grading companies, especially because of their requirement to ship the entire unopened box and then pay a special fee to have it returned.

Because so many sets are getting 70 designations values for 70 sets and singles have dropped significantly from initial levels.

On the other hand, since we can not check the quality of unopened sets prior to submission to the grading companies, it is a real gamble to submit them in hopes of getting the top grade. If one receives 69′s or less, it is hardly worth the considerable expense and trouble of sending them in.

Another important point is that the percentage of sets that have been graded 70 by NGC vastly exceeds those graded 70 by PCGS even though retail prices are not always different for the two.* For example, at Modern Coin Mart (http://www.moderncoinmart.com) the NGC and PCGS sets both sell for $1450. Eventually, prices for PCGS 70 sets should be much higher than NGC sets.

The U.S. Mint continues to be the subject of almost constant criticism from collectors who were unable to order a set from the Mint, or who did, but who feel the Mint botched the release of these sets.

There is a broad consensus that a household limit of five was too high for a set that appealed to so many collectors. Views are more diverse on whether more sets should have been made. But I think we should also give the Mint credit for producing a beautiful set that should perform well in the coming years.

2012-S

A major development that emerged from the recently released U.S. Mint Annual Report for 2011 is that the Mint is considering releasing another San Francisco burnished coin, a 2012-S eagle. The report says the Mint officials look forward to expanding the burnished eagle “S” series this year.

Some collectors were upset by this news because it means only one coin, the 2011 reverse proof, is now unique to this set. Moreover, if there are more “S” mint coins, and since there was a reverse proof in 2006, no coin in the set would be totally unique.

But first of all, it is not a done deal that the Mint will issue more “S”mint eagles. And second, what really matters is the mintage levels rather than the uniqueness of coins, at least in my view.

Since the mintage of the 2011-S remains at 100K it will still be the lowest mintage non-proof silver eagle issued. Unless the Mint issues something later with a lower mintage, this coin will remain a major key.

I would recommend holding on to any sets you own for the long haul if you can, and don’t worry if they start an S mint series. If there is a 2012-S, it will undoubtedly sell several hundred thousand. Besides, who knows what they will do for the 30th anniversary, though I doubt it will have a mintage lower than 100K after all the flack about the 25th anniversary sets.

One key factor that should help support higher prices for the 25th anniversary sets is the fact that so few people own the entire mintage. The Mint has indicated that the average order was for 3.7 sets. Factors in the dealers and e-Bay entrepreneurs who managed to get far more than 3.7 sets, and this means that something like 20,000, or more likely even fewer people, own all 100,000 sets.

A significant number of them appear to be owned by collectors who plan to hold on to their sets for the long haul, even if they bought multiples, and an ever-expanding number of silver eagle collectors, should mean higher price levels in the coming years.

Finally, there is the issue of possible new varieties and error coins from this set, which I will address in a separate article soon.

*To illustrate the point I examined the population information on the PCGS and NGC web sites for two of the coins in the 25th anniversary sets. At NGC 72% of the 2011-W coins received MS-70, whereas at PCGS only 54% were given the top grade. For the 2011 bullion coin, the NGC number was 70%, and the PCGS figure was 52%. The figures vary from coin to coin in the set, but the pattern is there. It is clear that PCGS gave out the top grade much less often than NGC.

golino portrait thumb The Coin Analyst: Market Analysis and Latest Developments on 25th Anniversary Silver Eagle SetsLouis 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 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.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Clair Hardesty says:

    I would like to make a few points, the first of which is a clear rant on my part and should be taken with as much salt as required to suit your tastes.

    I do wish we would stop referring to the “uncirculated” coins as “burnished”. The blanks used to produce them are burnished but that treatment does not reach the final coin in any way. The die are sandblasted and either that word or “satin” would be a much more accurate description. Part of the problem is that the mint chose to reuse a term (uncirculated) that already had a well established meaning unrelated to it’s new use to mean a coin never intended to circulate. The “uncirculated” coins, as now produced at the mint, are just one strike short of being full satin proofs, using the traditional meaning of proof. It seems that new blood at the mint, business men and women, not numismatists, have lost track of the fact that proof is a production technique not a look. Proofs can be cameo, brilliant, satin, or contain many surface types (the 9/11 medal has at least four surface textures). OK, rant done.

    I opened one of my 25th sets as a Christmas present but intend to keep my other four sets in their unopened mint boxes (I managed to order five individual sets, the last one at 2:10PM EST) for as long as possible. I may never sell them, but I thought from the start that the extra $20 I spent on shipping would be money well spent, giving me maximum flexibility in the future. I do not plan on having any of my coins graded. I don’t like slabbed coins in my personal collection and firmly believe that grades assigned in a matter of seconds are never going to be as accurate as ones that rely on slow, careful examination of a coin, no matter what level of expertise one claims to have. I don’t buy coins based on the grade assigned by TPGs and will only pay what I feel an individual coin is worth, using a scale with far more granularity that the TPGs use, even with all of the pluses, stars, and stickers. Especially with modern coins and their 70 grades, it is important to remember that one TPGs 70 is not inherently better than another’s. Just because the range of coins granted 70 by a TPG is greater than that of another does not mean that both vendors have not slabbed truly perfect samples. Pay for the coin, not the slab is especially important here, given three identical coins, perfect in your mind but priced very differently because of the name on the slab, I would buy the cheapest one (I will probably free it from its cage anyway). It would often be far less expensive to find and buy a truly perfect coin in an ANACS slab and then pay PCGS to reslab it than to buy such a coin already in a PCGS slab, simply because of people’s notion that somehow all PCGS 70s are better than all ANACS ones.

    I don’t think the mint did anything wrong with the sale of the 25th sets. Based on the 20th anniversary performance, the 100,000 set offering at five sets per household was actually a fairly conservative approach. I think it is wrong to blame the mint for not accurately predicting the level of interest in these sets on the part of people who have essentially no interest in coins at all but were just looking for a way to make a fast buck. It was, in fact, the poor performance of the mint’s ordering system that prevented programmed buyers from shutting out individual collectors altogether.

    My biggest fear is that once the mint puts their new system on line (later this year?) that programmed buying will shut out individual collectors entirely for limited edition offerings. Unless the mint puts in some sort of system to prevent programmed buying, large dealers and others will be able to buy out an offering like the 25th anniversary set in a matter of seconds, even with a household limit of one. There needs to be a gate that assures that a real physical human being is doing the ordering and perhaps some way to prevent proxy buying as well, ensuring that no one person buys more that the allotted amount, even if they are using multiple names, addresses, and CCs.

    Of course, the mint could prevent any of those issues by eliminating mintage limits altogether. Simply stating that any coin or set would be struck to demand should end frenzy buying and speculating. Of course such a tack would also virtually put an end to any coin or set ever being worth a premium based on supply and demand. Only those items that were unwanted when struck but later, after production stopped, gained popularity would rise above the field in value. I am not particularly fond of this approach.

  2. Louis Golino says:

    Clair, Thanks for taking the time to send such a detailed comment. I would just add two points. First, I agree with a lot of what you wrote, but I was describing how the market perceives these issues and how these coins are valued in today’s market, not my personal view. Second, as far as sending an ANACS 70 to PCGS for re-slabbing, you can’t cross a coin at 70. And whether it is justified or not, an ANACS 70 modern coin does not bring the premium that PCGS 70 coins do. Again, that is the market. If you check out some of my earlier articles, you will see that I have made variations of many of the points you made. Thanks again for your contribution to the debate. Your perspective is always interesting and useful.

  3. Great Article Louis,

    I’ve had a great time participating in this set not as a personal collector and as an investment. I was able to do a little eBay selling myself for a nice gain. Your updates have Been the most insightful all the way from per-release to date. I’ve actually been thinking about purchasing some of the sealed boxes with my self directed Ira account. The IRS says that silver eagles (proof and uncirculated) are acceptable for a retirement account. I work for a self directed Ira provider as an educator so I can validate the concept is legitimate. First State Depository in Wilmington Deleware will even hold the unopened boxes in a segregated account for safekeeping. If these coin sets continue to rise in value, I think there is some good tax-advantaged opportunities to be had. If anyone is interested,I’m happy to provide information. You can call me at 303-546-7930, x103.

    Thanks Louis

  4. Louis Golino says:

    Thanks very much, Loren. Interesting that even the collectible eagles can go in IRA’s. Does that include individual burnished (W) eagles too? I know bullion and proof are okay, but not sure about other versions like reverse proof, etc. If so, and if word gets out, this should boost sales of the anniversary sets, as it has for proof eagles.

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