by Louis Golino for CoinWeek
I believe the following 2011 U.S. Mint coins offer the solid long-term potential for price appreciation based on supply and demand factors and secondary market trends of modern issues.
Higher future precious metal prices will provide additional value appreciation for these coins.
The commemorative issues were removed from sale two weeks ago, and already several have emerged as new modern commemorative coin keys. These include the Army half dollar in uncirculated and proof, which are new keys, and the proof $5 gold Army and Medal of Honor coins, which are the first and second lowest mintage in their series. The uncirculated $5 gold coins are the third and fourth lowest mintage coins in their series.
Some of these coins are already seeing substantial price appreciation. The uncirculated half dollar that was available for a little over $20 last month is now bringing $150 and more for MS69 examples.
Keep in mind that the track record for modern Mint coins is mixed. A lot of coins, especially commemorative issues, are cheaper now than they were when released, if one accounts for the change in metal prices.
In fact, much of the price appreciation for modern Mint issues has come solely from increased precious metal values. But there are some lower mintage coins, which carry a premium that substantially exceeds metal value. The trick is identifying those coins well before they reach their value potential.
In 2011 collectors of modern U.S. Mint products were given a wider array of product offerings, especially of precious metal coins, than in any other year, as far as I know. Coin World estimated that it would cost about $25,000 to purchase one of each of last year’s releases. This made it harder for collectors to decide which coins to purchase.
At the same time, for most of the year, silver and gold prices were high, which made many precious metal-based coins that are offered every year more expensive than they were in any previous year. This made it harder to afford last year’s coins and forced most collectors to be more selective, or to skip certain releases.
As a result, sales of some 2011 coins have lagged substantially behind those of previous years when coins were cheaper and not as many different items were available in one year.
This has opened up the possibility of some low mintage coins which can become modern keys.
2008 and 2011
Today’s collectors are better informed than earlier collectors. But some coins still slip under the radar. The 2011 Mint program had the most such coins since 2008.
In 2008, like last year, the Mint issued a lot of different coins and sets, and many of those have since become key coins, including the six fractional burnished and proof American Gold Eagles (except the $25 burnished where the 2007 coin in king); six fractional burnished and proof American Platinum Eagles; and the six fractional burnished and proof Buffalo gold coins. For more see this earlier article: http://www.coinweek.com/news/featured-news/the-coin-analyst-focusing-on-modern-key-coins/
Those 18 fractional coins make a nice set. Because the Mint does not plan to issue any more factional precious metal coins, these coins are likely to remain the keys in their series and should be good long-term bets.
The 2011 coins listed below are those which are still available at issue price which current sales trends suggest are the most likely to become keys, or second lowest mintage coins, in their respective series.
Chickasaw America the Beautiful bullion coin
This coin in bullion form is not sold directly by the Mint but is released through the Mint’s network of authorized purchasers like other bullion products. I think this one slipped under the radar for many collectors, perhaps because it does not appear to be widely known that as of early December, fewer than 25,000 of these coins were purchased by Authorized Purchasers. The AP’s can continue selling the coins this year, but the Mint can not strike any more coins, or sell any more to the AP’s.
This means that the Chickasaw bullion ATB will have the lowest mintage of any bullion or numismatic release in this series, even though it can still be purchased at the same or lower premium than a bullion American Silver Eagle, of which the Mint sold more than 40 million last year.
Given decreasing interest in this series, it is possible a future coin will have a lower mintage, or even that either the bullion or numismatic series could be discontinued. But at a bullion price and with silver at bargain levels under $30, I see little risk in picking up one or more of these and seeing what happens. If nothing else, future silver prices are almost certain to be higher.
The numismatic version of this coin, with a special vapor-blasted, satiny finish, will be released on February 9, and Vicksburg Mint release is slated for January 12. The Mint recently lowered the price of these coins to $205.
One ounce burnished American Gold Eagle
It is hard to say at this point whether the Mint will continue offering this coin in the future, and what future mintage levels will be, especially if rising gold prices force more collectors to skip this issue in future years. It is also hard to say what the final mintage levels will be for the 2011 coin.
But based on current data, this coin has excellent potential if it remains under 10,000. The latest sales figure is 8,495, and I suspect the majority of people interested in it already purchased the coin. In addition, lower gold prices make the current price attractive.
So far the lowest mintage once ounce coin is the 2008 issue with 11,908, and the lowest of any burnished denomination is the 2008 quarter ounce, with 8,883 units sold. The 2011 ounce coin
is likely to come in as the key to the ounce burnished series, and the second lowest of all burnished gold eagles.
Buffalo proof gold
The 2008 Buffalo gold coin in uncirculated and proof condition are the keys to the series and are the only coins that so far carry a substantial premium. Sales levels for the proof coin have declined substantially in recent years, perhaps because rising gold prices made the coins too expensive for many people.
So far the Mint has sold 22,805 of these coins, which is a lot less than any other year except the 2008 coin, which is the key with 18,863. While the 2008 releases seem likely to remain the keys, the 2011 coin has good future potential. The second lowest proof ounce is the 2010 coin, which sold 49,236. The final 2011 figures should be at least 20,000 less than the 2010 coin.
The Mint is still selling these coins, but it could discontinue sales at any time. There is no authorized maximum mintage, and we have no idea how many of these coins have already been made. Sales levels for last year’s coin have tapered off in recent months, which is not surprising since that coincides with the period when gold hit new all-time highs. With current gold prices in the $1600 range, these coins are price attractively at $1860.
Check soon for my recommendations for 2011-12 world coins.
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 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.