by Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………
This spring is shaping up as a busy period for the U.S. Mint and an exciting, albeit expensive one for collectors of modern U.S. coins because so many coins are being released in rapid succession.
On the heels of the release of the regular and silver proof sets, new presidential and Native American dollars, and other popular products, the Mint is about to release one of the most anticipated sets of the year, the two-coin 75th anniversary of the West Point Mint Silver Eagle set.
In addition, the Mint recently repriced some of its silver coins after the decline in spot silver prices such as the proof Silver Eagle, five-ounce silver coins, and the uncirculated dollar set, which sold out the day after it was repriced. The 2012-W burnished Silver Eagle is now officially sold out from the Mint, and it is the lowest mintage coin in the burnished uncirculated series with a final mintage that will be close to the mintage of the 2006 reverse proof coin, which sold a little under 250,000. I expect its value to increase.
The West Point Silver Eagle set is the fourth special Silver Eagle set to be released by the Mint after the 2006 20th anniversary, 2011 25th anniversary, and 2012 San Francisco anniversary sets. Each of those sets included one or more coins that were unique to that set, usually a reverse proof coin.
This year’s sets will include two coins that will be unique to the set, and will also include a first for the series, an enhanced uncirculated coin that uses the Mint’s new laser frosting techniques to create a coin with multiple finishes .
After the fuss last year that ensued after the Mint also released the San Francisco proof coin from the 2012 set in the Making American History coin and currency set, the Mint made clear that the coins in the new set will definitely be unique to the set.
In addition, they will be sold to demand for four weeks beginning on Thursday, May 9, and the number of sets sold will be indicated once a day, presumably with a sales counter like last year. It will be priced at $140 after initially being listed at $150 before the major drop in silver prices.
Modern equivalent of Morgan dollar
Contacted for this article, numismatic analyst Eric Jordan, author of the acclaimed book, Modern Commemorative Coins (Krause, 2010) and co-author with John Maben of Top 50 Modern Coins (Krause, 2012), said: “Special issue Silver Eagle Dollars with mintages in the 99,981 to 250,000 range are very collectable. I you don’t believe it go try to buy a relatively common 1994 proof Silver Eagle with a mintage of 372,000 for $65.”
“The new 2013 Special Issue West Point two coin Silver Eagle set is only available for four weeks, and it’s important that those of us who recognize the fundamentals of this massive series pickup offerings like this as they come to market along with low mintage mint state issues on a consistent basis.”
Mr. Jordan sees the reverse proof and other special Silver Eagles as a subset of the Silver Eagle set that has great potential, particularly because “the Mint has been producing reverse proof Silver Eagles on a consistent basis for the last few years, and it looks like they will continue to do so. This short good looking and relatively low mintage reverse proof subset is picking up a strong collector following.”
Moreover, he believes the entire Silver Eagle series will continue to have great potential as a collectible coin series in large part because it is the modern equivalent of the Morgan silver dollar, a coin with a large population that “acts as a constant silent advertisement for the series,” high silver content, surface finish variations, affordable, easily obtainable high-quality examples, and “a heavily staggered mintage chart with high population common dates and low population siblings.”
Mr. Jordan sees what he calls “series maturity” as an important factor helping to drive interest in coins like Silver Eagles that have clearly reached that status.
Mr. Jordan also points out that within the next year the total population of silver eagles is expected to surpass that of the “mighty Morgan dollar,” and if silver eagles continue to sell 30-40 million coins a year, within seven years there will be more Silver Eagles in existence than the combined population all prior silver dollars of all kinds minted between 1794-1935 after factoring in the Pittman Act melts.
In fact, he even believes that the series is “getting so large so fast that it could serve as an alternative hard currency if called on to do so at some point.” The coins are legal tender and their silver content is backed by the government, and they are the type of coins which will likely be used by states that are currently seeking to use precious metal coins as currency.
Finally, collectors who have grown tired of the current Silver Eagle design will be interested to know that the Citizens Coinage Advisory Commission has recommended that the design be changed.
In my recent interview with Gary Marks, Chairman of the CCAC, he noted that the commission has in recent years recommended that the coin be redesigned “in line with the requirements of the original 1986 enacting legislation.” The law simply calls for an obverse with a Liberty design and a reverse with an American Eagle. So the CCAC recommended modern designs that meet those requirements. However, so far this proposal has not been implemented.
The upcoming 30th anniversary of the series in 2016 would seem to provide an excellent opportunity to either change the coin’s design, or to issue special anniversary coins with a new design.
Changes to surface finish have added to the collectability of the series, as Mr. Jordan explained, but that approach can only go so far and should not be overdone. Eventually collectors will want a more radical change, although today there are many who prefer to keep the design as it is.
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.