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NumisMedia Monthly


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of United States Rare Coins

July 2015

Are Gold Commemoratives the Forgotten Rarities?

     In this day and age when new collectors are being bombarded with all the new Commemoratives that the U.S. Mint has to offer, we take a look back at some truly rare Commemoratives, to bring a different perspective to collecting for today’s numismatists.

     U.S. Gold Commemoratives were first minted in 1903 to commemorate special events in our nation’s history. Proceeds from the sale of these Gold Commemoratives were used for various historical monuments, buildings and other projects. Mintages were limited for most of these Commemoratives, from 5,000 to 17,500, although the last one produced was the 1926 $2 ½ Gold Sesquicentennial which boasted the highest mintage at 46,019. The two $50 Gold Pan-Pac coins were very limited with just 483 for the Round and 645 for the Octagonal.

     While today’s Modern Gold Commemoratives are all virtually perfect when they leave the mint, the same cannot be said for Classic Gold Commems, which did not have the luxury of today’s minting technology, limiting the number of quality coins available in the marketplace. However, the number of collectors for this series has been clearly in decline in recent years. Not too long ago these coins were in very strong demand with many dealers across the country maintaining substantial inventories; now, not so much.

     We have listed below the FMV of the 11 piece set of Gold Commemoratives from 2002 compared to its value today; we have left out the two $50 Pan-Pac coins because they have definitely separated themselves from the other eleven as demand for them has been and continues to be very strong.

11 Coin SetNovember 2002 FMVCurrent FMVDecrease

     We do not have a comparison for the set of MS67 graded coins because there was inadequate information for some of the dates back in 2002, although, the comparisons would be just as dramatic. For example, the 1916 and 1917 McKinley $1 Gold coins in MS67 were listed at an FMV of $14,300 and $18,200, respectively; today they are $3,280 and $4,530. Together these two coins have dropped a total of $24,690.

     However, the 1916 McKinley in MS67 has a total population of 163 with only a single NGC coin certified higher in MS68. The 1917 McKinley has only 119 certified in MS67 with none higher. Most of the early Gold Commems have very low populations compared to the Modern $5 & $10 Gold Commems, many of which have several thousand certified in MS70 and PR70.

     It would seem that the dramatic downturn in the FMV for the 11 coin set over the last thirteen years would lead most collectors to believe that now is the time to start accumulating these coins. In this current market, buyers are being very selective and want premium quality coins, or even CAC approved coins, for their money. The chart below compares the prices of the 11 Gold Commemoratives in MS65. Listed is the original mintage and population for each coin along with the FMV in 2002 compared to today’s value.

MS65 Gold
2002 FMV
1903 LA Pur/Jeff $117,5001,191$3,060$1,590
1903 LA Pur/McKin$117,500971$3,000$1,470
1904 L & C Expo $110,025487$9,720$5,030
1905 L & C Expo $110,041377$19,060$9,060
1915S Pan Pac $115,0001,971$3,160$1,410
1915S Pan Pac $2 ½6,7491,084$6,220$6,780
1916 McKinley $115,0001,456$2,970$1,410
1917 McKinley $15,000877$3,750$1,780
1922 Grant $15,000726$4,060$2,560
1922 Grant W/Star $15,016863$4,130$2,630
1926 Sesqui $2 ½46,0193,043$4,030$2,340

     The total mintage of these 11 coins is just 152,850; many have survived because they were specifically produced for collectors. However, the majority of these coins grade below MS65 as this is the cutoff point where the number of coins certified begins to dwindle as the quality increases. As you can see in the chart above, the FMV has dropped considerably over the last 13 years with the exception of the 1915 S Pan Pac $2 ½ Gold, which shows an increase of $560 despite the fact that there are 1,084 coins certified by PCGS and NGC. Of the remaining ten coins, all seem to have fallen sufficiently enough to perhaps entice collectors into this market once again.

     As for the two $50 Gold Pan-Pac coins, they have taken an opposite route over this same timeframe. The $50 Round has increased from $111,880 in MS65 to $173,130 and from $126,500 to $223,130 in MS66. Of course, the number of coins certified is very limited with just 69 in MS65 and only 21 in MS66. There are only four in MS67, all by NGC.

     The $50 Octagonal has also increased; the MS65 moving from $102,600 up to $181,250, while the MS66 advanced from $125,000 to $225,000. The populations for the Octagonal are slightly smaller with 68 in MS65 and just 13 in MS66. Again, there are just four higher in NGC MS67. It also helps that the size of these coins is extraordinary and the demand has been more than enough to attract additional buyers as the prices have increased.

     Whether the 11 piece set actually comes back in popularity to the point that they run back to previous highs is the question. But if Gold Commemoratives do gain some momentum, there are sure to be a few dealers participating, remembering the good ole days, helping this market prevail once again.

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