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March 2018

Timing the Market for High Grade Barber Dimes

     With the market trending down over the last four years, collectors have had more opportunities to purchase quality coins at discounted levels. But deciding which coins to collect can be as challenging as finding the right coins for a collection.

     Completing a set of Lincoln Cents may be as simple as deciding where to begin and end, besides the typical collecting choices of which grades to acquire and whether to add various errors and varieties. The Lincoln Cent was first minted in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The series went unchanged until 1959 when the wheat was removed from the reverse in favor of the Lincoln Memorial. Since then, the Mint is still producing Lincoln Cents, an ongoing project with only rumors of an end to the run. But no matter how a collector chooses to collect Lincoln Cents, by color, grade, date range or some other criteria, it is most likely an achievable task.

     Collecting earlier sets of coins, where there is a beginning and an end, may be a more satisfying completion for some collectors. The Barber series of Dimes, Quarters and Halves ran from 1892 through 1916, with one exception in Barber Halves, which ended a year earlier in 1915. These are highly popular coins and most are reasonably priced depending on the grade except for the 1894 S Dime, the 1896 S, 1901 S, & 1913 S Quarters, and possibly the 1904 S Half. A coin such as the 1894 S Barber Dime is extremely rare and nearly impossible to acquire because it is usually in strong collector hands or in a museum like the Smithsonian.

     FMV prices for the Barber Dime series in Very Fine through MS63 have remained fairly consistent over the years. Demand has been stable as much of the excess inventory, if there is any, is being absorbed by new collectors and dealers have not had to discount this series much if at all. In 2010, a complete set of Barber Dimes in AU50 had an FMV of $129,324 and most of that was the 1894 S listed at $112,500. Today the FMV is $135,855, an increase of $6,531. Along the same line the MS63 grade had an FMV of $712,668 in 2010 and today it is $796,855, which is an increase of $84,187. Yet the 1894 S is $737,500, if you can find one, roughly 92% of the entire set value. The rest of the set is valued at only $59,355.

1895 Barber Dime MS66+ PCGS

1895 Barber Dime MS66+ PCGS sold for $4,800 at the Heritage Auctions Long Beach Expo U.S. Coins Signature Auction in Long Beach, California, February 22-26, 2018

     But in the MS65 and MS66 grades, the set price comparisons show some dramatic results. Removing the 1894 S from the equation, the FMV has actually retreated for both of these graded sets. In MS65, the FMV for the set without the 1894 S in 2010 was $188,480, and today the same coins have an FMV of $175,630, down nearly 10%. In MS66, also without the 1894 S, the FMV is down 15%, from $391,430 in 2010 to the current FMV of $334,710. The charts below list some of the better date MS65 and MS66 coins that have fallen along with the current population for the grade.

Barber Dime - MS652010 FMVCurrent FMVPop in Grade
1893 O$2,590$2,16025
1893 S$3,970$2,69033
1894 O$14,690$12,8106
1895 S$6,700$5,00013
1900 O$5,340$4,22022
1903 S$3,320$2,6708
Barber Dime - MS662010 FMVCurrent FMVPop in Grade
1892 S$25,350$11,9006
1896 S$6,960$5,53013
1897 O$7,770$6,18013
1897 S$8,390$6,5307
1898 S$10,240$5,9506
1900 O$9,230$5,53010
1909 D$6,370$5,01016
1914 S$3,150$2,24029

     When rare dates are showing an increase in population for the grade, and if demand does not increase simultaneously, value will tend to decline. The 1893 S in MS65 fell over 30%; with a total of 33 coins in MS65 and 10 more in higher grades, buyers became cautious at previous levels which led to the drop in value.

     In contrast, the 1894 O in MS65 fell about 12% with just 6 coins certified in the grade. In the lower grade of MS64, there are a total of 16 coins which includes one + coin and there are only 13 more coins in the grades above MS65. The drop in value for the 1894 O was likely a result of the softer market rather than an excess of coins for the grade.

     The dramatic drop for the 1892 S in MS66 from $25,350 to the current FMV of $11,900 is another example of an increased number of coins certified influencing the value. The previous population for this coin and grade doubled from just 3 coins certified to 6. It may seem like the 1892 S should have held on to more of its value with still so few certified in the grade but it could be that it was overvalued at the then current market.

     The 1895 in MS66 fell over 40% in the last eight years down to the current FMV of $5,910. While there are 14 coins certified in this grade, this substantial decline seems appropriate due to the 43 coins certified in higher grades. The 1909 D and the 1914 S have similar characteristics with a high population and a significant number reported certified in higher grades.

     The 1897 S and 1898 S may be strong candidates for future potential and acquisition. Their FMV prices have dropped significantly but the population is under ten for both coins in this grade, and the number of coins certified higher is only 3 for the 1897 S and 5 for the 1898 S.

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