Rarity Doesn't Always Mean Value
We have all heard someone say something like this: "If a 1943 copper cent is so valuable, my 1940 copper must be worth more because it is older." Or, "My 2-cent coin must be rare, because it is the only one I have seen." There is a widespread belief that older, rarer coins are worth more. We know this is not always true, but it is not easy to explain this to non-collectors, and we sometimes forget it ourselves.
Collector demand ultimately sets a coin's value, and it can change frequently. From year to year, market demand might switch from gold to Morgan dollars or type coins. Prices fluctuate with demand and sometimes seem volatile and difficult to understand.
Collectors tend to have a "herd instinct," moving often from one area of interest to another. When a fresh area of numismatics is heavily promoted, it is not unusual for hundreds of collectors to quickly turn to those coins. In doing so, prices for that material usually go up, while prices for other series that have been left behind may go down. Demand has changed, but not rarity.
There is a danger for collectors who may not realize that dealers, promoters, and yes, even the governmentUs mint programs can and often do influence trends and prices. A good case in point is the current fascination with super-high-quality coins. Are they truly rare? Probably so, but "grade rarity" is a made-up factor that exists only for those who deal in such coins. It is difficult for others to understand how a modern MS-68 coin can be worth 100 times more than an MS-67 piece, a fine distinction probably recognizable only by a grading expert.
One of the weirdest offerings I have seen lately is for what the promoters term a "Genuine 'Atocha' Silver Piece-of-Eight Pendant." The ad caught my attention because I am a fan ofAtocha material and would not mind buying a few of those recovered silver coins at $79.95. I remember when they were priced at $200 to $300 each, so I had to read this ad carefully.
The description is so silly, I must repeat it verbatim:
|Own a piece of sunken treasure! This outstanding design
created from the actual silver bars salvaged from the 1622 wreck of
the Spanish galleon Atocha. Silver is melted and poured into
casts of the original pieces of eight. The coin is skillfully mounted
in 24K goldplating over sterling silver to show all the beauty of the
coin. Quantities are limited. Each piece is numbered and includes a
Certificate of Authenticity.
The illustration appears to show a gold doubloon rather than a piece of eight, and its stated size of less than an inch would confirm this. Perhaps that is why this reproduction is gold-plated, when the Atocha treasure was mainly silver.
There is no explanation of how these pieces can be sterling silver (.925 fine), when the bars recovered from the shipwreck were of a different fineness. I am equally mystified by the description that says they are "mounted in 24K goldplating." I would like to know how, or why, these reproductions are numbered.
The kicker in the promotion, however, has to be the "Certificate of Authenticity." I cannot imagine much about these so-called coins is authentic.
"You are going to love this Moneyless Wealth Building Club." At least that is what the E-mail message told me. I must admit, I was anxious to get rich overnight and had to carefully read the two pages of instructions I received. It looked like a variation of the old pyramid scheme, and while the promoters admitted that early on, they also said it was not a "Ponzi" operation because no money was to be transferred and no products were being sold.
Members of the club deal in 1-ounce silver rounds rather than money. By being a member, you build your wealth by sending and receiving hundreds of silver rounds in a pyramid system. Send them to 10 people, add your name to the list, and you can expect an unlimited number of pieces by return mail. The amount of wealth you may obtain could be astronomical. All they ask is that you do not cheat (because God will be watching), and you can send as many rounds as you want to those ahead of you on the list.
You can buy U.S. proof sets from 1956 to 1998 for only $600, according to a recent ad. If you want sets from the past 25 years, they will cost only $379. As you might expect, supplies are limited, so you must phone in your order before they are all gone. The sets, they claim, are at historically low prices.
Ads like this have been around for the past few years. I have mentioned them before and expressed my opinion that these promotions should be a wake-up call for collectors who have been ignoring modern U.S. proof sets. They are cheap by any standard and have been passed by far too long. However, the sets featured in this ad are no bargain; you usually can buy them for a lot less in any dealerUs store. If you intend to look for some proof sets, act fast because recent promotions have taken so many off the market, they actually are becoming scarce and prices are heading upward.
"Mint Sets of the World" were offered in a recent mailing. Many different countries were represented, and all the coins were attractively packaged by their respective mints. It looked like a great way to collect current issues from around the world in mint condition.
Some of the sets were packaged a little more elaborately than others, but all were nicely presented. There seems to be a growing trend among world mints to make their coins and related products as attractive as possible to the collector market. There also is continuity in the offerings, allowing the serious collector to add new issues to the sets every year.
The prices of these sets may seem a bit high to someone who is used to searching for world coins in dealers' junk boxes or among pieces brought home by business travelers or vacationers, but that is a chancy way to form a decent collection. Knowing that you have purchased all the coins in a series, that they come directly from the mint and that they are all in pristine condition surely is worth the small premium. Also, you will not have to spend a great deal of time searching for individual items because these sets are complete. Most of the current sets in this offering are priced from $18.50 to $40, in line with U.S. commemoratives, mint sets and proof sets.