Long Beard's Blog

29 Sep 2022

Hidden Gems

Coins-United States | Long Beard

The Commemorative market has been getting warmer over the past few years, rising predominantly in the classics the moderns are riding only. Certain themes and/or designs will always be sought after and their market values set upon this popularity no matter the market trend. Staying with the modern commemoratives (1982 to date), that very question was posed on another coin forum. Due to the growing market, this individual was looking to capitalize on the lowest mintage of the series and surprisingly themes based on popularity seemed to be the replies, only one being of low mintage. So this week's topic looks at one such overlooked candidate while at the same time comparing similarities between the classic and modern series. Enjoy!

Since the beginning of the Classic Era with the introduction of the 1892 World's Columbian Exposition commemorative issues grew in popularity with collectors, in fact many became the starting point into the hobby as themes appeared. Each meant to commemorate a particular event, by the 1920's coins honoring state, city, towns and landmarks anniversaries had burst into the market. At the market's height in 1936 there were commemorative issues celebrating everything from bridges to music centers with several different themes available year after year. Many designs, the Oregon Trail for instance, spanned multiple years (8 different years in this case). With a saturated market and bland themes/designs collectors were losing interest countless unsold coins were destined to the smelter. Being struck by a United States mint, it would not be long before Congress addressed the overabundance and clearly out of hand requests for commemoration in coin. Limits were now being considered on what would be accepted and their frequency, leaving many legitimate themes unrepresented as a direct result. The final commemorative of the Classic Era came in 1954, the Carver/Washington half dollar.

Fast forward to 1982 and this very scenario began to play out with some interesting tweaks. To avoid a repeat, or so they had thought, Congress set a two commemorative issue per year limit yet permitted the release of non-monetized medals. Certain years, such as those in which the Olympics occurred skirted this law by offering multiple designs due to falling under the theme as authorized. So by the middle of the 1990's collectors were once more tiring of the commemoratives being issued, many for the same reasons as with the classics. Poor theme and overall unappealing design. While there have been many worthy of honoring over the past 36 years, a far greater number continue to be released with little interest.

Understanding this not only leads us to the posed question, lowest mintage, but one which should be looked at more closely. The 1996 National Community Service. Excluding gold and the Olympic designs, with sales figures of 23,500 uncirculated and 101,543 proof from a maximum mintage of 500,000 ranks it at number two behind the 2000 Leif Ericson (nearly 80,000 sold in total). The obverse features a modified design of the 1905 Augustus Saint-Gaudens medal by Mint Engraver, Thomas D. Rogers and a wreath design reverse by Mint Engraver, William C. Cousins. Clearly, this design is far more appealing to a larger collector populace than the lower mintage Lief Ericson, yet it's sales figures represent how much theme and a saturated market affect collectability. However, looking closely and perhaps falling under a different theme or time, one could only wonder if the sales figures would have been different. From the author's view point, this design is reminiscent of the true classic United States coinage designs in that both obverse and reverse compliment each other flawlessly in timeless beauty.

This is the uncirculated version, and haze free which is tough to find. There is a slight touch of toning, viewable only at the correct angle as shown, which should one day exhibit that gorgeous patina only old silver could. Like in 100 years. My only complaint, the cheap plastic packaging! Unlike that of it's proof sister.



Level 6

Beautiful coin! I like the rim toning. Thanks for a great blog and information! ; )

It's Mokie

Level 6

One of my favorite modern designs is the Smithsonian Commemorative Dollar of 1996. It also has classic themes and, for the rarest of instances, an excellent depiction of a building. "The Smithsonian"

Long Beard

Level 5

That one's on my list. Of all the wonderful museums in our nation's capital the Smithsonian is my personal favorite, which I last visited in the spring of 2011. Looks like it's time for a long overdue visit again.

AC coin$

Level 6

An exquisite piece indeed. That depicyion of Lady Liberty is just awesome. High quality item. Congrats.


Level 6

Great job showing the toning. Not easy to do. I have a few modern commemoratives. but predominantly I'm a classics guy. Thanks. Tons of great info here.

Long Beard

Level 5

That toning was caused by the dreaded loose fitting capsule which now has a thin coat of silicone around the edge sealing it up good.


Level 7

I enjoyed your blog as always. Plenty of information and history. You mentioned the white haze. That was big on the blue and brown Eikes. Yes it was hard to find. But you did. Its a beautiful coin and what it stands for is terrific. Thanks and as always I will give it another look!


Level 4

Excellent coin! The perfect subject, with very interesting information & thoughts.

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