Long Beard's Blog

29 Aug 2020

Hidden Potential and Opportunity

Coins-United States | Long Beard

The subject of this weeks blog discusses the Annual Uncirculated Coin Set, commonly referred to as "mint set", and the little known sub-type within. As appeal for these sets diminish as evident by the sales figures, perhaps a reexamination is in order looking at some true hidden potential. Enjoy!

While collectors could acquire annual coin sets directly from the mint at Philadelphia as far back as the early 1800's, the offering of such as we now know them had not occurred until 1947. Following the introduction of 5,000 sets, sales slowly yet steadily rose over thecoming decadeonly to unexplainably explode inthe course of ayear. In 1959 sales had more than tripled that of the previous, from 50,314 to 187,000. For all intent and purposes the mint set boom was on. By 1964 the Mint reached the million mark, largely in part to a mournful public of the passing of John F. Kennedy and the inclusion of a half dollar bearing his likeness, selling 1,080,108 sets. From there, sales only climbed peaking at 2,908,145 in 1981 before dipping slightly to level at an average of 1.5 million per year. Had it not been for the now hugely successful 50 State Quarter program in 1999, the year 1997 may haveprolonged a trend with the first mintage below one million in overtwo decades. Oddly, 2004 also saw similar numbers of things to come as sales dropped beginning in 2006 reaching a paltry 217,686 by 2017. Arecorded figure not seen since the early 1960's. Despite the Mint's attempts to reverse the declineby an inclusion of the first ever West Point mint mark Lincoln Cent in 2019 followed by a Jefferson Nickelin 2020, theAnnual Uncirculated Coin Set's days of seeing one million may very well be gone. Despite 2019 being currently available for purchase, minus the West Point Cent it is highly unlikely.

Today, collector appeal for these sets have driven the costbelow issue price on many of thosefrom the mid-eighties and nineties. That cost is even lower to dealers, a large percentage of which decline to even buy as there is such little market for them. Yet where a majority see as much, and rightfully so especially when factoring in such large numbers available, there is still a hidden potential to be had. So how is there potentialamong a set with a mintage of over one million? United States Mint Souvenir Sets.

A somewhat obscure set which few collectors are aware of, Souvenir Sets were issued along side of the traditional annual sets and spanned thirty-six years.Unlike traditional mint sets, which included the cent through dollar, these contain only five coins with amuch larger mintmedallion (slightly larger than the half) replacing the dollar. They were available only at the Philadelphia and Denver mints from the gift shop and housed in a white or blueenvelope respectively with the mint and "Souvenir Sets" stamped on the lower right corner. The first set issued was the Denver only in 1972 with Philadelphia following suitin 1973and the final issues coming in 1998. Where the tremendous upside value lies is in the mintage figures. While actual numbers are vague at best with only partial records in the mint's annual reports available, all but a few appear to be in the thousands on average despite the typical same year set recorded in the millions. A prime example is 1972, thetypical set has a mintage of 2,750,000 while the souvenir set boasts a mere 300-400 based on market frequency and dealer estimates. Even the highest estimated, 1987, which seems to be around 50,000 compared to 2,890,758 is huge. Yet surprisingly these sets are not that expensive with many currently betweenten and thirty dollars each.

Some of the key sets to look for, aside from the 1972 Denver, include the 1973 to 1975 with figures around one-thousand each, the 1986 and those from 1993 onward which declined similar to the typical sets. Perhaps the most unusual set came in 1975 as the United States was about to celebrate it's bicentennial. Since 1975 and 1976 were to include coins honoring the occasion with a dual date quarter and half dollar, the souvenir sets include both dated 1974 where as the typical did not. The 1976 issue should also be on the list as it's mint medallions are a one year only design of bicentennial theme. Next on the list is the more known Souvenir Sets of 1982 and 1983. In an effort to cut costs the mintsuspeneded sales of the typical annual sets offered to collectors. As word spread,demand forthe 1983 increased. As a result, and despite figures in the tens of thousands, many of these sets have become the target of collectors seeking individual coins whereby sets are being cut apart. Both of these factors explain the cost of fifty dollars or more in the current marketplace. The final additions to single out are those of the latter years as some contain coins with proof-like surfaces unseen in typical sets. Naturally, expect to pay a premium on an already difficult to locate set.

So there you have it. Perhaps the time has come to rethink the less than popular mint set?


Long Beard

Level 5

While technically the coins from both types of sets are indistinguishable, original packaging tends to add value on the secondary market. Particularly to set collectors. Also, the medallions themselves have their own niche of collectors.

I used to buy souvenir sets when I lived in NJ and would visit the Philadelphia Mint every now and then. They weren't anything special back then, however, and I sold mine way before they rose in value. You have to remember they didn't have nice packaging like the regular mint sets did, and looked very throwaway.


Level 5

Great post Long Beard. Yes, I have 1 1983 set and 1 1982 Souvenir sets in my wish list at a couple of places where I have seen them on sale. I first learned about them while researching information for proof sets which I'm currently collecting. Thanks for the info and like Stumpy says, it explains A LOT!

Long Beard

Level 5

I learned that in 1987, mint sets were the only way to obtain Kennedy halves of that year.


Level 6

I never heard of these sets. Very cool. I may have to check them out. Interesting blog. You made a story full of figures interesting. Well Done!

I. R. Bama

Level 5

All very interesting. I must look into this. I haven't been buying American sets but I've been getting Canadian sets

Long Beard

Level 5

Strange that you mention Canadian sets. Been thinking of branching out into those recently myself.


Level 5

You answered some questions I've always had about these types of mint sets. Now it makes sense why the 1958 cost more than the 1959, etc. It also whetted my appetite for these types, many I didn't know existed! Thanks for the info. Later!

Doug S.

Level 4

Interesting story. Thanks for the info!! Regards Doug

I was lucky enough to find a '76 souvenir set at a garage sale, it's the only one I've seen so far.


Level 6

That Bicentennial Medal is pretty cool. I have got to find me one. Thanks for the great blog, LB.


Level 5

The souvenir sets just are packaged differently? If the souvenir sets have the same coins as mint sets then your just buying the packaging and low production, not necessarily a mintage of coins?


Level 5

The sets do have one difference. Mint sets have a penny size token. Souvenir sets have a larger token.


Level 7

I buy four sets a year. The proof. The proof silver and the Uncirirculaded set. These sets fill my books. That's why I use them. There packed very well. Some have sent a P mint set in and received high grades. The other sets are easy to get out of the lens. This the packaging is very good. Collector's with Dansco or other books depend on these sets. It keeps there books up to date. I thank you for the numbers and the figures. I check them every year. It's also a good way for the kids to collect.


Level 5

The set with the Mint Medals are actually souvenir sets, purchased at the mints.

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