Silver Coins

Ample Mintages But Scarce Varieties

January 15th, 2013  |  Published in Silver Coins

The Capped Bust style obverse design was introduced for the half dollar denomination in 1807. The design featured a rendition of Liberty wearing a cap secured at the base with a ribbon which is inscribed “Liberty” and tresses falling to her shoulder. Her lower neck area is partially draped with a gown, secured by a broach at the shoulder. A pattern of seven and six stars appear to either side. The reverse features a heraldic style eagle with inscriptions surrounding.

Mintages were relatively high since the half dollar represented the largest silver denomination produced at the time, creating ample demand for production. Collectors generally seek to specialize by pursuing die varieties of the series. Since the stars and inscriptions were all applied by hand, multiple varieties exist for each date, many of these are rare and can command significant premiums.

Some of the more famous varieties include over dates whereby older dies were punched with new digits to reflect a different year. The underlying numbers are still visible and serve to identify the varieties. The 1817/4 over date can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars for the few pieces that have been identified and preserved by collectors.

The steam power press was introduced starting in 1836, which resulted in a half dollar of smaller diameter, which was also slightly redesigned. Staring in this era of mass production, varieties became transitional in nature, such as when the edge was changed from lettered to reeded and for the final date of the series when a different reverse design was utilized on a small number of coins.

A Popular Coin Collecting Meme

August 28th, 2012  |  Published in Silver Coins

Many collections have been formed by those drawn to the annual set offerings of the United States Mint. Traditionally, this has included one collection of uncirculated coins and another containing proof coins. These standardized products had been created after early years of sporadic production and varying formats offered prior.

The uncirculated coin set consisted of one (or two) examples of each coin struck for circulation during the year. Initially, these came packaged in cardboard holders and were priced at a modest premium to the actual face value. These coins were simply pulled from regular production runs at the mint facilities and put together as a complete set. Over time, the product would slightly evolve, with the number of coins reduced to a single example from each mint, and packaging changed to a soft plastic enclosure.

Proof coinage is produced under different circumstances from regular circulating coins, and as such there has always been demand and fascination for these pieces from collectors. Initially, the coins were struck and offered individually on a one-off basis to collectors. In later years, it also became possible to order a complete set containing one of each denomination. Starting in 1950, the proof coins could essentially only be ordered within these complete sets.

As the popularity of coin collecting grew, so did orders for the annual sets. Speculation may have also played a part, as some of the earliest sets began to rise in value due to the low mintages and higher demand. This culminated in 1964, when nearly 4 million sets were produced.

After a pause in production, the offering of these collector sets resumed in standardized format in 1968, and has continued ever since. There was only one brief interruption when federal budget concerns caused the elimination of the uncirculated sets in 1982 and 1983.

Besides providing an enjoyable pursuit and possible appreciation in value, collections of this sort also provide a wonderful glimpse of history.

An Unexpectedly Tumultuous Beginning

February 15th, 2011  |  Published in Silver Coins

When the authorizing legislation for the America the Beautiful Quarters Program was signed into law, many collectors were undecided about the prospects for the over-sized silver bullion coin program that would run concurrently. The idea for 5 troy ounce silver coins with a diameter of 3 inches was something that had not been attempted by the United States Mint or other world mints. It turned out to be a production challenge.

The US Mint was required to purchase a new coining press to mint the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins. Once installed, they also have to test extensively until they could strike the wide diameter coins and apply the legislatively required edge lettering, without crumbling the edges. A source for the very specialized planchets also had to be arranged. All of the mentioned issues led to production delays.

When the coins finally entered production, it was anticipated that 100,000 of each design would be struck. This would make for a total of 500,000 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins. While far below the levels of the US Mint’s other bullion products, it was expected that this amount would satisfy most of the demand from precious metals investors and collectors.

Just a few weeks before the launch, the US Mint indicated that only 35,000 of each design would be struck for bullion coins, resulting in 175,000 coins overall. At a fraction of the originally anticipated mintage, strong demand and pricing ensued. This would eventually result in special rules imposed for the distribution of the coins, which made it somewhat complicated for the average collector to purchase them.

What lies ahead for this unusual series of silver bullion coins? Will the early excitement fade when mintages of subsequent issues are higher? Or will this solidify the mystique behind the low mintages of the first five issues?