As the old expression goes, “Every dog has his day” and the long-beleaguered classic Commem series (both silver and gold issues), trodden upon for many years, may well be poised for a comeback. After levels peaked in 1990 (yes, 1990!) classic Commems (1892-1954) have failed to regain top status among collectors and investors of U.S. coins. There are glimmers of hope, however, that this wonderfully collectible series of coins might be headed back into favor.
The recent lack of popularity for the classic Commem series has confounded many numismatic experts in the rare coin business. Generally speaking, this series checks a lot of boxes that are important to collectors and dealers alike:
Interesting: could there be a more interesting series of U.S. coins than classic Commems? There are 50 different “type” coins each with a story about the subject of commemoration. A Civil War battle, former president, statehood, and so on. Every coin can teach you a piece of U.S. history.
Completable/Affordable: Many collectors avoid specific areas of the U.S. catalog because the challenge is too great. Seated quarters, for example, present incredible challenges for completion, and even then you are looking at many years. The collector of classic silver Commems can complete the 50-coin set (MS65 Greysheet bid: $26,585) in weeks scouring popular web site sites and auctions. Of course, the task can be complicated if one seeks top quality coins or rainbow toning, etc. There are many nuanced ways to collect. The 144-piece date/mintmark set (MS65 Greysheet bid: $53,170) is a challenge that will take a bit longer, but the task is all the more rewarding for it. The gold Commem series is also easily assembled two ways: 11-pieces including the $1-$2.50 issues; or the 13-coin set including the two $50 Pan-Pac slugs (MS65 Greysheet $25,500 and $380,500, respectively).
Many of the coins in both the silver and gold sets are near, or at, all time lows in gem condition. Lafayette dollars had a Greysheet bid of $9,750 as recently as July 2011, but now have dropped to $5,500! Savvy buyers can find examples closer to Bluesheet levels of $4,000 and $3,300, respectively! We see opportunity here and across the entire series.
Available: the most critical component here is that the coins are available for dealers and collectors. National dealers are generally unwilling to promote series without an available supply and we have heard there is at least one major national dealer who is looking into large-scale promotion of this series. Will the smart collectors and their money follow?