There are 5 important factors that influence the investment potential of all silver commemoratives:
1. Condition / Rarity
The method of manufacture for silver commemoratives was exactly the same as for regular issue U.S. Coins.
In other words, an average uncirculated commem will grade MS60 to MS63. In top condition, silver commemoratives are just as rare and desirable as their regular issue commems. Accordingly, you should buy one MS65 or better commemoratives.
Aesthetic considerations include both the beauty of the design and the reason for it.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but most commem buys agree that Oregons are beautiful and Washington Carvers are ugly. Buy commems= span> that are pleasing to the eye. Also buy commems which have a legitimate historical origin. The Cincinnati is an example of a commem with a poor excuse to exist.
The Cincinnati half was minted to commemorate the “50th Anniversary of Cincinnati as a center of music” It features an obverse portrait of Stephen Foster, even though he had nothing to do with either the cit of Cincinnati or the “Anniversary” celebration. My bias is toward the issues which commemorate real events and/or people, such as the Texas, which commemorates that state’s independence.
The lowest mintage isn’t necessarily the rarest coin. There are numerous commems with mintages of under 30,000, and for U.S. coins, that is a very low number. However, as attractive as a low mintage may be, this is the least important of the five factors.
There are 3 distinct types of U.S silver commemoratives:
A: ‘Type’ Coins.
Many of the commemorative issues were made for more than 1 year and/or at more than one mint. Commemorative ‘type’ coins are those issues which:
B: Scarce Dates and/or Mints.
These are the rarer coins of the multiple date/mint issues.
Beginning in the 1930’s several commem issues were made at all 3 mints during a given year.
They are called PDS Sets, and they are included in this second group. Examples of scarce dates/mints are the 1936-D San Diego, the 1938 Boone PDS Set and the 1921 pilgrim. Note that there are three PDS Sets which are not included in this group. The Cincinnati, Columbia and Rhode Island issues are one year PDS Sets with similar mintages for all three mints. They are considered type issues.
(above examples of: San Diego, Pilgrim, Boone, Columbia, and Rhode Island Commemoratives )
A few commemoratives were issued with minor design variations.
Such variations are called ‘varieties.’
There are only six varieties in the silver commemorative series:
- the Missouri, with a 2*4 (for 24th state) stamped in the obverse field
- the Grant, with a star (unknown significance) stamped in the obverse field
- the Alabama, with a 2*2 (for 22nd state) stamped in the obverse field
- the three 1935 Daniel Boone (Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints) 1935 Boones with a small ?’ (actual year of 200th anniversary of Boone’s birth) stamped on the reverse. Varieties are not considered commemorative ‘type’ coins.
Traditionally, there have been two ways to collect silver commemoratives. The first is to assemble a set of commemorative type coins. Excluding the modern (post 1954) issues, there are 50 different coins in a complete type set of silver commems. The second way to collect is to assemble a set includes all types, all varieties and every date and mint mark.
There are 144 different coins in a complete date, mint and variety set of silver commems. In the past, both ways of collecting, and therefore buying, commems were equally popular. Recently, collecting by type has become quite a bit more popular than ‘complete set’ collecting. Old timers looking at today’s price levels, will probably feel the scarcer issues and varieties are under priced, compared to the more common type issues. But, because the demand for the type issues is greater, the price relationship within the market is not that far out of line. My bias is toward the type issues, though there are definitely some good deals in the PDS Set area.
This is perhaps the most important of the five factors.
The commemorative market divides very distinctly into two areas:
1892 to 1928
Silver commemoratives were issued sporadically between 1892 and 1928.
All of these issues have one thing in common. Because they were not saved in significant quantities, they are commonly found in grades Very Fine through Almost Uncirculated. Without exception, these coins are difficult
to find in top condition.
1933 to 1954
Beginning in the mid 1930’s, the U.S. Mint produced a huge amount of new commemorative issues.
In fact, the majority of U.S. commems were issued between 1934 and 1939. More commems were issued in 1936 than any other year.
The commems from this second ‘era’ were saved in large quantities. They were not placed in circulation, and they are very rarely encountered in less than MS60 condition. With a few exceptions, they are relatively easy to locate in top condition.
My bias is toward the earlier issues. While there are some good deals in the 1933 to 1954 group, it is the earlier issues that are truly rare and underrated in top condition.