Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, or NGC, of Sarasota, Florida has announced attribution of a new variety of one of the collector versions of the five-ounce America the Beautiful silver coins (http://www.ngccoin.com/news/viewarticle.aspx?IDArticle=2265&NGC-Recognizes-New-Variety-of-2010-P-Grand-Canyon-5-Ounce-Specimen-Issue). The new variety is called “light finish” and was discovered on 2010-P Grand Canyon coins purchased by two collectors from the U.S. Mint. The new finish is described by NGC as “a slightly reflective satin finish” that is “lustrous” rather than “granular” as the regular 2010 P coins are.
The difference in the finish was noted within a thread posted on the Collectors Universe Message Boards on July 12 (http://forums.collectors.com/messageview.cfm?catid=26&threadid=823449). This was followed by an article published by Coin World on July 18. The collectors who bought the coins and noticed the unusual finish are Jim Scroggins and the local barber of collector Aaron J. Gelner, named Tom Schneider.
The collector versions of these coins differ from the bullion versions because they are handled with special care to avoid marks and are treated with a special vapor blasting technique that combines water vapor and ceramic media mix and is designed to give the coins a uniform and matte finish. The finish is applied after striking the coins and is applied to the coin, not the die.
NGC has a VarietyPlus attribution service which costs $10 per coin. This service needs to be used in order to have the coins labeled as being of the “light finish” variety. The coins of the new variety lack the post-strike finish which regular 2010 P coins have, but they have the P mintmark and lack the abrasions typical of the 2010 bullion coins.
There is absolutely no indication at this point of how many such coins exist, or whether other 2010 P coins have the same type of finish. It is hard to say how much premium the light finish coins will carry until some estimate of their number is determined. That may be difficult as many people may not know they have one, or may decide to keep theirs in its original government packaging (OGP), which seems to be the preference of most collectors.
This situation reminds me of the 2008-W with reverse of 2007 silver eagles. Based on the results of a Freedom of Information Act request, there were 46,318 pieces struck with the reverse type of the previous year. In addition, collectors have discovered the existence of three “Frosted Freedom” variety of 2007-W proof platinum eagle coins, which are pre-production strikes the Mint never intended to release. According to statements from the Mint there were 12 one ounce, 21 half ounce, and 21 quarter ounce coins released.
Some collectors have expressed a preference for the matte finish used on the numismatic ATB coins, while others are wedded to the proof-like and deep mirror proof-like finish on some of the bullion coins. Although prices for sets and singles of the 2010 bullion coins have declined substantially from the levels they reached when the coins were hard to find in the winter and early spring, some of the DMPL coins still bring substantial premiums. This is probably because those coins have lower populations on the PCGS and NGC population and census reports than coins without the DMPL finish. However, the premiums vary greatly depending on the coin and grade, and some DMPL coins do not bring much premium.
In other developments, the 2010 P coin that honors the Mount Hood national forest, which is the last 2010 numismatic version, will be released next week, on July 28 starting at 12:00 noon EST. If silver prices remain in the $40 range, demand may be stronger than it was during initial sales of last couple releases. In my view, silver price will be shaped mainly by the debt situation in Europe and the U.S. If authorities in both areas reach agreements to move forward in solving their debt problems, metals are likely to fall, and equities will probably rally, because there will be less safe haven demand. But that may be a short-lived development, especially since the European crisis is expected to be a drag on the world economy for years to come, as is the U.S. fiscal situation. In fact, though not widely reported, on July 18 the U.S. rating agency, Egan-Jones, downgraded the country’s credit rating from triple A to double A plus.
Meanwhile, the Mint has announced that not at all 2011 P numismatic versions will be sold this year but has not given a reason for the delay, specified which 2011 coins will be delayed until next year, or announced mintage levels for the 2011 coins. I think it would really help collectors if the Mint would be more forthcoming about details of the 2011 program, especially after releasing so many ATB’s at once which depressed demand and prices. Collectors need to be able to plan and budget for all these coin purchases, especially during a year when their budgets have taken such a heavy toll.
Rising silver prices seem to have spurred some renewed interest, but there is no question that demand has declined for these coins. If the 2011 P mintages are higher than 27,000, as many expect, demand for the collector versions will be in jeopardy, and I am not sure I will collect them. I may opt to continue the bullion set instead, depending on what happens to silver, and will not have them graded after a recent bad experience. But it is possible to get some good deals on already graded examples including MS69 and MS69 PL/DMPL coins for small premiums over raw coins.
Louis Golino is a long-time collector, numismatist, and numismatic writer. His articles have been published in Coin World, Numismatic News, and other publications. He also writes a regular column for www.CoinWeek.com and has written widely about international politics for newspapers and web sites.