As seasoned collectors of the popular Mexican series are well-aware, each year’s Libertad coin program results in some surprises and unexpected developments. Last year it was the introduction of a new variety, the Antique silver Uncirculated coins issued in one, two, and five-ounce formats, and the release of the first-ever gold Reverse Proof coins in half and one-ounce sizes.
For 2019, there have already been two surprises, and more could be in store later in the year. First, the silver Uncirculated and Proof coins are being released earlier than usual. The Uncirculated pieces hit the market in February rather than late spring as is more typical, and the Proof coins have been struck and will reach dealers in March. Both versions in silver are issued from 1/20th-ounce coins through one-kilo coins. The kilo pieces are also expected to be released soon.
Second, the Banco de Mexico, which oversees the Casa de Moneda (the Mexican Mint), in February provided its maximum authorized mintage levels for the entire program of silver and gold issues for 2019 to one of the mint’s American distributors. These will likely differ substantially from the actual mintage levels, which will be determined by demand levels and actual sales to the mint’s various distributors. See the table toward the end of the article for 2019 anticipated mintages.
The final mintage numbers for the various Libertad coin types will be made available most likely towards the end of the year, which has been the practice in the past. Annual Libertad coin mintages are among the lowest of any major world bullion coin series, particularly the gold coins that have frequently numbered only in the hundreds. In addition, the silver one-ounce coin, the most widely collected of all Libertad coins, had a mintage of 300,000 in 2018 compared to tens of millions of American Silver Eagles and Canadian Maple Leafs, though there are some Perth Mint and other bullion coins with mintages below 50,000.
Lois and Don Bailey and Son Numismatic Services have been run by Pat Stovall since the retirement of the Baileys some years ago, and last year’s passing of Don, who was the foremost authority on Mexican coinage in the United States for several decades.
Changes in 2019
Pat recently spoke with Coin Update about the 2019 Libertad program and other issues related to the series. He mentioned that it was “really surprising to see so many different offerings so early in the year” and that wholesale premiums have increased this year, resulting in slightly higher retail prices.
He added that while the mint has not made a specific announcement in this regard, he believes that the move to issue the silver coins sooner than usual was likely done to make the Mexican Mint’s schedule more in line with the practice of other world mints — some of which begin issuing their new releases towards the end of the previous year.
In addition, Pat said that the earlier release was also a function of efforts by the mint to make its operations more efficient. The mint has been able to achieve greater efficiency by changing some of its processes and taking advantage of technological advances in coin minting such as better dies and new equipment.
This compares with years past — especially the 1980s (the silver Libertad was launched in 1982) — when there were “all kinds of varieties” such as coins with differences in lettering, and that Don Bailey (his stepfather) used to say it was almost impossible to keep up with all the different varieties. Quality control and standards have also increased dramatically over the years Pat has been a dealer in Mexican coins.
Historically, silver has played a critical role in Mexico’s history, especially since its mint is the oldest in North America and the country produces more silver than any other nation, not to mention the key role Spanish pieces of eight coins played in colonial America and throughout the world from the 16th to the 19th centuries, when they facilitated global trade.
But in modern times, average Mexicans have not been big buyers of their own silver coins. However, that has begun to change in recent years, and Mexicans are today able to purchase limited quantities of Libertads at banks for the silver content at that day’s spot price as calculated in pesos, plus a premium.
When asked about the silver Antique finish coins, which will be issued again this year, and the fact that few seemed to be available in the marketplace, Pat noted this was probably related to their status as
Graded examples of the Antique coins have been selling on eBay for substantial premiums. For example, the one-ounce coin that was about $50 raw has been sold in MS-70 examples for $175 and $163.50 in the past few days, and some have brought even higher amounts in the past few months.
Pat also said he sees the 2018 one-ounce Reverse Proof silver coin as the key coin for that year. Its mintage was 1,500 coins, but 1,000 of them were part of two different sets (a three-coin set with the two and five-ounce coins, and a two-piece set with the regular Proof). This means only 500 individual coins were sold, and a number of them were sold to bank employees or other domestic Mexican buyers, resulting in fewer coins outside Mexico. He added that all the one-ounce Reverse Proofs (issued annually since 2015) have increased in value.
I asked Pat about the fact that it is difficult to determine valuations for many previous Libertad coins and that eBay auction sales are helpful, but that for the very scarce coins there is typically no sales data. He agreed and noted that eBay is “the great decider of pricing” for such coins. He also noted that other auction houses such as Heritage typically do not sell Libertads because they have clientele looking for different types of coins other than scarce bullion issues.
He mentioned that the 1999 five-ounce silver Proof coin — of which only 100 coins were struck — is so rare that he has only heard of four of them that sold in the past eight years. He estimated one example of this coin would be worth around $6,000, but in a recent private sale, he is aware that one sold for $10,000. He believes this coin will continue to hold the crown of Libertads.
Another uncommon issue is the one-ounce Proof from 1999 (which Pat said he thinks had a mintage of 500 coins). That coin is a real condition rarity in Proof 70, with only three coins ever graded at that level. He knows of just two sales of the coin in that top grade, which were for $6,000 each.
Pat ended the discussion by pointing out that while he knows some people have Uncirculated examples of the silver coins graded, he thinks grading makes more sense for the Proof examples, especially since even when stored in their original capsules their condition can deteriorate over time, making Proof 70-examples more valuable.
Collectors of the Libertad series will be eager to see what else comes along in 2019, including the final mintage numbers and the release of the gold coins as well as the Reverse Proof and Antique silver coins.
2019 Libertad Coin Maximum Authorized Mintage Levels
|Libertad Type||Metal and Finish||Maximum Authorized Mintage|
|One-ounce||Gold Reverse Proof||1,000|
|1/2-ounce||Gold Reverse Proof||1,000|
|Five-ounce||Silver Reverse Proof||2,000|
|Two-ounce||Silver Reverse Proof||2,000|
|One-ounce||Silver Reverse Proof||2,000|
Louis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing primarily in
In 2015, his CoinWeek.com column, “The Coin Analyst,” received an award from the Numismatic Literary Guild for best website column. By 2017, he received an NLG award for best article in a non-numismatic publication with his “Liberty Centennial Designs,” which was published in