The following is excerpted from Clifford Mishler’s Coins: Questions & Answers
Q: What makes rolls of coins worth more than their face value?
A: Hope, where most issues of the past 50 years are concerned. Investing in Uncirculated rolls is taking a calculated gamble based on the experience of prior times. If you check a price list of Uncirculated Lincoln cents (to cite but one example), you will notice that the pre-1934 coins are considerably higher priced than those that follow. The short supply of pre-1934 Uncirculated cents — revealed by their higher prices — was created when the rolls that collectors had squirreled away from the teens and twenties were taken from cigar boxes and trunks during the hardship of the Great Depression years and given to the butcher, who fed them into circulation.
The erosion of supply wasn’t fully appreciated until the hobby entered an expansionary phase following World War II. Then collectors, sadly realizing the extent of the profit that had gone awry, began squirreling away rolls of the late 1940s and 1950s coinages and turning a handsome profit on them within an acceptable time. Their success attracted the speculators, and in the early 1960s, the roll market boomed with artificial prosperity created by speculators selling their rolls to each other. Inevitably, the bubble burst, with a lot of them “taking a bath.” Today, most Uncirculated rolls of cents and nickels after 1958 and dimes after 1969 are moderately priced, as are quarters from 1970 through 1981 and halves after 1993. While intelligent roll collecting is essential to the future growth of the hobby, it should be remembered that the rolls must ultimately be broken up and sold to collectors as individual coins in a marketplace where the laws of supply and demand remain operative. Any quantity released at one time can only depress the value of the coins.