“Lower lows,” “soft market,” “tough days for flippers,” — these are the kind of bearish sentiments one hears or reads about frequently when it comes to the modern coin market, including U.S. and foreign mint coins.
There is certainly plenty of evidence that the modern market is saturated; that many modern issues decrease in value over time; and that the opportunities for profits are far fewer than in the past.
But for savvy and informed collectors, there are always opportunities to be had, especially for those willing to take a chance and purchase coins with potential before they take off.
I have identified 10 coins (five American and five from foreign mints) issued in 2017 that offered buyers excellent opportunities for at least short-term gain and which have either maintained or increased in premium since their release. Many of them also offer solid long-term potential with the caveat that much will depend in that regard on whether future coins come in with lower mintages or otherwise have greater appeal for collectors.
Whether you could only invest $25 a coin or spend close to $2,000 a coin, each coin in this analysis increased substantially in value within a short period of its release.
For the sake of consistency, and because auction prices generally provide a better measure of market value than retail prices, secondary market values for the coins selected are based on eBay sales.
If readers enjoy this piece, it may become an annual offering and can help serve as a window into each year’s best-performing coins — at least from this author’s perspective.
American Palladium Eagle
Over the years between the initial proposal of the palladium eagle back in 2010 to when it was finally released in early December of last year, there was considerable skepticism about how well the bullion coin would sell. This was reflected in the feasibility study on the coin that said the bullion piece was likely to be unprofitable and a widespread view that palladium was too exotic a precious metal for coin collectors and even bullion buyers.
For these reasons, the U.S. Mint decided to strike only 15,000 of these coins, but within weeks of their release it became clear that demand was outstripping supply, as prices for raw and graded coins — and the palladium itself — continued to rise. Due to startup costs, the program lost $1.3 million, as reported in the FY2017 Annual Report.
In recent eBay sales, the coin sold for between $1,500 and $2,500 in MS-70, depending on labels, and the most recent raw coin brought $1,458, which is down a bit compared to December sales. Most dealers sold out long ago, but APMEX is selling raw coins for $1,738. Proof-Like coins bring even more.
Boys Town Gold Uncirculated
The best example of the “lower lows” trend in modern U.S. coins is the $5 gold commemorative series, which has indeed seen a steadily downward trend in the past couple years. Because the 2016 National Parks coin (and several before that) had set previous new lows for this series, as the end of the year approached, there was a lot of talk about how the Boys Town Uncirculated gold coin would come in lower than the NPS coin and even more discussion about how it did not matter because the coin was clearly not very popular with collectors. “Nothing to see here,” many said.
At this point in time, the long-term value of and demand for the Boys Town coin is unclear, but two factors besides having the lowest mintage contributed to a substantial increase in this coin’s value. First, at 2,994 the coin’s mintage is more than 2,000 lower than that of the NPS coin (5,150), a very wide margin that may not be overtaken for quite some time — with no guarantee it ever will. Second, the Mint planned to sell these coins until the end of the year, but around December 12 it unexpectedly sold out since the Mint had likely produced a batch of 3,000 coins and did not have time to make more before year’s end, catching some buyers off guard.
Recent sales on eBay have been between $800 and $900 for raw coins, and between $1,000 and $1,200 for MS-70 First Strike and First Strike-eligible boxed coins. In percentage terms, this makes the coin by far the best short-term performer of 2017 U.S. Mint coins.
2017-W American Gold Eagle Burnished Uncirculated
Released on June 1 at a price of $1,575, the coin sold out in early November with a mintage of 5,800 coins, knocking out the previous low for this series, the 2012-W at 5,829. In recent eBay auctions, raw coins have brought $2,000 and MS-70 coins have sold for $3,000.
This is a decent return, to be sure, but I would question the long-term value here since the 2017 coin’s mintage is so close to that of 2012. The price of gold will also be a key factor since lower gold down the road would likely translate into higher mintages, and vice versa.
All things considered, I see this one as more of a short-term winner than a solid long-term value.
2017-S American Silver Eagle Proof
With a mintage of 123,906 coins, the 2017-S Proof eagle is the second-lowest Proof coin of the series after the 1995-W and the fifth-lowest of all coins in the series.
Sales of this coin, as packaged in the 2017 Congratulations Set, have remained very stable throughout the year at around $130, while examples graded Proof-70 have continued to trade between $200 and $300, depending on labels. Coins graded Proof-69 typically bring between $90 and $120.
It is rather unusual for coins in their original packaging (and 70’s) to hold on to their values so consistently, which is one of the reasons this analyst remains rather bullish on this coin. Plus, the 2018-S Proof eagle that will be offered later this year will be packaged and sold individually like the annual West Point-minted coins, which sell in the hundreds of thousands. I would be surprised to see the 2018-S sell fewer coins than the 2017-S.
Long-term potential remains to be seen, but there is no denying that this coin offered a lot of short-term potential during the year, especially for 70-graded pieces.
Frederick Douglass Five-Ounce Bullion
Released in the bullion version on April 3, the Frederick Douglass five-ounce silver America the Beautiful coin is the 37th release in the ATB series. While the coin should have been popular since it honors a key figure in American history, abolitionist, and educator Fredrick Douglass, only 20,000 of these coins were sold, tying it with the 2012 Volcanoes and Denali coin (as well as the 2017 Ozark coin) as the lowest-mintage bullion issues of the series.
It remains unclear precisely why so few of the Douglass and Ozark coins were sold, or why the Douglass issue has outperformed the Ozark, with market prices getting close to the values of the two 2012 key coins. The average of recent eBay sales is about $160 (with dealer prices for those that have it in stock a little higher), compared to about $100 to $105 if purchased when first released, and about $130 to $140 for Ozark.
In terms of long-term potential, much will depend on whether future coins see lower sales levels, which is quite possible given the difficulty of sticking with such a long-running series that requires purchasing 25 ounces of silver per year for each of the two versions (bullion and vapor-blasted coins), as well as how much demand will exist for this coin. But if it is true, as some coin bloggers have argued, that dealers failed to buy large numbers of the Douglass coin, this issue should maintain a nice premium over time.
Southern and Northern Sky Domed Gold Coins
The two-coin set from the Royal Australian Mint that features the star constellations of the northern and southern sky in intricate detail were the top world coins of 2017.
These coins had “winner” written all over them: They were the first curved Australian gold coins and one of only a handful of curved gold coins from any mint on a topic of demonstrated popularity, astronomy. Plus, the coins are superbly crafted and come in an elegant lacquered wooden box and each has a worldwide mintage of a mere 750 coins, a number too small to satisfy the demand for these alluring and distinctive pieces.
The southern piece was released first and is harder to source today than the second, though few dealers carry either coin. Launched in early February, the southern coin could be had for around $1,600 if one shopped around.
Recent auction sales have been between $2,249 to $3,197 with eight examples sold on eBay in the past two months, and four currently for sale for between $2,500 and $4,000.
The northern coin was launched in August, and by then the issue price had moved up with the best deal I saw at the time being between $1,850 and $1,900. Recent auction sales on eBay for this coin have been between $2,385 and $3,209. APMEX has one in stock at $2,895.
I would anticipate long-term values to increase further, especially since these are coins that most buyers are likely to keep in their collections unless they bought more than one.
Libertad 1/10th-Ounce Gold Brilliant Uncirculated
One of the very best performing world coins of the year, and the best in percentage terms, is the 1/10th-ounce Libertad gold Uncirculated coin, whose mintage of 300 coins set a new low for gold Libertads of this size.
On August 5, Lois and Don Bailey and Son offered it for $239. Their supply sold out instantly, and I never saw it offered by any other dealer.
The coin is extremely hard to locate. Recent sales for raw examples have been between $550 and $900, and $1,000 and up for MS-70 coins.
There were other gold and silver Libertads that did well, such as the 1/4-ounce Brilliant Uncirculated coin, whose mintage of 500 coins tied it with two other years as the second-lowest, the one-ounce silver Reverse Proof, and others.
Libertad Silver Kilo Brilliant Uncirculated
The Mexican Mint typically issues a Proof-Like and Brilliant Uncirculated version of the Libertad one kilo silver piece, with the latter version normally overshadowed by the former due to its higher mintage and less attractive finish. Plus, the Brilliant Uncirculated coin comes in a capsule with no box, while the Proof-Like coin comes housed in an impressive heavy wooden display box with a booklet about the coin.
This year’s kilo situation was unlike any other with a number of different and new versions such as the first high-relief Aztec calendar with an Antique finish, plus the regular Proof-Like and Aztec kilos.
But the coin to buy, if you were looking for a market return, was the Brilliant Uncirculated one since the mintage was a mere 200 coins compared to 2,000 in 2015. That made it both the lowest-mintage kilo ever issued, and the lowest-mintage Libertad of 2017. The previous kilo key was the 2013 Proof-Like coin with 400 made.
The 2017 Brilliant Uncirculated kilo was priced at $827 by Lois and Don Bailey and Son in November. Recent sales have been between $1,275 and $1,460.
Keep in mind that as with most coins, mintage alone does not determine value, which is why the 2013 Proof-Like is likely to retain its value going forward unless there is a lower-mintage kilo of that type (and that coin is worth around $2,000 and very seldom comes up for sale).
Silver Swan Brilliant Uncirculated
The first coin of a new bullion series from a major mint with a popular design and a low mintage is another example of a coin that has “winner” written all over it, especially when the coin was not previously announced — resulting in some dealers being caught off guard and having to buy coins from customers.
In early April, APMEX offered the first silver swan Uncirculated coin from the Perth Mint starting at about $25, and that price rose by a few dollars over the course of the couple of days it took for the company to sell out of its supply, which was reportedly 20,000 of the 25,000 coin mintage. The other coins were sold in Europe and Asia with 10% reserved for Australia.
Secondary market prices immediately increased and quickly got as high as $75 to $80, but then settled at about $60, where they remain close to a year later. MS-70-graded coins with First Strike and Early Release labels brought around $200 each for many months, but today those coins typically sell for $100 to $150 each on eBay.
This was one of those opportunities that does not occur often with modern coins, especially those that could be had for as little as $25 each for those who were paying attention.
Louis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing in modern U.S. and world coins. His work has appeared in Coin World, CoinWeek, The Numismatist, Numismatic News, and COINage, among other publications. His first coin-writing position was with Coin Update.
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 Elemetal Direct.