News to Me: Considering Coins Sold “As Seen on TV”

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Morgan dollar design
Proposed 2021 Morgan dollar design.

By Donn Pearlman

When a collector or potential collector asks, “What should I buy?” my response is always, “Collect what you enjoy, but make sure it’s authentic, is properly described, and the price, perhaps not necessarily the cheapest, is fair and reasonable.”

Unfortunately, some sellers, especially unscrupulous online “dealers” selling counterfeits from China, fail to meet all three criteria.

So, what is a “fair and reasonable” price? The explosion of available information online should make it easy for even beginner numismatic buyers and sellers to quickly determine with only a few keystrokes what is currently fair and reasonable in the marketplace. Unfortunately, not everyone remembers the long-time advice of the Better Business Bureau: Investigate before you invest, and if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The personal finance market, especially on television, is filled with slick advertisements touting “limited edition” gold and silver coins. It’s fine if you want a souvenir and simply want to collect an item, but if you have any hope of it appreciating in value, then you have to consider both sides to the limited-edition equation: supply and demand. If there are only 10,000 of a certain item, but the secondary market demand for them is only 5,000, your chances weaken for future profit.

Another trend in recent years is encapsulated coins sold with autographed insert labels. Yes, these can be fun and interesting to own, but use the availability of market information online to determine if the asking price is fair and reasonable; for example, look for the potential resale value.

“We are seeing a lot of advertising and marketing of precious metal bullion coins in holders with ‘limited edition’ specialty labels,” said Barry Stuppler, President of Mint State Gold by Stuppler & Company and a former President of both the American Numismatic Association and Professional Numismatists Guild.

“These may include autographs of former United States Mint officials, sports Hall of Fame members, or other celebrities. However, virtually every specialty label coin we’ve seen was offered at a price 200 to as much as 400 percent higher than a comparable bullion coin in the same condition without the signature or special designation label. And when an investor sells the special label coins, they might only get bullion spot price or a ten percent premium,” Stuppler cautioned.

Recent federal legislation authorizing the creation of 2021-dated Morgan and Peace silver dollars is affecting the market, too. Patrick A. Heller of Liberty Coin Service reported that even before the legislation became law, there was a tremendous surge in buying older, common-date Morgan and Peace Dollars in circulated and lower Mint State grades.

“We anticipate that much of this demand was from telemarketers looking forward to making high-priced promotions once the new coins are released,” stated Heller. He said prices for century-old silver dollars quickly rose close to double what they were a year earlier, far more than the increase in the spot price of silver.

Remember: collect what you enjoy but investigate before you invest.

Donn Pearlman is a former member of the Board of Directors of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago & Northern Illinois.

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