Top Modern Commemorative Coins

The remainder of the 29 issues will see the few silver issues rise in value in proportion to the melt value

Modern U.S. commemorative coins are purchased by many for the pure joy of collecting. They own the coins because they like them, not because of the mintage figures or everyone else’s opinions of the design. In this case, the decision to buy or not is personal.

If you are buying commemorative coins for a profit, there are few options. Here are my top picks for commemorative coinage to own if you plan to make a profit while collecting.

Uncirculated Half Dollars

Since 1982, there were 29 uncirculated commemorative half dollars created. I recommend the following coins (not certified by a grading service) for their upside profit potential.

• Clad 1996-S Half Dollar, Swimming, Unc. price: $65, 49,533 minted

• Clad 1996-S Half Dollar, Olympic Soccer, Unc. price $35, 52,836 minted

• Clad 2020-S Half Dollar, Basketball colorized, Unc. price $45, 13,635 minted

All remaining designs will rise in value only when the price of bullion silver increases. In the same manner, should either issue be quietly accumulated, then the dealer promoted, their values will increase until the promotion ceases.

Proof Half Dollars

Of the 31 Proof commemorative half dollars, there are two issues that offer the potential for decent price appreciation.

• Clad 2013-S Half Dollar, Five Star Generals, Proof price $30, 47,326 minted

• Clad 2020-S Half Dollar, Basketball colorized, Proof price $45, 32,581 minted price of silver bullion, and the remaining clad issues are not worth considering as investments.

2020 Basketball Hall of Fame commemorative clad half-dollar Proof. COURTESY U.S. MINT

Least Desired Half Dollar Design

My award for the least desired half-dollar design among all issues goes to the 2001-P U.S. Capitol Visitor Center (Proof price: $17, 77, 962 minted; Unc. price: $15, 99, 157 minted). The reason? Every example looks like a Mint error, but it’s not. Even Mint errors can have artistically redeeming qualities. This coin looks like it was struck from a filled die.

Price Checking

When I am offered NGC or PCGS modern commemoratives graded MS-70 or Proof-70, I check prices realized at public auctions recorded on the Heritage Auctions and Stacks Bowers websites to see what prices were realized. I have seen aggressive price listings by dealer promoters when the comparable coins sell at auction for a fraction of the offered price.

For example, I owned a 1997-W Jackie Robinson half-eagle gold coin graded MS-70 by PCGS. At the time, dealers were offering coins such as this one for $3,400. I consigned my coin to an auction, hoping for at least $3,000. Unfortunately for me, the coin sold for less than half of that: $1,400. So, take these perfect lofty grades and their corresponding optimistic dealer-offering prices with a grain of salt.

Modern Commemorative Coins

The era of modern commemorative coinage became a reality on July 1, 1982, with the production of the George Washington 250th Anniversary of Birth half dollar at the Denver Mint.

There were many doubters who believed this coin was not a big deal. They were wrong. Production figures: Almost 4.9 million Proof San Francisco pieces and 2.2 million Denver uncirculated examples (all meant for collectors) were created and sold at $10.50 and $8.50 respectively. This was the most successful coin issue from the standpoint of sales in U.S. history.

This article about modern commemorative coins previously appeared in COINage magazine. To subscribe click here. Article by Anthony J. Swiatek.


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