Last Chance for 2011 Commemorative Coins

The US Mint has scheduled to conclude sales of the 2011 commemorative coins on Friday, December 16, 2011 at 5:00 PM ET. Many readers have asked my opinion about this year’s commemoratives- so I wanted to provide this post with the latest available information and both the pro and con sides of the future potential.

This year’s commemorative coins include $5 gold coins, silver dollars, and clad composition half dollars featuring the U.S. Army, and $5 gold coins and silver dollars featuring the Medal of Honor. As mentioned on numerous occasions, this year’s programs include a number of coins that are poised to have extremely low mintages within the context of modern commemorative issues of the same denomination.

Throughout the modern commemorative era, there have been some issues which experienced slow sales. This may have been caused by an overabundance of other commemorative or numismatic offerings, general unpopularity of theme or design, and/or collector preference for certain versions or packaging options. Many of these overlooked or unpopular issues ironically went on to secondary market success after the low mintages were recognized. Within this light, some of the 2011 commemoratives seem to present a good opportunity.

Shown below are tables including the lowest mintage modern commemorative issues for uncirculated $5 gold coins, proof $5 gold coins, uncirculated half dollars, and proof half dollars. The numbers for the 2011 coins are based on the last available figures, which reflect sales through December 12, 2011.

(I don’t have the silver dollars in any of the charts. The Army Silver Dollars sales have reached 117,958 for proofs and 43,185 for uncirculated coins. The Medal of Honor Silver Dollars have reached 109,270 proofs and 43,414 uncirculated coins. While these are at the lower end of the mintage spectrum for commemorative silver dollars, there are plenty issues with lower mintages which do not command much of a premium. The absolute mintage low for commemorative silver dollars is all the way down at 14,497.)

Uncirculated $5 Gold Commemoratives
1997 Jackie Robinson 5,174
2001 Capitol Visitor Center 6,761
2011 Army 7,718
2011 Medal of Honor 7,910
1996 Smithsonian 9,068
1996 Olympic Flag Bearer 9,174
1996 Olympic Cauldron 9,210
Proof $5 Gold Commemoratives
2011 Army 17,002
2011 Medal of Honor 17,739
1996 Smithsonian 21,840
1997 Jackie Robinson 24,072
2001 Capitol Visitor Center 27,652
1997 Roosevelt 29,223
Uncirculated Half Dollar Commemoratives
2011 Army 38,464
1996 Olympic Swimming 49,533
1996 Olympic Soccer 52,836
2003 First Flight 57,726
Proof Half Dollar Commemoratives
2011 Army 67,454
2001 Capitol Visitor Center 77,962
2003 Fist Flight 109,710
1996 Olympic Swimming 114,315
1996 Olympic Soccer 122,412


Each of the prior year uncirculated $5 gold coins with a mintage of less than 10,000 commands a significant premium, which seems to bode well for this year’s coins. Only slight premiums exist for the lower mintage proof $5 gold coins, although this year’s coins may set a new absolute low. For the half dollars, essentially only the 1996 Olympic half dollars command a premium, although again this year’s coins may set a new absolute low.

Using past history as a guide, there seems to be a favorable case for the future performance of several of this year’s commemorative coins. However, past performance is not always indicative of future potential. I will provide some counterarguments to the low mintage aspect.

“Low” mintages are relative. Recently, the First Spouse Gold Coin series has experienced historically low mintages across a number of issues. While these have appreciated on the secondary market, it has not been to the extent of past low mintage gold coins. For this particular series, low mintages have become typical and will likely be experienced for the foreseeable future of the series. If future $5 gold commemorative coins continue to experience low mintages and establish a new lower norm, the 2011 issues will become less exceptional.

More collectors may be proactively buying coins in anticipation of low mintages. After seeing past issues with low sales experience huge appreciation on the secondary market, collectors are less likely to be caught off guard in a similar fashion. More of the group who appreciate the low mintages may be buying their coins from the Mint at issue prices, leaving fewer to drive prices higher on the secondary market. Compared to the mid-1990’s, there is much more timely information available, leaving less room for surprises.

Finally, collecting habits may be changing. Compared to a decade ago, assembling a complete collection of modern commemoratives (or even a particular denomination for modern commemoratives) is much more difficult. As the years have gone by, the number of issues in the series has increased. In recent years, the higher prices of gold and silver have made the coins more expensive. The reason that low mintage coins command premiums is because the same number of collectors for a particular series are forced to chase after a smaller supply of coins, driving up prices. If the number of active collectors of a series has diminished, the supply of coins would need to be that much smaller to create a similar result.

To summarize, as I have written in the past, several of the 2011 commemorative coins have potential based on their low mintages. However, there are some factors to consider which may represent a shift from the patterns of the past.

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  1. Curtis says

    Well I like both designs and if I had the $2000 laying around I would pick up all 4 gold coins, but since my coin budget has long since been depleted on other collecting priorities I will have to pass. Too bad though, I especially like the MOH obverse design. I have a feeling that if the price of gold continues to put these $5 gold coins over $500 each the $5 gold series will continue to see lower and lower sales making this issue just another gold coin.

  2. GatorTrekE says

    I see the price for these commems dropped today based on the Mint’s weekly adjustment. What is odd is that I looked this afternoon at work and saw the proof version of these coins was set at $497 but now that has been changed to $510. I’m regretting not purchasing the coin earlier this afternoon, assuming they would have honored that price.

    The reverse design of the MOH coin is one of the better Mint designs in quite awhile and deserves to be on a larger coin. In fact, I think this design rivals some of the classic designs of the early 20th century (Walking and Standing Liberty designs) and I’d love to see it on a circulating coin.

  3. Michael says

    Yes, earlier in the day, the US Mint adjusted prices for the gold commemoratives down by two brackets, when the calculation called for a reduction by one bracket.

    They fixed the prices around 3PM or so.

  4. Two Cents says

    Gator TrekE and Michael, I’m glad you posted that quick change in the gold prices. I thought I had seen a lower price for the gold commems earlier, and was beginning to question myself.

    In Michael’s other blog, the final designs for the Star Spangled Banner coins are shown. The Silver $1 obverse design is a winner — would go nicely with the Medal of Honor reverse design.

    Here’s the link:

  5. MQracing says

    Thank-you Michael for the post. I’m debating whether to buy four uncircs (2 Army, 2 MOH) or to get the 1 ounce W unc gold eagle which also seems to be tracking toward a very low annual mintage. Decisions. Decisions.

  6. Michael says

    The thing about the 2011-W Unc Gold Eagle is that there is no specified date for the end of sales and we do not know the quantity that the Mint produced. Potentially the coins could go off sale at any moment, or they could remain available for months into the coming year…

    With the gold commemoratives, at least we know they will definitely go off sale at the end of the week.

  7. simon says

    IMHO if you are a collector and like the coin buy it – you’ll be richer for more than just the value of the precious metal or its rarity.

  8. Dan says

    Please correct me if I am misunderstanding this: are you saying that the Army half will have the lowest modern commem half mintage (BY 10K COINS!)- am I getting that?

  9. VA Bob says

    I picked up one each of the UNC’s back before commem’s were placed on the sliding price scale. I bought them because I like them. I just don’t feel the collector base is large enough at this time to support much appreciation in value. It will always be relatively easy to get one. As with all coins, if they never circulate (not that modern gold or silver would) those numbers, no matter how low, will almost always remain constant, in good condition. A few may be lost to jewelry,etc. Of course the PM value will always be there.

    The Jackie Robinson was released with less gold choices available that year to the collector. This year alone we had in gold 2 commem’s in 2 finishes, 4 spouses in 2 finishes, 2 Buff’s X2, AGE in 4 denominations and 5 packages, and the burnished AGE. That’s 24 coins if you got all finishes and packaging combinations. That doesn’t even count the silver and clad offerings. Most collectors had to make hard choices as to what they will collect. Few can have it all, and fewer still will go back (especially if the yearly choices continue to be high in the coming years) to pick up what they missed, unless they can find a good deal.

    The Mint seems bent on the foreign mint’s “rarity of the week” marketing strategy. Good for the Mint. Maybe not so good for the collector. Buy what you like. You might be pleasantly surprised down the road, and you’ll never be disappointed. Also, do not spend the kids college fund in the hopes of a windfall, or you might find little Billy and Betty living at home longer than necessary. Savings bonds have a guaranteed (pitiful but it’s something) rate of return if you’re looking for an investment. Coin investing is more like a day in Vegas.

  10. Tom says

    Both nice designs.
    It is amazing how the mint lowered the price of both
    coins then raised it again all with in a few hours.
    I wish I could catch a buffalo temporarily selling for $19.

  11. Jon says

    Can any of the old hands here explain why the sales cutoff for these coins is tomorrow, instead of 5PM ET, Friday, Dec 30? The choice of tomorrow as the sales cutoff seems capricious and arbitrary to my untrained eye.

    In an unrelated note, I see that the Mint has specified the actual gold content of these coins – 0.2431 FTO (Fine Troy Ounces) – in their announcement of the new pricing scheme for gold commemorative coins at This implies the gold content is actually 90.46% (by mass).

    And finally, the last sentence of that new pricing procedures announcement says: “[b]Price adjustments as a result of this process, if any, will be effective at 10 a.m. E.T. on the immediately following Thursday.[/b]” This means the Mint is unable to follow its own rules, given that the Mint repriced the commemorative gold coins TWICE yesterday, instead of waiting until 10AM ET this morning. Yet more evidence that the Mints numismatic product sales are run by morons and idiots.

  12. ByeByeDollars says

    The mint may stop taking orders on the 16th in case of returns and they have to reissue coins for substitutions.

  13. Jon says

    ByeByeDollars wrote: “The mint may stop taking orders on the 16th in case of returns and they have to reissue coins for substitutions.”

    Why wouldn’t those same issues exist for the following 2010 US Mint coin sets whose sales cutoff is not until 5PM ET 12/30/11?
    Silver Proof Set (SV3)
    Proof Set (P12)
    Uncirculated Coin Set (U10)
    Presidential $1 Coin Proof Set (PD8)
    America the Beautiful Quarters Proof Set (Q5A)
    America the Beautiful Quarters Silver Proof Set (SV2)

  14. TomP says

    The commemoratives close early each year (the 13th I think last year). This may be to allow for accounting of the surcharges by year end adjusted for returns.

  15. VABEACHBUM says

    Jon – Because of the legislated language associated with the Commemorative Coins: “On Sale (i.e., to be sent out the door) during the year of issue.” This includes the possibility of returns for replacement.

    The items you have listed are the “core products” of the US Mint, either continuing series or new items developed from the existing Circulating Coin Products to support their current business model, yet are not dictated by any legislation.

    In retrospect, Congress probably should have written something about putting those 2010 sets out of our misery some 5-6 months ago.

  16. ByeByeDollars says

    If they took orders to the 31st of this year for the commemoratives that means by the time they shipped they would be issuing them in 2012 which also goes against the legislation.

    So they have to end them earlier for shipping and possible returns. It will be interesting to see how many that are ordering this week get them by the end of the year, I expect they have to fill orders by then, possibly Christmas. The last orders filled I doubt will have the chance at a real return for exchange, but would get a refund if they hated the coin they receive.

  17. Bill says

    Maybe with the MINT deciding to stop producing dollar coins their new slogan should be, “The buck stops here.”

  18. DDD says

    The mint’s website states the $5 Gold Uncirculated US Army Commemorative coin will be available for shipping on 27 December. Returns would have to be accepted into 2012.

  19. al in ohio says

    With the price of platinum slipping below $1400 for a period today,I would like to ask HOW often do you lose $600 one one coin in a matter of six months? Platinum gets no respect these days .The plat eagle sold for $2092 +shipping upon its initial offering From an economics point of view, that’s a pounding. Now that gold has surpassed platinum in precrious metal value, I put forth that platinum coins should be raised(or lowered) by smaller than $100 increments in the Mints pricing Grids, -reflecting the premise that platinum is now the little brother of Gold.

  20. al in ohio says

    Just going by PM value plus or minus v initial cost. When Michael asked us to make predictions on his Mint news blog survey for this coin year I said the price of silver would be $46 by the end olf 2011–so what do I know.

  21. ByeByeDollars says

    With the two unc gold coins I doubt there will be returns for exchanges now, as they are already backordered. If you send it back for an exchange they will just refund your money and tell you sorry they are all gone.

  22. Brad says

    Al in Ohio,

    I don’t even remember what my predictions for the prices of gold and silver by the end of 2011 were, but I’m sure they were as high or higher than yours. Who knows, the prices might get even lower by 12/31. I wish now I had held off buying so I could take bigger advantage of the price dip!

  23. Samuel says

    The gold buffalo will also be very low mintage for the 2011, right? Or, the mint can keep selling them until they are gone?

  24. ClevelandRocks says

    Don’t think many folks care about collecting entire sets anymore. That said, the Army clads and golds may go up a decent amout in the future.

  25. FJZar2 says

    The gold commemoratives (2011) in my opinion are going to go up in value; historic low mintages combined with low populations in 70 grade make a perfect combination for appreciation in the near future (BTW the lowest population in grade 70(PCGS) is the MOH PR 70 at 38 last time I checked); to survive as a collector in modern times, one needs to think outside the box and free oneself from the “herd mentality and behavior” such as the controverted “5 ASE set”; to find and purchase the next home run all one needs to do is to go to a website called “Ebay”, punch in the coin you are interested in and voila! ; when the ” 5ASE set” is searched there are 100’s of listings – not good; when these modern comms are searched, I believe combined there are less than 20 listings = EXCELLENT!!!, Home Run!!! Likewise, search for MS70 AGE (2011), few MS70 , much less MS70 FS! price: more than 2.5x original ticker of $1778 _ Home Run!!
    Herd Mentality is good and favors wise numismatists b/c one can still pick a gem from the crowd , in front of everybody without anyone asking ? why is he buying that coin or the other , “nobody is, it’s probably not good”, I say: “Home Run”;
    I remember when in 2009 the UHR double eagle was released; it was hard to find ONE positive comment about said coin. Every post, blogger was negative about said offering; look now: LOL; up to 6.5 x original ticker price depending on the grade and variety;
    This is all IMHO and just to show how to be different and survive these modern times of plethoric offerings from the USMint and still make a buck or two; regards and good luck.

  26. Hidalgo says

    As I’ve said before, mintages and other low numbers mean little unless there is demand. It’s a basic principle of economics — demand and supply BOTH drive prices. So a low population of MS70 coins does not necessarily = higher values. Although the “herd mentality” sometimes lead to that. Thinking that low numbers means greater scarcity, investors and flippers will make a run for such coins, thinking they will go up in value.

    I think many flippers and investors got burned when they thought that the 5 ounce ATB coins were going to go up significantly in value. Ha Ha. Same is true with the First Spouse gold coins. Most of the recent ones have mintages below 5,000 – 7,000. I have not seen any significant increase in values (more than 3 -5 times their original sales prices) for these coins, primarily because demand is low.

  27. TheCoinKeeper says

    doubt any will come back to see this post. but…

    nice post FJZar2

    Just watched an ebay auction end for an ms70 2011 unc gold army.

    winning bid… $840

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