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Coin Rarities & Related Topics: Coins Minted After 1934 tend to be Very Common, 1793 to 1933 is the Classic Era – Part One

News and Analysis regarding scarce coins, coin markets, and the coin collecting community, #23

A Weekly Column by Greg Reynolds

Last week’s column was about dealer recommendations for new collectors who seek coins valued at $250, more or less, with consideration of a few that are valued at more than $1000. Among the experts that I interviewed, no one suggested buying coins minted after 1934. This column is devoted to an exploration of the topic of the 1933 to 1935 time period being a dividing line between classic and modern U.S. coins. This is not my opinion; it is an objective reality. Conclusive evidence will be provided herein.

A review of coin related publications in the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s would suggest this dividing line. Indeed, quite a few dealers in classic U.S. coins used to include a statement relating to the years ‘1793 to 1933’ in their ads and pricelists. Almost always, leading auction firms emphasized coins in the 1793 to 1933 time period and still do so.

Why discuss this dividing line now? I am concerned about the amounts paid for condition rarities of the post-1934 era. I do not have a problem with a collector paying a large sum of money for a condition rarity if the coin issue in general is at least moderately scarce. It is wonderful that someone paid $138,000 for the Duckor 1904-S half dollar, which is PCGS graded MS-67. (Please click to read my two part series on Dr. Duckor’s halves, part 1 or part 2.) A low grade 1904-S half could be obtained for less than one hundred dollars. The 1904-S date, though, is scarce in general. The PCGS and the NGC together have certified less than two hundred different 1904-S halves, and probably more than two thousand uncertified 1904-S halves exist. Certainly, there are fewer than five thousand in existence, in all grades. For post-1934 coins, however, people often spend vast amounts for superb gem quality coins when hundreds of thousands or literally millions exist of the same respective coin issue.

If millions of a coin issue exist overall or thousands in MS-65 grade, how much should a MS-67 or higher grade representative of the same coin issue be worth? There is not an easy answer to the question. Of course, supply and demand determine prices in relatively free markets. I am not challenging the truthfulness of current price levels for supergrade modern coins. I am wondering whether the buyers have thought carefully about their demands. I am also wondering whether many sellers of post-1934 coins are, sometimes implicitly, misleading buyers, or are ignorant themselves. Anyone who can afford an inventory may become a coin dealer. In any event, in order to understand the distinction between classic U.S. coins and modern issues, there is a need to learn about both and about the dividing line between classic coins and modern issues.

I. The 1793-1933 Tradition

Referring to U.S. coins minted from 1793 to 1933 as classic coin issues is not arbitrary and it is not an accidental tradition. When polling dealers and collectors, I became aware that everyone seemed to remember the tradition of referring to 1933 or 1934 as a dividing line, but no one recollected the origins or meaning of the tradition. The true reason is that pre-1934 coins (with few exceptions) are much scarcer than post-1934 coins. (more…)

Industry Leaders Comment on New PCGS Secure + Coin Grading Announcement

David Lisot, Executive Producer of Coin Television has put together a montage of comments from industry leaders following the PCGS announcement of its New Secure + coin grading service

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The PCGS Secure Plus process uses laser scanning to help detect coins that have been artificially enhanced since their last certification, combat “gradeflation” and excessive resubmissions of the same coins, and can also be used to help identify recovered stolen coins. Additionally, PCGS graders can now designate deserving, superior-quality coins as “Plus” within their respective grades, an important distinction when there are big differences in value between one grade point and the next.


The following industry professionals are included in this video as follows:

Video used with permission and courtesy of CoinTelevision.com and CoinVideo.com.