You can’t go back and change the past – but you can think ahead to tomorrow, by building an impressive collection of modern U.S. coins! Right now, modern coins are hot.
As someone who’s researched and written about coins for Littleton for many years, I’ve seen a lot of changes in the availability of the older classics. When I first started in May of 1995, we could offer complete Flying Eagle and Indian cent sets, complete CC Morgan dollar sets, complete gold type sets and more on a regular basis in our catalogs – those days are gone…
Classic coins scattered to the wind!
We have a great buying team who travels the country looking for coins. Today many classics are scattered to the wind. Rolls are few and far between. That means, nowadays it can take many months (if not years) to get enough coins in quantity that meet our standards to build the classic sets like those we used to offer.
Classics offer a lot of crossover as far as themes and designs with modern coins, but they can be challenging for someone who wants to collect an entire series. To me, this is one of the reasons why modern coins are taking off. Plus, many people are familiar with the newer issues because they have seen them in circulation.
According to Whitman Publishing’s Dennis Tucker, “Fans of moderns are among the most active and enthusiastic collectors in hobby.” Most collectors define modern as beginning in 1964. That year marked the last time circulating coins were struck in 90% silver.
Good-bye Silver, hello Key Date!
Up until 1970s, our two largest circulating coins – Kennedy halves and “S” San Francisco Eisenhower dollars – still had some silver in them, but eventually that went away too. In 1970, the U.S. Mint created one of the key dates of the Kennedy half dollar series, the 1970-D! That year, they didn’t produce any half dollars for circulation. Instead they struck the halves to fill the 1970 annual Mint Set orders. With only 2.15 million minted, it made the Uncirculated 1970-D Kennedys the lowest mintage in the series, at the time, and the last regular-issue half with any silver. Decades later, beginning in 2002, Kennedy halves became collector-only coins.
First time dollar included in Mint Sets
A few years later, the same thing happened with the clad 1973 Eisenhower dollar. Hundreds of millions were struck in previous years, so no “Ike” dollars were made for commerce. They were only struck for annual Mint Sets. Plus, 1973 marked the first time a dollar was included in the Mint Set. Prior to 1942, Uncirculated coins were sold separately.
In a surprising departure, the U.S. Mint issued our first clad small-sized dollar in 1979 – the Susan B. Anthony dollar. This opened the door to a host of present day small dollar coins – Sacagaweas, Presidentials and Native Americans.
Biggest change in coinage history!
Although we had the 1976 Bicentennial quarters with the drummer boy reverse (instead of the traditional eagle), the biggest change in coinage history happened in 1999 when Statehood quarters debuted. These 25¢ pieces kicked off the era of circulating coins with annually changing reverses, and got a lot of people looking at their pocket change. National Park quarters are the next generation, and scheduled to wrap up in 2021.
From Presidential dollars to Bicentennial cents
Small dollars got in on the act too, with the reverses of Presidential and Native American coins changing designs. And, there’s rumor of a new dollar coin series honoring innovation will be coming soon. Even pennies, with the 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial cents, and nickels, with the 2004-2006 Westward Journey series, had short-lived reverse designs. Eventually, Presidential and Native American dollars (2012) were struck for collectors only.
Plus, some of these series offer some lower mintage coins because of the recession of 2008-2012 causing a lack of demand for coinage.
Of course, there are modern coins never intended for circulation: U.S. commemoratives (the era of modern commemoratives began in 1981), American Buffalo gold coins, Gold American Eagles, First Spouse $10 coins and Silver American Eagles, to name a few. All offer low mintages and attractive designs, which add to their collector appeal.
These modern issues may seem commonplace now, but just think – down the road – you may be happy you had the foresight to build a collection of coins from our time. In fact, many dates and series are a lot more exciting than one would ever believed possible in the 1960s when the era of modern, clad coinage began.