By Mark Ferguson
commemorative coins have become more affordable
in recent months. There’s been a downward trend
in the prices of most issues in grades of Mint
State 65 and finer.
Classic American commemorative coins were
produced from 1892 to 1954 and there are 50
Most issues in MS-65 reached their highest
prices in 1989. That market high was fueled with
demand from investors who were convinced that
only MS-65 and finer coins were worthy of their
attention. The market for coins graded MS-63 and
lower is less volatile, as the demand for these
issues is collector based and more stable.
On one hand, commemoratives are easy to promote
to noncollectors as they seem like a bargain
compared to regular issue coins. Conversely,
their availability means that if a collector is
looking to raise some cash, he will often sell
his commemoratives, knowing that they can be
As an example, the 1936 Delaware Tercentenary
commemorative half dollar has a mintage of just
20,993 pieces. At its height in 1989 it traded
for almost $2,000 in MS-65. Recent prices
realized from auctions reveal it trading for
Lots of issues follow this pattern and trade at
a tiny fraction of their peak prices.
The 1936 Delaware Tercentenary is an issue that
"comes nice" – Professional Coin Grading Service
and Numismatic Guaranty Corp. have graded nearly
3,500 examples in MS-65 and finer grades. And an
MS-64 coin trades at only a $20 discount to an
It is virtually essential for a commemorative
coin to be certified by one of the top tier
grading services for it to sell in this market.
The majority of MS-65 and finer commemorative
coins that are coming up at auction are trading
around wholesale price levels. Bargains can be
found in the MS-66, MS-67 and even MS-68 levels,
making this a good time for collectors thinking
about upgrading an issue or two.
The market shows a preference for bright,
lustrous and untoned coins, or beautifully toned
coins. With so many offerings, collectors can
afford to be choosy and select beautiful
examples in high grades.