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Low Mint Set Sales Help Explain 1986-D Quarter
By Paul M. Green

Without a lot of attention the 1986-D Washington quarter has been steadily rising in price and recognition as one of the best of the Washington quarters of the past few decades. While there are good reasons for the price increases there remain questions as to just how good the 1986-D may really be in comparison with some of the other better Washington quarters of the past few decades.

In fairness, of the Washington quarter dates of the 1980s, the 1986-D is not going to be seen as the key or most expensive. The 1982 and 1983 coins from both Philadelphia and Denver are always likely to be more expensive simply because those were the years when no mint sets were offered. That means no reserve supplies from those years exist and that should continue to keep their prices higher than a date like the 1986-D.

The matter of mint sets does, however, play a role in the case of the 1986-D. In 1986 there were mint sets, but the sales total was just 1,153,536 and it is the lowest of the decade. If the supply of the uncirculated 1986-D coins is too low, there are also not a large number of mint sets to potentially be broken up to provide the market with new Mint State examples. Some have kept in the back of their minds that the 1986 coins of all denominations could prove to be a problem.

There were other factors that worked against the saving of any numbers of new issues back in 1986.

The modern commemorative coin program was gaining momentum. Collectors were buying those and forgetting about BU quarter rolls.

There was also the beginning of the American Eagle gold and silver bullion coin program in 1986. With so many different and exciting new opportunities, there is little doubt that the collectors and dealers of the time had to budget their money when it came to new issues.

The dealers were critical as they are the ones most likely to save rolls and bags, but faced with the prospect of spending money on routine business strikes or buying proof American Eagles and new commemoratives, it was simply natural for many to spend less on regular rolls and bags and more on commemoratives and bullion coins. This would have seemed smarter at the time.

Decisions from the 1980s have an impact today. The 1986-D has now increased in price to $15 in MS-65. That makes it half the price of the 1982-P and one-third the 1983-P.

The 1986-D is higher than the 1986-P, although the probability is that there may have been a small number of 1986-P quarters that came on the market. It is hard to tell based on grading service totals, but as dealers drive the prices, we have to assume they know what they are doing and based on the increases in price of the 1986-D, we have to think it is a better date.


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