U.S. Coin Price Guide

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Modern coins appealing
By Mark Ferguson
COIN VALUES Market Analyst

Describing today's collector of modern coins in 25 words or less is a challenging if not impossible task.

We'll use Jefferson 5-cent piece, struck since 1938, to illustrate how those with an interest in the same series can take dramatically different approaches while pursuing the common goal of building a date set.

Jefferson 5-cent coins are an ideal area for low-budget fun, as the vast majority of dates can be found – Proofs included – for well less than $10 apiece. By spending a few dollars at a time, it is possible to obtain all but a handful of dates in Uncirculated condition.

That thrifty approach certainly appeals to many collectors, but others want to go for high-grade "investment quality" pieces with low grading service population numbers. They are also willing and able to pay hefty sums for coins in a series long known for rock-bottom prices.

Take the 1953-D Jefferson 5-cent coin as an example. A typical Mint State 63 example that usually lacks a full strike carries a $2 price tag. The fussy collector of uncertified coins might dig deep and come up with $5 to purchase an MS-64 example.

What about the person who is building a registry set of Jefferson 5-cent coins and is determined to be No. 1?

According to the Coin Values monthly price guide, the competitive hobbyist can count on paying $3,000 for one of the few 1953-D Jefferson 5-cent coin with six full steps that grades MS-66.

There's more to consider than what number is listed in a price guide. If two collectors who are locked in a close and heated battle for first place both need a certain date in a specific grade or with features such as full steps or full bell lines on Franklin half dollars, previous price quotes could be well below the eventual sale price for the coin that clinches the top spot.

Such intense bidding wars for recent issues would not have taken place a decade ago, but things have changed.

Whether a person is willing to spend $5 or $5,000 on a coin, the lesson is clear: Count the cost before proceeding with the goal of collecting a specific series.

For those who want to get into the high-stakes world of certified moderns, an in-depth knowledge of exactly what is available and who the major players are is absolutely essential.

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