Archive for January, 2017


Posted on January 20, 2017 by 3 Comments

I’ve always liked U.S. commemorative coins, especially the so-called “classic” silver and gold commems (those issued from 1892 to 1954).  Two to three decades ago, this enthusiasm was shared by many collectors.  Today, however, interest in this series seems to have waned.  The justification for this judgment is the declining and flat prices for many of the coins in this series, especially among the silver versions.

What has happened?  This is a closed series, mintages are fixed, and the only changes have been an increase in the number of certified coins.  The designs are beautiful, mintages are low in many instances, and the coins are almost always Mint State, and nice.  Why are prices so low?  Or, asked another way, why aren’t collectors paying more attention to this series?  Regardless of why or how they have been lured away from classic commems, now might be a time for collectors to take another look at this fascinating group of coins.

Commem Index


Where, in fact, are commem prices today relative to the past prices?  Perhaps an examination of pricing history can gives us some context and perspective.  As a service to collectors, PCGS has built price guides for most U.S. series that go all the way back to 1970 and which are presented in graph form.  The graph of the index for classic silver and gold commemoratives shows a sharp peak in April 1989 followed by a sharp decline that ended nine years later, then ticked up gradually until October 2006, then declined gradually until the present time.  In 2016, the index began the year at approximately 25,000 and fell to an ignominious 21,000 by the end of the year.  The last time the index was this low was sometime in 1983!  Can you imagine being able to purchase any other U.S. coin today at a 1983 price?

Here are some of my favorites in the series:

1939 Arkansas1939-P, D, or S Arkansas.  Extremely low mintage of 2,103 coins (2,104 for the 1939-S).  Current PCGS Price Guide in MS65: $525 to $650 each.  In 1988, the Redbook listed an MS65 price of $950, and that was for the most common type!

1935s San Diego1935-S or 1936-D San Diego.  I live in San Diego, so naturally, I like this coin.  Current PCGS Price Guide in MS65: $120 to $135.  Huh?  The lowest Redbook price in 1988 was $600 in MS65.

1946 Iowa1946 Iowa.  This is a common coin in high grade, but $225 for a PCGS MS67?  A real no-brainer.  MS65s were $550 in the 1988 Redbook.

1928 OregonOregon Trail (any, but especially the 1939’s).  One of my favorite designs in the series.  As with the 1939 Arkansas commems, the 1939 Oregon Trail commems have low mintages (just over 3,000 each).  Current PCGS Price Guide in MS65: $550 to $575 each.  Again, the TYPE price for these in the 1988 Redbook was $750 in MS65 – and they certainly have not become more common.

If you’re a contrarian, give the classic U.S. commemorative coins a look.  You’ll find tremendous values there.  Have fun!



Filed Under: News


Posted on January 6, 2017 by No Comments


Wayne’s World was a zany 1992 movie starring Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) as two “dudes” who broadcast a public access TV show from Wayne’s parents’ basement. The film was based on Saturday Night Live skits in which Wayne and Garth expounded on rock-and-roll music and girls. The film cost approximately $20 million to produce and went on to gross more than $183 million.

However, this is the story of a different Wayne’s World, a numismatic one that started several years later – on September 4, 1998 to be exact. On that fateful day, Wayne Homren, a member of the Numismatic Bilbiomania Society, started a weekly email publication directed at members of the organization. His stated purpose was as follows: “This is intended to be a moderated, low-volume mailing list, with no more than one message every week or so. Its purpose and use will evolve over time – please send us your comments and suggestions.” The second edition, sent to the eighty-eight members who had signed up by then, included two notices: 1) that the official club publication had gone to the printers and 2) that a member was seeking information about known copies of the Howard Rounds Newcomb book on the U.S. Large Cents of 1801-1803.

In the eighteen years since then, Wayne’s publication has become known as the E-Sylum (a play on Asylum, the name of the club’s print publication), it has grown in terms of scope and size, and it now goes to over 2,000 subscribers. The E-Sylum has become one of the most important, weekly sources for numismatic news and information. From its text-only, single-notice, initial publication, the E-Sylum has morphed into a sophisticated HTML-based presentation. The most recent issue (January 2, 2017) includes thirty-seven items in the table of contents, on a variety of subjects ranging from new numismatic publications, a coin treasure hunt, an obituary, a biography, bridges on ancient coins, 2017 coins from the Royal Mint, paper money, Victoria Crosses, and much more. The amount of work that Wayne puts into each issue is tremendous — and he has done it every week for eighteen years. Like Wayne and Garth of Wayne’s World, Mr. Homren is just as passionate as his favorite subject – numismatics. And, like Wayne’s World, the E-Sylum is public access – it is completely free of charge.

I look forward to each weekly installment of the E-Sylum and Wayne’s Words (Homren’s self-styled introduction – was this a deliberate nod to Wayne’s World?). Like clockwork, the E-Sylum appears in my inbox each Sunday night, a perfect time to relax and enjoy the fruits of Wayne’s work. Always, I learn something new and useful.

I invite you to become a part of the E-Sylum and Wayne’s “world” by subscribing here. Tell him PCGS sent you. To view all eighteen years of the E-Sylum, check out the Esylum Archives.

Filed Under: News