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No Profit Likely on Pope Coins
By Patrick A. Heller
April 09, 2013


The Roman Catholic church has a new pope, whose election establishes a number of firsts for that religious office. As has become the typical operating practice, the issues of commemoratives honoring the event are starting to flood the market.

Already, Cook Islands and the Seychelles Islands have been commissioned to issue coins to honor Pope Francis I. Don’t be surprised to see even more “legal tender” coins and medals to be advertised in the Sunday papers, the television sales channels, on the Internet and elsewhere. Many private medals are bound to be advertised in such a manner as to confuse the public into thinking they are legal tender coins.

If you were to ask me (and most people don’t) if these could make a good investment, my answer is a strong no. Companies are looking for any excuse to create a product they can sell because of some connection with a newsworthy event. Invariably the sellers will make as many as people want to purchase, meaning that there will be plenty of pieces available to meet secondary market demand down the road.

Consider purchasing them only if you specifically desire to own the commemorative, even realizing that the items will likely be of little to no cash value down the road. The one exception to this rule would be if you could purchase any solid gold or silver coins or medals for close to the value of precious metal content. But – don’t hold your breath waiting for the initial sellers to make such an opportunity available.

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From past experience with hundreds of other commemoratives, the number of long-term collectors interested in owning such coins and medals is much less than the demand from the initial buyers. Savvy collectors know that they can probably buy them for less in the aftermarket and will patently wait for that opportunity.

There have been few notable exceptions to the result that special commemoratives will sell for less on the secondary market. For example, the mintage for the U.S. commemorative 2001 Buffalo silver dollar was set so low that I predicted it would sell out quickly and rise in price. That is exactly what happened.

Before you spend your money hoping to get in on the next sleeper you need to consider who is the issuer, what relation do they have to the person or event commemorated and how are they marketed. In this instance, for example, a set of coins issued by Vatican City or Argentina (the new pope’s homeland) would be more meaningful than those put out by other mints. Have fun collecting.

Patrick A. Heller is the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He owns Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at Other commentaries are available at Coin Week ( and He also writes a bi-monthly column on collectibles for “The Greater Lansing Business Monthly” ( His radio show “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at

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