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Quality and Rarity Rule
By Harry Miller, Coins Magazine
June 04, 2013

This article was originally printed in Coins Magazine.
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Is the Bernanke fiat currency crusade creating an asset bubble? There are pros and cons on that subject.

We are in dangerous uncharted economic territory. Thus far there has been strong deflationary pressures in various sectors of the economy to keep overall inflation of ordinary consumer products in check. But what of the less-than-ordinary things people consume?

If you compile your own stats and ignore manufactured government data, you find an entirely different picture. Higher quality consumer products with the exception of most electronics are up dramatically.

Housing is cheaper, but if you want special molding or real wood cabinets, prices are through the roof. Stuff is often not available.

The same is true for coins. Ordinary staples such as state quarters, modern Mint products including proof and mint sets, have experienced deflationary pressure. Also in that same vein are the highly promoted speculative issues of the last 100 or so years. Coins like a 1931-S circulated Lincoln cent, or an 1894 circulated Morgan dollar and others are examples of this.

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And while this is depressing, as a collector one should remember that even with downward adjustments of as much as 25 percent, most of these items are still two or more times what they were 10 or so years ago.

Good quality scarce or rare-date issues are dramatically higher and trending up. Will this be a new asset bubble? At some point it will be, but I believe we are only at the beginning of the up phase.

The 1796 quarter is over $400,000 in MS-65. Earlier this year we saw the first $10 million coin sold at public auction. The recent auction at the Central States Numismatic Society Show saw a 1913 Liberty nickel at nearly $3.2 million and three other coins sold for over $1 million.

This is wonderful if you have deep pockets. The rest of us can take heart, though, because most traditional collector coins are doing well.

If you have held any early pre-1820 issues in nice condition for the last five years you are looking at 50-200 percent increases. All Barber coinage is up 25-100 percent. It was not long ago a common-date Barber half was around $200 in AU-50 and now dealers are paying $300 and up for them. Semi-key Lincolns, while a little soft now, are still two to three times what they were 10 years ago.

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