Several years ago a well known professional
coin dealer proposed the idea of putting together a Box
of Twenty key coins as vehicle for good potential in the
future. Twenty coins spread over different series are diversified
enough so that if one does not perform well, the others
can make up the difference. It’s well known that not
all rare coins appreciate in value at the same time. Some
remain dormant, some depreciate in value, some increase
modestly, and some rocket into the stratosphere. Wouldn’t
it be great if we knew the rockets in advance? Since we
only know them in retrospect, it makes sense to choose a
group of pieces that are fundamentally or conditionally
rare so that any downside risk is outweighed by the upward
movement of a few of the superstars in the group. Now is
an excellent time to compile your Box of Twenty.
fundamentally rare coin is one that had a very limited mintage.
All regularly issued business strike and proof coins with
mintages under 10,000 pieces are fundamentally rare in any
condition obtainable. This category includes all early gold
and silver coinage as well as some copper and nickel pieces.
For example all of the quarter eagles of 1796 to 1807 are
in this category. The largest mintage was in 1807 with 6,812
pieces. Both PCGS and NGC have certified 254 pieces in all
grades, and these numbers do not account for crossovers
or resubmissions. Obviously no more than 254 collectors
could have one of these certified coins, making them always
in demand. Yet mintages of other years are significantly
lower. The next highest, 1804, is less than half at 3,327.
Both services have 147 combined including both 13-Star and
14-Star reverses. All early date quarter eagles are fundamentally
rare and would make an excellent choice for a box of twenty.
A conditionally rare coin is one that has
a large mintage but saw much circulation and is common in
circulated grades but rare in uncirculated or almost uncirculated
condition. An example is the 1861 half eagle. It had a mintage
of 688,084, making it a fairly common date. In circulated
grades it retails for less than $600. Yet in Mint State
65 it lists for $37,050 and in MS66 a whopping $71,500.
Clearly upper mint state grades of this coin are desirable
because they are conditionally rare. NGC has certified 1456
in total but only 8 in MS65 and 2 in MS66. PCGS has 715
in total with 7 in MS65 and 1 in MS66. While these examples
are sufficient to make the point, there are numerous other
examples one could choose.
Some coins appreciate slowly in value and
others jump up quickly. For example, the 1860-O silver dollar
increased from $5,560 to $6,940 since July 2005; however,
if we look at the 1860-O in MS65, we see an increase from
$16,880 to $35,930 in that same period of time.
The foregoing are isolated examples of the
kinds of changes in value that quality selected coins can
undergo over time, and these examples are taken only over
the past five years. A box of twenty well chosen pieces
held over time will yield some spectacular results, and
the time to begin with your twenty might never be better
than it is now.