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A Question of Value

Written by Q. David Bowers, Chairman Emeritus

Author: Q. David Bowers / Thursday, April 26, 2012 / Categories: From the Desk of Q. David Bowers
“It’s my money and I can spend it how I want to!

So true.

The other day I received a letter from a nice gentleman who took issue with statement I made to the effect that for optimum value—high grade and eye appeal and very low price-MS-Statehood quarters are ideal. In my Official Guide Book of Washington Quarters, published by Whitman, I called this OCG, or Optimum Collecting Grade—a price point at which buyers receive a lot for their money. He questioned my wisdom, suggesting that encapsulated Mint State and Proof coins at the 69 and 70 level were much more desirable.

Changing the subject slightly, he continued:

“I'm trying to determine whether it is your position that moderns are not collectible in higher grades. Wouldn't you say that a high population coin like a 1995 quarter has the best chance of appreciating in value if the collector has some leverage? In other words, if the price of an MS-67 or MS-68 1995 quarter appreciates by 100% ten years from now, would you expect that an MS-65 coin would follow suit when the population of encapsulated coins at MS-66 is more than twice that of the MS-65 specimen?

“I have done a thorough statistical analysis of historical prices for several coin series- and I find that some coins go up based on scarcity while others surprise you and go up based on the difficulty of finding gem quality coins (the 1923-S Monroe commemorative half dollar for instance).”

I replied, noting in part:

With regard to OCG, the minute one adds certified coins to otherwise common Statehood quarters, the price multiplies many times and immediately adds $10 to $20 to the price. As I see it, and I have a complete collection of these quarters in an album, obtaining a nice Uncertified MS-65 coin is inexpensive and ideal. Also, the collection can be kept in a small amount of space. If someone is into Registry sets, then by all means they can spend a lot of money, have the coins certified, and get some shoe boxes to store them in. However, I would hardly recommend this for the average person. Also, I have lingering doubts as to the sustainable market value of certain high graded certified modern coins of which millions exist.

Regarding Proofs, just about every modern Proof ever minted is Proof-69. Indeed, a Proof-65 would be a rarity! What happens is a lot of people don’t understand this and realize that a Proof-69 Barber half dollar of 1914, for example, can be worth tens of thousands of dollars. When they see a Proof-69 Statehood quarter offered for sale, they say to themselves, “Great! Now I can join traditional old time collectors by getting the best quality available.” What they don’t realize is that the coins they are buying are exceedingly common.

With regard to the populations of certified coins, as an interesting exercise anyone interested to might go back to 1990 and also to the year 2000 and get PCGS Population Reports for modern Mint issues, and it will soon be realized that the number of coins certified in a given high grade has multiplied. There is no reason to doubt that 10 years hence the populations will be far greater than they are now. Accordingly, anyone looking at this from an “investment” viewpoint would be well advised to be very, very careful. There are hundreds of thousands, often millions, of every modern Mint Proof and commemorative in existence. This is my opinion.

However, anyone can buy what they want. Just do some thinking first.

Best wishes,

Dave Bowers