Dr. Sol Taylor

Coin Prices, 1978-1981

By Dr. Sol Taylor
"Making Cents"
Saturday, October 18, 2008

n an investment newsletter called Investors Monthly Review, dated November 1981, I published a three year comparison of a few selected coins which were recommended as investment-quality in November 1978. The list below:
Recommended coins November 1978 November 1981
Trends Coin Dealer Newsletter
1793 Half cent VF20 $1,900 $3,800
1808-1814 Large cent XF40 325 500
Flying eagle cent MS65 650 1,775
Indian head cent PF65RD 175 580
Shield nickel AU50 45 37
Seated dime 1837-1839 MS60 750 625
Barber quarter MS65 395 1,050
Standing Liberty quarter Type I MS65 415 1,600
Walking Liberty 50c MS65 30 110
Walking Liberty 50c PF65 145 510
1950 Proof set 210 435
1943D BU roll 5c 92 170
1921 Alabama 50c 2x2 MS65 475 1,600
1935 Boone 50c set MS65 195 575
1915 PanPac $2.50 gold MS65 1,800 5,750
$20 St Gaudens MS65 420 1,300

    The three-year record for the selection above shows an annual increase in the double digits. Only two items on the list showed a lower value after three years.
    The hectic period from 1979 to 1981 included the record acceleration of silver and gold prices. Silver reached over $40 an ounce (and never came close since then) and gold came close to $1,000 an ounce, which was touched briefly in March 2008.
    The collector coins — as in the above list — were not specifically affected by the bullion market. In 1982, however, many coin prices fell, as did the gold and silver bullion values.
    The Trends values for every item on the list today is higher for almost every item on the list.
    The lowest Trends value for a $20 St. Gaudens in MS65 is $1,400. A Proof-65 Walking Liberty Trends from $900-$1,200. MS65 Walking Liberties Trend from $110-140 for the common dates.
    Similar changes are noted for most of the other coins, as well. The major drop was noted in the Type I Liberty Standing quarter, which currently trends for $900 in MS65.
    Overall, collectors who managed to acquire true MS65 (or Proof 65) coins in 1979-1981, have done very well in terms of their collection's value today. This era was also before the grading services and the encapsulation of coins, so, many coins that were once MS65 or PR65 in 1979 may have been downgraded a point or more and thus devalued.
    Several surveys done since 2000 of similar coins in similar grades have shown a steady annual increase in pricing.
    Since no major hoards of these coins are coming on the market, prices should remain strong for the foreseeable future. Various investment newsletters tout the high-grade, encapsulated coins for future appreciation. The record shows this to be the case, and coins that sold even a year or two ago come back on the market at auction and often bring 30-75 percent more than before. 
    I heartily recommend any PCGS or NGC-graded 1793 Chain cent MS65RB at $200,000. It should be worth $1 million in the next two or three years — if you can find such a coin.