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Are US Mint Sets a Good Investment?

I often get asked the question of whether US Mint Sets are a good investment.  When it comes to investment advice, advisors are a dime a dozen.  That said, the following information is mostly my opinion and should be taken as such, just like other advisors, a dime a dozen.

Over the years, there have been many companies that have hyped coins as a solid investment.  Many have been wrong.  People believe that merely buying coins from the Mint ensure that the value will increase, and in fact, US Mint advertising, used to proclaim that buying US Mint sets was an investment in the future.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

So, are US Mint Sets a good investment?  That answer is actually more complicated than you might think.  In order to answer that question, we will reference the chart below.  Let’s take a moment to explain how the chart is organized.  The first column is just a counter and second and third columns are obvious.  The fourth column labeled “Issue Price” is the price the US Mint sold these sets for that year.  The next column labeled “Current Value” is the value listed in the Jan 2011 issue of Coins Magazine.   If you know anything about the prices listed in most coin magazines, the Red Book and other sources for coin prices, they are almost always way more than what you can sell those sets for and even higher than what you can buy them for from many dealers.  So when you think about coin prices, dealers have a buy price and a sell price, just like any other business.   

So let’s look at the first 12 rows of the chart, basically US Mint Sets from1947 through 1958.  If you had bought US Mint Sets when the US Mint began bundling Mint State coins, the answer would be a resounding yes.   These sets have increased in value considerably.  Also, look closely at the mintage of these sets.  As you can see, very few of them were produced and even fewer of them exist today as they may have been lost or broken up.  Consequently an original set from those years is indeed rare.  Early Mint Sets had very low mintages, and as you know, low mintage items are usually worth more than their high mintage counterparts.

If you bought mint sets from 1959 through 1964, the answer would still be yes.  After that however, maybe not so much.  The 1959 through 1964 sets are worth well beyond their original issue price mostly due to the rise in silver.

Since most of us were not around, or did not collect coins when the US Mint began making Mint Sets, let’s focus more on what I would consider the “Modern Age” of mint sets.  This would be 1965 to present because 1965 was the first year that total mint sets exceeded 2 million and the first year without 90% silver coins. 

The current value of these sets is not that much higher than the original price from the Mint.  The offer price from the dealer in Coin World is below the original Mint price in many cases.  The glaring exception to that is the 1970 set.  This one sticks out because the only Unc 1970 half dollars available are from Mint Sets.  No 1970 half dollars were released for circulation.  Additionally, the 1970 D half dollar contains silver.

As we continue through the 70’s, 80’s and most of the 90’s, the current listed retail value of the Mint Sets is below the original Mint price, clearly indicating that investing in Mint Sets is a poor choice.  If you are a serious coin collector, this should not be a big deal as you bought the coins for your collection not investment value.  Not all “Modern Age” mint sets have lost value, just most. 

One of the primary reasons for the depressed values in US Mint sets is that dealer inventories are loaded with them.  There is not much demand for sets from the 70’s and on and like everything, value is based on supply and demand.  In the case of many of these sets, there is more than ample supply and very little demand.

One thing to note, my analysis is based on typical common sets with no errors.  There have been a few sets released where there has been an error such as a missing mint mark and these sets have skyrocketed in value.  Your chance of getting one of these though is very slim.  Again, the scarcer it is, the higher the value.  And the scarcer it is, the less likely you will just happen upon one.

So, are US Mint Sets a good investment?  Looking at the historical numbers over the years, I would say no.  But like anything related to coin collecting, if you are in it purely for price accumulation, there are better investment alternatives.  If you are now looking to begin collecting Mint Sets, the data would indicate that you should be able to pick up these sets for around what they might have originally sold for. 

Since so many mint sets sell for well below the original Mint price, this begs the question of whether they are worth more broken up?  And of course, there is no easy answer.  As you might guess, the coins in those earlier sets are likely worth more together.  But that depends a great deal on condition.  Each coin will be judged on its own merit, and better/higher grade coins will sell for much more.

If you look at the more modern Mint Sets, I think that breaking them up with the thought that they will sell for more as individual coins is also a tough sell.  Using my own research and using eBay as a guide would indicate that many of them that are listed do not sell.  If you are a dealer, the time and energy to list, relist, and then pack individual coins that sell for less than a dollar or maybe for a couple dollars does not seem like a good use of time.

So with this data, you can now decide for yourself if buying US Mint Sets is a good investment.  For many of them, they have gone down in price.  So buying from the Mint was not a good idea.  But now you can get them at a discount.  So you decide.   

Keith Scott has been a collector for over 30 years. His website has US coins for sale. He also writes Coin Collecting Articles for fun. Visit his websites for a history of US coins, metal market updates and news about your favorite coins.

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