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Collecting the Ultimate 1981 Mint Set.

Collecting the Ultimate 1981 Mint Set.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker ……

1981 marked the starting of the Reagan administration and the seeming finish of the coin Wilmington, Delaware shopkeeper Judson Ryan famously dubbed “Carter’s Quarter”[1]. Relegated to mint-set-only standing, the close to quarter-sized Susan B. Anthony greenback, with its quirky hendecagon decorative rim and its non-sequitur Apollo 11 reverse, performed its would-be coda in the 1981 mint set, mercifully put to mattress by an administration fast to undo, at the least publicly, as many initiatives of the earlier Administration as potential.

In 1982, the mint set itself would bow out for 2 years, ostensibly as a cost-cutting measure. After some vociferous public grievance by a number of well-connected interest insiders, manufacturing of mint units resumed in 1984 – minus the Susan B. Anthony greenback. There have been no panegyrics for the piece, no public outcry. The eccentric coin bid adieu quietly and with out a lot fanfare. However past the passing of the greenback coin no one needed, the composition of the cent was additionally modified in the 1984 mint set, with copper-plated zinc changing the penny’s conventional bronze alloy in the center of 1982. This stuff, plus all new envelope packaging, gave the reintroduced mint units a totally new really feel from these produced between 1968-1981. Subsequently, this week’s column will take a second take a look at the 1981 set, for it really was the final of its sort.

What’s the panorama like for accumulating mint-sets?

A current improvement (and one we wholeheartedly welcome, by the approach) is the additional sub-division of set varieties that’s happening inside the registry units at NGC and PCGS. By breaking down giant collection into smaller, extra palatable sub-sets, collectors of varied means can hone in on a specialty and dedicate themselves to assembling high quality units. A mint set registry set permits a collector to search for high quality cash inside one date. Whereas in the previous one may be wholly content material to select up a white-enveloped mint set and be carried out with it, the drive for higher and higher cash has taken this as soon as ancillary effort (that’s, retaining present) and turned it right into a quest to make or purchase the absolute best set from anybody specific yr.

Specializing in one yr and making an attempt to place collectively your personal robust set is a wonderful approach of not solely discover ways to grade cash, but in addition to get an actual schooling on strike, die state, planchet high quality, and firming. We are saying this as a result of the mint’s output is totally different yr after yr and by specializing in a one-year date-set you pressure your self to acknowledge the delicate variations between items. We expect for these prepared to take this superior course in minting, the 1981 mint set provides loads of problem in the larger grades whereas additionally being a superb start line for these eager to discover ways to submit their very own cash for revenue. Additionally, it’s a traditionally essential set, which is certainly one of the elements that set it aside from the remainder of the different 1980s-era mint units.

To know why enterprise strike cash from 1981 are the strategy to go, check out this chart displaying PCGS licensed populations of enterprise strike cash vs. their San Francisco-minted proof counterparts:


The glut of purple on this chart ought to inform you instantly that enterprise strike coinage is being ignored.

In a nutshell, proofs of all trendy coin collection tower over their enterprise strike counterparts. They’ve saturated the market to the level the place they far exceed all foreseeable demand. Proof cash by their nature are engaging and will are available wonderful situation; it takes little or no scrutiny to type out PR69DCAM proofs from drawback cash. Enterprise strikes, on the different hand, require hours of looking, cautious scrutiny, and a wealth of examples to select from. Taking a look at the chart above, you possibly can clearly see that this looking isn’t being completed, which suggests the time is true to hunt out high quality examples now… whereas no one’s wanting.

What sort of set ought to I construct?

For the collector not making an attempt to interrupt the financial institution, we advise aiming for a set that composed of Higher-Than-Typical graded cash. This can be a delicate but essential tweaking of Q. David Bowers’ Optimum Collecting Grade™. The important thing distinction between the two ideas is that Mr. Bowers prefers cash in a situation the place the subsequent grade up is accompanied by a big bounce in worth. This idea works fairly nicely when coping with basic coinage since the grading schema of classics has been nicely established over a lot of years; for moderns, nevertheless, we see the pursuit of conditionally uncommon cash, and the generally discovered mint state grades have few long run prospects for appreciating in worth even when one religiously adhered to the OCG method. To not point out that Bowers himself just isn’t precisely clear on how he would apply OCG in terms of collection the place a coin is available close to face worth in the low-to-middle vary of mint state. See our article on Bicentennial quarters to see what we imply.

Higher-Than-Typical amassing signifies that you consider the high quality of every date and mint individually. Decide what the typical grade is for every concern and attempt to gather cash in grades which are higher. The farther away you’re from the typical grade, the scarcer cash in that situation are, and the farther we get from their date of situation, the much less possible it’s that enormous portions of superior cash are going to floor. It’s not a foolproof technique – all numismatic premiums are the results of provide and demand – however it’s a strategy to hedge in favor of tighter provide. Remember, nevertheless, that the marketplace for moderns just isn’t nicely established but and lots of sellers and collectors are already constructing in premiums they need to apply to mature markets and mature cash. This built-in premium is a godsend in case you are good at submitting your personal excessive finish materials (and promoting items you don’t want), however is usually a long-term lure should you purchase in at the prime of the market and extra materials in that grade comes out.

In that case, OCG might save a collector from dropping his shirt, however it definitely gained’t make him any considerable revenue on his funding. Higher-Than-Typical amassing presents rewards for self-submitters and sellers, and, if correctly nurtured, could make a market viable and wholesome for years to return. It’s because Higher-Than-Typical amassing provides the holder of those cash much more leverage when it comes time to promote than they’d have in any other case.

What’s Typical, Higher-Than-Typical, and Uncommon for 1981?

Denomination Typical Worth Higher Worth Uncommon Worth 1981 Cent MS-66 $20 MS-67 $194 MS-68 Pop 1 1981-D Cent MS-66 $40 MS-67 $295 1981 FS Nickel NOT FS $11 MS-64+ $206 MS-66 $3161[1] 1981-D FS Nickel MS-64 $19 MS-65 $71 MS-66 $190 1981 FT Dime MS-65-66 $39 MS-67 $50 MS-68 Pop 2 1981-D FT Dime MS-66-67 $49 MS-68 $319 1981 Quarter MS-65-66 $37 MS-67 $327[2] 1981-D Quarter MS-65-66 $34 MS-67 $375 1981 Half Greenback MS-64-65 $15 MS-66 $83 MS-67 $175 1981-D Half Greenback MS-64-65 $15 MS-66 $88 MS-67 $625[3] 1981-P Greenback MS-64-65 $17 MS-66 $58 MS-67 $2450[4] 1981-D Greenback MS-63-66 $28 MS-67 $423 1981-S Greenback MS-64-65 $35 MS-66 $541 MS-67 Pop 1


For strike-attributable cash, we use cash that aren’t absolutely struck to find out what’s typical for the yr or mint, however we don’t contemplate these cash, until present in the highest grades, to be all that collectible. Likewise, cents ought to all the time be pink in a set like this. Costs based mostly on final 5 public auctions of PCGS graded cash[7].

Cash listed and not using a Higher-Than-Typical grade are by-no-means straightforward pulls. Discovering them in the uncooked requires self-discipline and endurance. It additionally requires entry to a somewhat giant pattern inhabitants. Brisker mint units and unique rolls are your greatest bets, however there isn’t a rhyme or purpose as to which avenue can be the best choice for locating these elusive larger grade items. Additionally, we advocate looking public sale listings recurrently. The random nature of public sale listings permits for the probability that a excessive finish piece will promote at a big low cost. In these auctions, watch out: a holder is a holder and a coin is a coin – don’t confuse one with the different. And don’t get hung up on making an attempt to have grade consistency throughout the set. The chart above illustrates why: a 1981-P quarter isn’t more likely to come on the market, so on this occasion your greatest guess is to both accept a 66 or attempt to make your personal 67. In the case of the 1981 Full Step Jefferson nickel, even discovering a coin in MS-64 will show difficult. Figuring out what makes up your date mint set is the key to figuring out which grades to search for and which grades to keep away from.


Earlier than venturing into high-end trendy coin units, it’s a good suggestion to ponder complete prices[8].

The highest PCGS registry set belongs to a collector out of San Francisco who focuses on high-end clad-era coinage. The primary mint set registry set he put collectively was truly the 1975 set (see our write-up of the attainable key date 1975 Full Torch Roosevelt dime right here). His objective is to place collectively top quality mint units in yearly from 1965 to the current. He, like most registry set collectors, is all the time taking a look at which cash in his set he’d wish to improve. The show-stopping piece in his set, when it comes to general shortage, is his 1981-S Susan B. Anthony greenback. His MS-67 instance comes with a critical pedigree. It was discovered by clad-specialist Rob Anglemeir, earlier than being bought to my pal and fellow Ike Group member, Dr. David Golan, who constructed considered one of the most spectacular Susan B. Anthony units ever assembled, pulling lots of his cash from $1,000 mint-sewn luggage held in surplus and provided to the common public for face worth by the U.S. Mint. The coin was then owned by one other notable clad collector, Gabriel Murphy, who himself is a 39-time winner of PCGS’s annual Registry Set Awards. The piece is the solely MS-67 recognized, a beast of a coin, one which made its approach from the San Francisco Mint to the Denver Mint with out struggling main injury from bag friction.

In the finish, one doesn’t have to chase down close to inconceivable to seek out prime inhabitants cash to place collectively one thing particular. 1981 coinage was meant to be spent, and most of it was. Taking the time to comb over what’s left and assemble the greatest set you possibly can, by making it your aim to seek out the cash amongst what stays of the 2.9 million mint units, saved rolls and single cash housed in 2” x 2”s, won’t solely offer you a wealthy and deep understanding of the trendy coin-minting course of, but in addition will save high quality items for future generations that wouldn’t essentially survive with out your efforts. And who is aware of, that second 1979-S in MS-67 may be one white envelope away. Would you understand what it appeared like in the wild?

Flip of a Coin:

Do you know that the trime, that quaint bygone mid-19th century denomination, virtually made a comeback in 1911? Prompted by two Ohio mayors, United States Consultant Robert J. Bulkley (D- Ohio) launched laws to reinstate the three cent piece, this time making the coin in an alloy of 95% aluminum and 5% copper. When this metallic was deemed unsuitable for coining, an annular design was thought-about, this one being produced from the similar nickel-copper alloy used to make the nickel. The ultimate invoice referring to the reintroduced three cent piece handed the Home however did not clear the senate. Don Taxay recollects this story and lots of others in his 1966 quantity, The U.S. Mint and Coinage.[9] We do love the classics.

It’s been 13 years since John Flanagan’s Artwork Deco heraldic eagle disappeared from the again of the quarter. Should you didn’t understand it, the sample isn’t coming again. After the America the Lovely Quarters® program ends in 2013, a brand new reverse that includes Washington crossing the Delaware will debut.[10] That’s odd… thought we did that already on the reverse of the 1999 New Jersey State quarter…

Guess the Worth: PCGS is holding a contest to see who can guess the worth of the ultra-rare 1907 Extremely Excessive Aid double eagle graded PCGS PR69 that was as soon as the centerpiece of Phillip H. Morse’s assortment. This unimaginable assortment was bought in November of 2005. The hammer worth of this coin in its final providing was a cool 2.9 million dollars. The winner will obtain an MS-65 St. Gaudens sort coin courtesy of PCGS. This go-round, we predict it should promote for a bit bit extra… relying on the spot worth of gold. Go to the Collector’s Universemessage board and publish your guess. Perhaps you’ll take house a double eagle that’s not fairly as beneficial however nonetheless value having.


[1] Phillips, Kevin. “New Dollar Coin Symbolizes Federal Flubs” Sarasota Herald Tribune. August 25, 1979

[2] Totals pulled 6/20/2012 from pcgs.com; proof totals embrace Sort 1 and Sort 2 mintmarks.

[3] Solely two revealed gross sales since 2001.

[4] Solely two recognized in 2000 when two examples bought by teletrade.com for $327 every; present pricing would doubtless be considerably larger if out there at present.

[5] Solely two examples have traded publicly since 2000.

[6] Three examples bought since 2007.

[7] As reported by PCGS.com.

[8] Prices based mostly on present market developments, knowledge collected from final 5 public auctions. Supply PCGS.com

[9] Taxay, Don. The U.S. Mint and Coinage. Sanford J. Durst Numismatic Publications. New York, NY. Print. P 305.