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If you spent $13,000 on coins in the 1970s...

jonathanbjonathanb Posts: 3,386 ✭✭✭✭✭

I saw a cousin this evening and she told me a story that got my attention. Since all I have right now is the story, it might be fun to see what guesses people come up with here...

According to her, her father spent $13,000 on coins in the 1970s and he's bummed because he thinks they've lost all their value and they're worthless now. She's seen them, but she doesn't know anything about coins and she wasn't really paying attention. She describes them as a small enough group to fit in a safe, and they were mostly different. Based on that, it sounds to me like maybe 100-ish individual coins rather than rolls or bags. She says they were purchased from a "real coin dealer" and were actually worth what he paid for them at the time. She thinks that the coins are still in their original holders from the 1970s. There's no concern that the lost value because they were in a fire or otherwise damaged. According to her, the coins had a fair value of $13,000 in the 1970s, and the same coins in the same condition have lost all their value now.

...and that's all I have. Of course I asked for pictures. Maybe I'll get them. What sort of guesses can we come up with, from that story alone?

One scenario is that her father got scammed, and the coins were never worth $13,000. I'm going to ignore that, because it isn't interesting, even though it's certainly possible.

Another scenario is that her father is right, and the coins have lost all their value since the 1970s. I have a hard time figuring a way that could happen. There would have been ways to lose that much money on coins. If someone spent all their money buying up 1950-D nickels, that would have been sad. Or similarly if they bought rolls and rolls of cents from the 1960s. Neither of those works with her description of a small number of mostly different coins that could fit in a safe.

Question 1: Can you come up with a way to spend $13,000 on a small number of fairly-priced coins in the 1970s, and have coins that are basically worthless now?

A third scenario is that her father is wrong, and the coins haven't lost their value after all. I'm rooting for this one!

Question 2: What sort of coins might someone have legitimately spent $13,000 on in the 1970s?

This isn't a time travel question, where you know now how the money should have been spent then. The question is how someone really would have spent the money, based on the coins that were available and popular at the time.

I will follow up if I get the rest of the details (and if I'm allowed to share). That might not ever happen, sorry. Until I know more, any guesses?

«1

Comments

  • AlanSkiAlanSki Posts: 1,657 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 31, 2023 8:19PM

    Commemoratives. Morgan’s with low mintages until vault bags were found.

  • U1chicagoU1chicago Posts: 5,497 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I know the mid to late 1980s had some super high prices on Classic Commems and common Morgans when the investment craze and market peaked, but I haven’t heard the same about the 1970s. Hopefully others can give us a better idea.

  • CryptoCrypto Posts: 3,344 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Fad coins like 1950d nickels, 1945s micro S and the like that were pumped and dumped marketed in bulk but even then there would value there

  • 1madman1madman Posts: 1,259 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Counterfeit $20 saints comes to mind

  • DelawareDoonsDelawareDoons Posts: 3,166 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 31, 2023 8:25PM

    Small number of mostly different coins that could fit in a safe that have lost most of their value since the 1970's...

    I'm gonna guess these are esoteric Ancients or something. Don't see how it is possible otherwise. Even classic commem prices wouldn't go from $13k to almost nothing today spread across the series. Maybe from the peak in 1989 to today, but not the 70's. BIE Cents maybe? That would be a big oof. The aforementioned 50-D, other "key" dates of modern series' that aren't really keys value-wise.

    Professional Numismatist. "It's like God, Family, Country, except Sticker, Plastic, Coin."

  • ifthevamzarockinifthevamzarockin Posts: 8,496 ✭✭✭✭✭

    If they were purchased from a "real coin dealer" back in the 70's there is a good chance for nice coins that have gone up in value.

    My dad bought a nice 22 no D back in the early 70's and paid $100.
    Back then 13K was a good chunk of change and could buy some real nice coins.

  • davewesendavewesen Posts: 5,674 ✭✭✭✭✭

    gem sets in Harco Coinmaster albums

  • DelawareDoonsDelawareDoons Posts: 3,166 ✭✭✭✭✭

    It's most likely these date to the late 1980's and are classic commemoratives, honestly. Occam's Razor.

    Professional Numismatist. "It's like God, Family, Country, except Sticker, Plastic, Coin."

  • ifthevamzarockinifthevamzarockin Posts: 8,496 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Some of the coins may have some outstanding toning from long term storage. ;)

  • yosclimberyosclimber Posts: 4,543 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited December 31, 2023 8:47PM


    As others have noted, the 1970s were not a market peak at all.
    If they were bought at a fair price, and they were different types (like a type set, or the set of coins in the PCGS 3000 index),
    they should be worth a lot more now than he paid for them.
    So my guess is that he is wrong about "they have lost all their value".
    Even if bought at the minor peak in December 1979 (index = 40000), the index is now 70000, so more than 50% higher.
    So my guess is they are worth at least $20k.

  • BAJJERFANBAJJERFAN Posts: 30,959 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Why not give her father a call and ask?

  • OverdateOverdate Posts: 6,890 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Having been around at that time, I can think of a few possibilities.

    Eisenhower dollars were hot. The 1973-S silver proof peaked at over $100 In the late 1970's. Average uncirculated Walking Liberty halves were also bringing well upwards of $100 each.

    This was the decade prior to third-party grading services, so grading standards may have changed since the coins were purchased.

    Also the dollar is worth way less now, having about 1/6 of its purchasing power in 1974. So the coins would need to bring considerably more than $13,000 just to keep up with inflation.

    My Adolph A. Weinman signature :)

  • PerryHallPerryHall Posts: 45,193 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @1madman said:
    Counterfeit $20 saints comes to mind

    Virtually every counterfeit Saint that I've seen meets the mint specs for gold content and gold has increased in value since the 1970's.

    Worry is the interest you pay on a debt you may not owe.

  • mirabelamirabela Posts: 4,938 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 1, 2024 6:54AM

    I'm surprised PVC hasn't come up as a possibility. Regardless of what coins are in it, that could be a contributing factor.

    mirabela
  • jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 31,287 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 1, 2024 5:31AM

    @Crypto said:
    Fad coins like 1950d nickels, 1945s micro S and the like that were pumped and dumped marketed in bulk but even then there would value there

    This. And unc rolls. Some of those had astronomical prices in the 1960s and have been sliding ever since.

    But, as has been noted, hard to get to $13000 with a small number of these. But it proves it's possible to waste $13,000 on coins.

  • jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 31,287 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @DelawareDoons said:
    Small number of mostly different coins that could fit in a safe that have lost most of their value since the 1970's...

    I'm gonna guess these are esoteric Ancients or something. Don't see how it is possible otherwise. Even classic commem prices wouldn't go from $13k to almost nothing today spread across the series. Maybe from the peak in 1989 to today, but not the 70's. BIE Cents maybe? That would be a big oof. The aforementioned 50-D, other "key" dates of modern series' that aren't really keys value-wise.

    That's an interesting suggestion. I don't think most ancients, "esoteric" or not have seen those kind of drops. But I do think you are redirecting us in a possibly fruitful direction: non-U.S coins.

    Maybe Israeli coins? These were heavily marketed in the US to raise money for the state of Israel. They have not done well over time, although I'm not sure I would say they've reached zero.

    Possibly restrikes or similar "fake" coins. These could include ancients, Confederate, and any number of historical world coins.

  • jdimmickjdimmick Posts: 9,577 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Some of the above comments I agree

    if you bought a lot of 50-d nickels, 73-s Brown ikes, and several of those Morgans that surfaced in quantities years later, etc.

    Also improper storage is a big one. I once looked at a (what would have been a killer set of UNC buffalo's completely destroyed in a harco album.

  • knovak1976knovak1976 Posts: 201 ✭✭✭

    I bought a BU 1949S Franklin for $300 back when that was a ‘must have” key coin. I was 19 and making $2.25 an hour while going to a college. I was so excited to buy that coin from the local coin shop……..and now I look at that coin and I MIGHT be able to get $100 on a GREAT day if I was lucky. I also was buying proof and uncirculated sets from the mint…that are now literally worth the value of the coins in them. 🤔😩

  • CoinscratchCoinscratch Posts: 7,697 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Gold.

  • RichieURichRichieURich Posts: 8,346 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Post-1964 proof and mint sets would be a loser too.

    An authorized PCGS dealer, and a contributor to the Red Book.

  • 7Jaguars7Jaguars Posts: 7,182 ✭✭✭✭✭

    ?

    Not sure of that response since gold prices were so very low at the beginning of the 1970s; even late 70s, one might get a 20 SG or Lib for very low prices, etc.

    Love that Milled British (1830-1960)
    Well, just Love coins, period.
  • CoinscratchCoinscratch Posts: 7,697 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @7Jaguars said:
    ?

    Not sure of that response since gold prices were so very low at the beginning of the 1970s; even late 70s, one might get a 20 SG or Lib for very low prices, etc.

    So this guy thinks but isn't sure that their value dropped? Then gold is a no go.

    I have no clue back then I was trying to avoid parking lot trash while riding my skateboard :D

  • 7Jaguars7Jaguars Posts: 7,182 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Umm, was that directed at me? I think you can look it up readily...
    As 1978 dawned, gold was 172 USD per ounce - do the math since gold is today at about 2060 USD per ounce.

    Love that Milled British (1830-1960)
    Well, just Love coins, period.
  • jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 31,287 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @RichieURich said:
    Post-1964 proof and mint sets would be a loser too.

    Not that big a loser. They issue price for 1970s proof sets, for example, were $5 to $9. Current greysheet prices are $4 to $9.

  • CoinscratchCoinscratch Posts: 7,697 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @7Jaguars said:
    Umm, was that directed at me? I think you can look it up readily...
    As 1978 dawned, gold was 172 USD per ounce - do the math since gold is today at about 2060 USD per ounce.

    Yes, it was in reply to your statement but it was about the cousins father not you.

  • flyguyflflyguyfl Posts: 117 ✭✭

    Improper storage would be my guess if they are now devalued.

  • AUandAGAUandAG Posts: 24,485 ✭✭✭✭✭

    He could have been excited with them and when he got them he cleaned them. I've seen that happen.
    Con job from marketing company?

    If he had bought GSA CC dollars in the early 70's he would have spent about $8 each. That would be 1,625 coins that today would be worth in excess of $550,000 at $350 per coin.

    bob :)
    vegas, baby!

    Registry: CC lowballs (boblindstrom), [email protected]
  • jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 31,287 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @AUandAG said:
    He could have been excited with them and when he got them he cleaned them. I've seen that happen.
    Con job from marketing company?

    If he had bought GSA CC dollars in the early 70's he would have spent about $8 each. That would be 1,625 coins that today would be worth in excess of $550,000 at $350 per coin.

    bob :)
    vegas, baby!

    Cleaning them would violate the terms of the original post as would the "con job".

    Clearly, the OP was TLDR

  • WinLoseWinWinLoseWin Posts: 1,462 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @yosclimber said:

    As others have noted, the 1970s were not a market peak at all.
    If they were bought at a fair price, and they were different types (like a type set, or the set of coins in the PCGS 3000 index),
    they should be worth a lot more now than he paid for them.
    So my guess is that he is wrong about "they have lost all their value".
    Even if bought at the minor peak in December 1979 (index = 40000), the index is now 70000, so more than 50% higher.
    So my guess is they are worth at least $20k.

    It could also matter when in the 1970's. If it was 1979 and the group in the OP included certain proof type coins, especially 3 cent nickels and some others, it could well be underwater now even with accurate grading and at-the-time reasonable pricing.
    .
    .

    Here is the PCGS chart for Proof Type Coin Index:
    .
    .

    .
    .
    .
    The overall market chart by PCGS I think understates that 1979 - 1980 peak a bit.

    "That's one small spike for the overall market ...and .... one giant spike for Proof Type."

    "To Be Esteemed Be Useful" - 1792 Birch Cent --- "I personally think we developed language because of our deep need to complain." - Lily Tomlin

  • mikee999mikee999 Posts: 327 ✭✭✭✭

    I’d buy 13 BU 09-SVD Lincoln’s.

  • semikeycollectorsemikeycollector Posts: 908 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Its so hard to say, what the coins were or if they were bought at a "fair" price.
    If they were recent mint sets and proof set along with 1950-d nickels it's worth a lot less or if the coins were unfairly over graded.

    However if the prices were fair and not everything was base common or the coins are at least desirable as type or some better dates, it could be a windfall.

  • dhikewhitneydhikewhitney Posts: 355 ✭✭✭

    "Question 1: Can you come up with a way to spend $13,000 on a small number of fairly-priced coins in the 1970s, and have coins that are basically worthless now?"
    No, not if they were fairly priced (of which I'm skeptical; how would she know ?).

    Question 2: What sort of coins might someone have legitimately spent $13,000 on in the 1970s?
    Pre-1933 US Gold and/or Mexican Gold Peso denominations with some US Silver Type Coins

  • 87redcivic87redcivic Posts: 117 ✭✭✭

    I looked up the 1973-76 Montreal Olympic coin series (28 silver + 2 gold), to see if that could be a possibility, but the issue price for those in the 70s was far less than $13,000.

  • hfjacintohfjacinto Posts: 734 ✭✭✭✭✭

    If it’s 100 coins that means each coin was on average about $130. At that price I was thinking high grade Ike’s, some foreign coins that with inflation are now worth less, Franklin 50 cents or common date mercury dimes. Trying to sell them now you could be down to $2000-$3000, not worthless but $13k in 1975 would be $75k in todays dollar.

    It’s not as far fetched, if you purchased a PCGS MS70 1986 ASE in the early 2010’s was about $10-$20k due to conditional rarity, today it’s worth $700. That’s a classic case of losing your shirt.

  • MrEurekaMrEureka Posts: 23,830 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited January 1, 2024 6:59PM

    Another possibility is that the father brought the coins into a shop, got a lowball offer and a story, and believed the guy.

    That said, I sold coins in the late 70's that are now worth 10 cents on the dollar, and other coins that are now worth 10X or more. So anything is possible.

    Andy Lustig

    Doggedly collecting coins of the Central American Republic.

    Visit the Society of US Pattern Collectors at USPatterns.com.
  • jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 31,287 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @jonathanb said:
    Thanks to all for the very interesting guesses. Has anyone written an article discussing past fads such as the ones mentioned in this thread? That would be an interesting read.

    As a partial update... the latest info I have from my cousin sticks with the $13,000 original value, and there were at least two later appraisals that agreed that the value was accurate when (re)appraised.

    However, the purchase date was more like 1981 than the 1970s, and the coins probably included some proof type and some commems. I'm not thrilled to see the chart posted by @WinLoseWin for the Proof Type Coin Index (but thanks for posting!). That doesn't bode well. Commems purchased in 1981 could show a small profit now, depending on which ones he bought at the time.

    I still don't have pictures.

    1981 was near the peak for gold, so buying bullion instead of coins wouldn't have helped much. On the other hand, Apple's IPO was in 1980. If he'd bought $13,000 of Apple stock then, it would be worth about $18 million now. Isn't hindsight wonderful? :-)

    The "peak" for gold in 1980 was less than half of the current price, so it wasn't bullion.

    If two later appraisals affirmed the value, I assume those appraisals were in the 1980s before the bubble burst.

    Either way this is a cautionary take about "investing" in coins. Though everyone thinks they are smarter than this gentleman and would pick better, you're not. But the coin and enjoy them, but "investing" in them risks loss and disillusionment. This gentleman is not enjoying his coins, it appears.

  • rec78rec78 Posts: 5,663 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I would have purchased an 1878-S half dollar, a 1796 and 1797 half dollar and an 1802 half dime and a 1793 liberty cap large cent. Even though expensive even back then at least you could get them for a somewhat reasonable price. Now they are all out of my price range and rarely available in the grades that I collected.

    image
  • CryptoCrypto Posts: 3,344 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @jmlanzaf said:

    @DelawareDoons said:
    Small number of mostly different coins that could fit in a safe that have lost most of their value since the 1970's...

    I'm gonna guess these are esoteric Ancients or something. Don't see how it is possible otherwise. Even classic commem prices wouldn't go from $13k to almost nothing today spread across the series. Maybe from the peak in 1989 to today, but not the 70's. BIE Cents maybe? That would be a big oof. The aforementioned 50-D, other "key" dates of modern series' that aren't really keys value-wise.

    That's an interesting suggestion. I don't think most ancients, "esoteric" or not have seen those kind of drops. But I do think you are redirecting us in a possibly fruitful direction: non-U.S coins.

    Maybe Israeli coins? These were heavily marketed in the US to raise money for the state of Israel. They have not done well over time, although I'm not sure I would say they've reached zero.

    Possibly restrikes or similar "fake" coins. These could include ancients, Confederate, and any number of historical world coins.

    The fake confederate coins have done exceptionally well since the 70s The Bashlow cents of the Lovette fantasy not to mention the Restrike CSA halves have all not only gained value but acceptance and a collector base.

  • jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 31,287 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Crypto said:

    @jmlanzaf said:

    @DelawareDoons said:
    Small number of mostly different coins that could fit in a safe that have lost most of their value since the 1970's...

    I'm gonna guess these are esoteric Ancients or something. Don't see how it is possible otherwise. Even classic commem prices wouldn't go from $13k to almost nothing today spread across the series. Maybe from the peak in 1989 to today, but not the 70's. BIE Cents maybe? That would be a big oof. The aforementioned 50-D, other "key" dates of modern series' that aren't really keys value-wise.

    That's an interesting suggestion. I don't think most ancients, "esoteric" or not have seen those kind of drops. But I do think you are redirecting us in a possibly fruitful direction: non-U.S coins.

    Maybe Israeli coins? These were heavily marketed in the US to raise money for the state of Israel. They have not done well over time, although I'm not sure I would say they've reached zero.

    Possibly restrikes or similar "fake" coins. These could include ancients, Confederate, and any number of historical world coins.


    The fake confederate coins have done exceptionally well since the 70s The Bashlow cents of the Lovette fantasy not to mention the Restrike CSA halves have all not only gained value but acceptance and a collector base.

    Truefit the ones mentioned, although I'm not sure when the peak was. But there are other such counterfeits that are now relatively worthless.

  • GoldFinger1969GoldFinger1969 Posts: 1,162 ✭✭✭✭
    edited January 2, 2024 10:28AM

    @AlanSki said:
    Commemoratives. Morgan’s with low mintages until vault bags were found.

    It really matters WHEN he bought. If early-1970's when bullion and numismatic premiums were low, he is probably OK. Late-1970's or 1979/80 he may have paid bubble prices.

    If he's a follower, I venture he bought around 1974 or 1979 when prices were RISING and the public was into coins because of rising prices.

  • csdotcsdot Posts: 669 ✭✭✭✭

    Curious what he bought in 81?

    $13k worth of contemporary proof sets would have been a bad investment.

  • orevilleoreville Posts: 11,758 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I got married in May 1980 and my gold wedding band reflects the high price of gold. Very small wedding band.

    A Collectors Universe poster since 1997!
  • silviosisilviosi Posts: 444 ✭✭✭

    1970 No, I remember in 1975 with my first pro soccer sponsor money I brought 20K St-Gauldens. This was a good investment almost for my collection. For invesment if you calculate the inflation, the money power you could be a little bit up. In that times my best was 1000 Microsoft IPO.

    Return on investment it is volative and depend on social-economic-politic environement.

    NEVER ARGUE WITH AN IDIOT.FIRST THEY WILL DRAG YOU DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL.THEN, THEY WILL BEAT YOU WITH EXPERIENCE. MARK TWAIN

  • OwnerofawheatiehordeOwnerofawheatiehorde Posts: 1,446 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @silviosi said:
    1970 No, I remember in 1975 with my first pro soccer sponsor money I brought 20K St-Gauldens. This was a good investment almost for my collection. For invesment if you calculate the inflation, the money power you could be a little bit up. In that times my best was 1000 Microsoft IPO.

    Return on investment it is volative and depend on social-economic-politic environement.

    20 thousand??!!😳

    Type collector, mainly into Seated. Young Numismatist. Good BST transactions with: mirabela, OKCC, MICHAELDIXON

  • jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 31,287 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Ownerofawheatiehorde said:

    @silviosi said:
    1970 No, I remember in 1975 with my first pro soccer sponsor money I brought 20K St-Gauldens. This was a good investment almost for my collection. For invesment if you calculate the inflation, the money power you could be a little bit up. In that times my best was 1000 Microsoft IPO.

    Return on investment it is volative and depend on social-economic-politic environement.

    20 thousand??!!😳

    Lol. Dollars, I'm guessing

  • silviosisilviosi Posts: 444 ✭✭✭
    edited January 3, 2024 5:18PM

    Was not 20K St-Gauldens, was 20K $ in St-Gauldens. Was nice to be 20K st-Gauldens to have probablly all the set, but damage No. Also today I miss an 1927, but the price for is over my future buy budget. In time was 120 to 150$ the gold on buy

    NEVER ARGUE WITH AN IDIOT.FIRST THEY WILL DRAG YOU DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL.THEN, THEY WILL BEAT YOU WITH EXPERIENCE. MARK TWAIN

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