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State of the Art

5th National Silver Dollar Convention

St. Louis, Missouri

November 8 – 11, 1984



State of the Art

By Dean Tavenner



The sale of Wayne Miller’s dollar set and the dissemination of information regarding price/grading has provided the dollar business with enough material for discussion, both formal and informal, for seminars and for further academic study to last a long time.

For years the presence of dollars in the treasury vaults and in Western banks and casinos had confused dealers and collectors both as to the relative rarity and value of nearly all silver dollar dates and mint marks.  Not only were “scarce” dates presumed to be lurking unknown in socks buried deep within the bowels of federal vaults backing up issued silver certificates, but the relatively small number of coins already released to circulation in years prior to 1962 had not allowed even dealers who specialized in dollars not scholarly collectors to develop accurate information regarding strike, luster, relative availability of dates as regards vintages, circulated vs. uncirculated ratios, etc.  Consequently, any pricing structure was everybody’s guess – “You pays your money, you takes your chances.”

Gradually information was gathered, rarity tables were established, academic details regarding strike and luster were listed, and viable price structures appeared.  All seemed to be falling into place.  Academia had virtually eliminated counterfeit and altered silver dollars from the concern of all but the greedy and/or stupid.  Even fine-line information such as die varieties had been adequately compiled.

The Redfield hoard came along ten years ago and for three or four years undid much previously accepted information regarding relative rarity, etc., but at the same time, the release allowed the scholarly and interested even more chances to study and record information.  It would seem that the silver dollar community by now would have the “facts” down.  But…

What has happened?

With all the information gathered over twenty-five years, with all the books written on the subject, with all the plethora of price guides in existence, we are not much better off regarding true value of dollars than we were when we looked at an amazing coin twenty years ago, admired it, studied it, and then reached for a telephone book to get a price for it.  Today we are doing the same thing.  We look at prices in today’s “grey sheet” to guess the price of an item only to read that, for example, a strict MS65 ’84-S is worth $12,000, yet Miller’s piece was valued at $27,500, and we know that Charlie’s piece in November was figured at $85,000.  Where do these figures come from?  Which phone book?

Now we know that perhaps we are talking apples vs. oranges, yet at the same time we are talking big bucks and this is wherein lies today’s market instability, not in the lack of academic knowledge regarding silver dollars.

We know that at “bid” price of $200 for an ’81-S dollar it takes a coin far better than just an “honest MS65/65.”  It takes MS67 quality to bring the $200 price tag and dealers (or investors) can pick through existent bags at the most current coin show.  But where can anyone find an “honest 65/65” 1896-O at ANY price, let alone a bid of $13,500, let alone a coin anywhere near MS67?  Yet we find every week at major shows dealers and investors who seriously wonder why they cannot wheel their K-Mart cards up and down the aisles of the bourse selecting this MS65 date here and that MS65P/L date there (or even this MS60 95-O or that MS60 84-S) at will from the dealer’s tables, even if they have to pay, perish the though, full bid price!

“We” have a long way to go, and yet, I know now what I would not have believed fifteen years ago.  We will never get there.  The information will never be complete, the markets will never stabilize, personal preferences will never center on this one item or that one item.  The “State of the Art” will always be changing, unstable, unreliable, interesting, challenging, fascinating.


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