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What Not to Buy, and Why

6th National Silver Dollar Convention

St. Louis, Missouri

November 11 -17, 1985



What Not to Buy, and Why

By Dean Tavenner



We are a nation of “list” readers.  Everybody needs his list – shopping list, 10-best movie list, best performing stocks list, hockey puck list; The Book of Lists, volumes 1, 2, 3 – to infinity.  Every writer on the “list of numismatic investment advisors” who recommends his top 12 or top 6 or his list of the “best pick of the year-month-week-day-hour” advices from the positive side – “this is my list of the best — buy these and you’ll never go broke,” etc., etc.

Here is a different list.  This may not make money for you because it will not tell you what you SHOULD buy, but it might save you some money and a great deal of grief by suggesting what NOT to buy.

Here is Dean’s List – the 10 worst common dates for investment, and – more important – the reasons why.

  1. 1881 – O
  2. 1882 – O

The reason to rank these two dates low in investment potential is the same for both dates:  You are not going to wind up with an investment quality coin; they just aren’t out there.  The prices are high for MS65; no matter.  You are not going to find a coin with the resale quality down the road.  Ninety percent of all coins of these dates still sold today (even after twenty years’ exposure to educational information) are only nice sliders.  The dates were well struck – the coins just come very baggy and circulated.  DON’T BUY THEM!  Just don’t.  It’s not worth the risk – unless:

(a)    You REALLY know what you’re doing, or…

(b)   Your numismatic investment advisor (coin dealer) is one of the ten or so in the country who really knows what he is doing.  Let me repeat; it’s not worth the risk!

  1. 1884-P

Over-rated, over-promoted, and over-sold.  You think 1881-S are plentiful?  Besides, those offered as investment quality seldom are, and they’re overpriced.

  1. 1888-O

Same reason as 1884-P.  Besides, this date almost always looks much worse after you’ve owned it 6 months or 6 years.  It seems to gather bag marks in your vault.  (It just wasn’t ever that nice in the first place.)

  1. 1889-P
  2. 1890-P

Investment quality does not exist in these two dates – and if you think it does, try to find one of either.  The mint didn’t understand IQC then.  If you think your advisor knows, see if he’ll buy – at MS65 bid – any piece that you’ve EVER owned (or seen).

  1. 1900-P

Lack-luster – unappealing even when struck well.  P/L pieces are never nice enough for high bid investment.  Besides no one wants the date anyway.

  1. 1902-O

The 1-in-a-100 piece that you might see is worth 2 to 3 times MS65 money and those that are offered at MS65 money because they are the best the dealer has seen, aren’t going to be nice enough when selling time comes around – not ever.

  1.  1921

Everyone knows this is the “most common,” “most under-rated,” etc.  DON’T BUY “Mosts.”  They NEVER are.  The MS65 priced 1921 coins will never be nice enough when harvest time comes.  Wait and See.  It may be the “best” you ever could find or certainly the “best” your dealer had ever seen, but it won’t be nice enough again when the price is higher.

  1.  1921-D

The coin wasn’t minted in this date that looks like an 81-S or 82-S and the fact that a totally different die has produced the coin won’t make a dime’s worth of difference to the buyer at resale time.

Get the drift of what I’m saying?  Put your money into Investment Quality Coins that do exist and won’t give you surprises every time you re-examine them.  If you KNOW what you’re doing then you can cash in on the occasional exception.  If you just THINK YOU KNOW, then someone will still be able to say, “I told you so.”


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