Baseball coins have been around almost as long as baseball cards.
Issues from Colgan’s Chips at the turn of the century, Armour Hot Dogs in the 1950s, Salada in the 1960s, Topps inserts in 1964 and 1971 and Topps issues of the late 1980s and early 1990s all make up what has been a long connection between baseball and baseball coins.
Past issues, however, were made from plastic, tin or some other less-than-precious metal and could be classified as coins in shape only.
But an act of Congress created a baseball coin made of not only very precious metals, but a collectible with broad crossover appeal. They also creates potential bidding wars between two ardent fan bases with reputations for opening up their wallets when they find something they want.
See, Congress still does stuff.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act, signed into law in August of 2012, honors the 75th Anniversary of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY being celebrated this year. The legislation required the Secretary of the Treasury to issue up to 1.2 million coins. This is also the first U.S. coin with a curve to it. The glove on the front is caved in a bit, while the ball on the reverse is curved out. They’re definitely unique and that’s one reason why Baseball Hall of Fame coin sales have been red hot.
Initially, these coins were available exclusively through the U.S. Mint in limited numbers per household and per dealer. Typically dealers have the ability to purchase coins in bulk from the Mint but this was not the case here. Upon their release on March 27, all 50,000 of the $5 gold coins, which were listed at a market price of $424.75 per coin, were gone four days later. The silver coins, selling for about $50 each, followed suit and were gone on April 9. There are still half-dollar clad coins available through the Mint for right around $29 with shipping, but they are on backorder until at least July according to Kathy at the US Mint, who sold me mine.
These coins are all over the secondary market, but the original sticker price is a distant memory. The $5 gold coin has sailed past its initial $424 offering with a recent example selling on eBay for nearly $1,600. The $1 silver is a bit more affordable but it too has left its original price in the dust with perfect examples (grades of 70 in the coin world) selling for a little over $200.
Probably more interesting for baseball collectors is the fact that coin grading services NGC and PCGS – which is owned by PSA – have partnered with members of the Baseball Hall of Fame to issue coins with the signatures of Hall of Famers on the label of some encapsulated coins.
Coins available through NGC are available with facsimile signatures of Nolan Ryan and Cal Ripken and are selling for a bit more than coins graded without reproduction autographs. Coins with certified autographs on their label are selling for considerably more than their unsigned counterparts.
PCGS has partnered with larger coin dealers around the country to offer limited numbers of Hall of Fame coins with authentic autographs. L&C Coins, located in Los Alamitos, CA, is selling or has sold coins signed by Ripken, Reggie Jackson, Ernie Banks, Tony LaRussa, Frank Thomas and Dennis Eckersley. A silver example of the Ripken sold for a little over $300 while gold examples of the others have surpassed $3,000.
“It’s one of the most popular commemoratives we’ve ever encountered,” said Matt Crane, Marketing Manager at L&C Coins. “The unique design, the crossover appeal and the limited amount available has collectors and dealers both scrounging for these. It’s the kind of coin you’re only going to get one wave of. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”
While there’s no word yet on all of the Hall of Famers who will be participating in this program, in an interview with L&C Coins owner Lee Crane, Coin Week reported that perhaps as many as 20 Hall of Famers will eventually add their signature to one of the more popular coin collectibles in recent memory.