AoC Market Analysis: Modern Coin Prices Through the Lens of 1979-S Proof Lincolns

Top modern coin prices seem to be falling. Every time I look at a price guide, I see more red than green in desirable grade modern coins.

1979-S Proof Lincoln Memorial Cent, Obverse

There are clearly some scratches on the holder, but who really thinks this is a proof 70?

This isn’t universal. There are certainly modern coins that are appreciating.

But as we consider modern Lincoln Proofs, we don’t see a lot of appreciation. Some of the registry level coins that are being discovered as tougher, and some that were considered tough are no longer quite as rare. Subtle shifts in grading may account. For the price differences, you owe it to yourself to be careful.

Let’s look at a couple of examples. We’ll start with the 1979-S Lincoln Memorial. Both Type 1s and Type 2s have fallen in the last couple of years. When 69s are offered on the open auction market, they’re selling for less than certification (often well under $20, even.) Some 70s are still demanding low fours.

As recently as September, a Type 1 ’79 in 70 sold at Heritage for just $660. It should be said, that coin was definitely not a 70. For the discerning buyer actually grading the coin, this was not the piece for their collection. But, it was a cheap way into the top spot in the Registry. All 70s were not created equal. PCGS only shows 18 coins in 70 and NGC doesn’t list any. They may all be in strong Registry Set hands, and unlikely to surface often. This explains the price guides listing them at $1000+.

Because I can, I’ll mention that ’81-S Type 1s are almost as difficult in 70. But again, in PR/PF69, they’re common and can be picked up cheap.

But any way you look at it, high end moderns aren’t doing great. If you’re going to spend money on them – and now might be a time to do that – be discerning! If you’re going to pay that 70 premium, make damned well sure that coin is a 70 compared to its peers. Looking at the Lincoln Bicentennials of 2009, definitely be careful about the 70s you buy. Again, not all 70s are created equal!

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