Market Analysis: The Impact of Advancing Set Registries on Capped Bust Half Dollars

Capped Bust Half Dollars. I let out a loving sigh.

Ahem. Registry Sets have had a huge impact on coin collecting. In addition to gamifying the hobby, they’ve pushed collectors to be competitive. The result is an exacerbation of the old adage, “the common coins stay common, the rare coins keep getting rarer.”

Case in point: well, all coins, really. But let’s have a look at Capped Bust Half Dollars for an example.

1817/3 Capped Bust Half Dollar in AU. These coins haven't held their values hard for a few years. But why not? Is now a good time to buy?

1817/3 Capped Bust Half Dollar in AU. These coins haven’t held their values hard for a few years. But why not? Is now a good time to buy?

First of all, if you’re not collecting Capped Bust Half Dollars, you need to be. And not just registry queens, either. If you don’t have an Overton in your Type Set yet, get a raw one – as problem free as you can find. The grade really doesn’t matter.

They’re just beautiful coins! And intricate. And hand made. And the John Reich folks are a giggle, as are the Bust Nuts. (I mean, if you can’t figure that out from the name, you’re doing it wrong.)

And there is good news for those of us without budgets to handle the unobtanium: the common coins staying common keep them in reach for the rest of us.

Let’s have a quick look at 1817/3s. Great coins, right? Pronounced overdate – you hardly need magnification. From a fascinating period in American history – right after the War of 1812, right before a major recession.

And have a look at this: There were only something like 30 million U.S. coins in circulation in 1817. That sounds like a lot I suppose, but when look at modern mintages, particularly of actively circulating types, you’ll see what I mean.

1807 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Uncirculated. High level Mint State pieces like this, Registry Level examples, seem to be doing well now.

1807 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Uncirculated. High level Mint State pieces like this, Registry Level examples, seem to be doing well now.

So, 1817/3s. A brief review of recent auction records show that prices are falling or at best stable for coins under Almost Uncirculated. Problem coins (of which there are many) have fallen precipitously, and if you don’t mind slightly mangled history, get yourself one. The tactile transfer of history into your hand is truly something to behold, scratched or unscathed.

But when you get into the Almost Uncirculated grades, particularly higher AUs and low-end Uncs, you see that the prices have been more or less stable. Sure, there’s some drop in some places in that range, but it’s not substantial.

But when you get into the higher-end Uncirculated coins, it’s a different story. And I’m not talking about 68s, there’s no such thing for many Capped Bust Half varieties. In the case of our 1817/3, we’re looking at the 4 and 5 range. These coins keep going up.

Conditional rarity is driving these precious few coins up and up. And again, this isn’t just about CBHs, it’s pretty much across the board in coin collecting. Where there are few coins in the best conditions, the Registry Sets compete for those extra points.

1812 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Very Good. Coins like this haven't fared well in keeping their value over the past few years. Whether they continue to go down or not, they will eventually go back up. Now may be a great time to buy. Look at the history!

1812 Capped Bust Half Dollar, Very Good. Coins like this haven’t fared well in keeping their value over the past few years. Whether they continue to go down or not, they will eventually go back up. Now may be a great time to buy. Look at the history!

So what does that mean?

Well, of course, we don’t give investment advice because A) we’re not oracles, and B) we’re not stupid. But through the years, coin collecting has always come back from corrections. If coins are inexpensive now, it might be a great time to buy. If coins are expensive now, it might be a good time to buy, or it might not, depending on how long your play is.

If you have a raw (uncertified) Capped Bust Half Dollar, you’ll find it might be immensely difficult to grade. But of course, that’s what we’re here for. We’ve accurately graded tons of them.

As we always say (and it’s a cop-out, but it’s a true cop out, otherwise we wouldn’t bother), “collect what you love.”

And as we also always say (about all coins, but forget that for a moment – and it really is true for Bust Halves) “if you don’t love Capped Bust Half Dollars, you need your head examined.”

Happy collecting!

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