For years, mintage figures have always played an important role in coin collecting. However, one more important factor besides mintages that many collectors tend to ignore is... survival rates.
What are Survival Rates? Survival rate are an estimate of the number of coins believed to exist for any particular issue. For most coins, it is very difficult to determine how many coins really exist. But others, it's fairly easy to get a general idea of how many coins have survived over the years.
One example of a huge discrepancy between mintage and survival rate figures is the World's Most Expensive coin ever sold at auction. Or, the 1933 Saint Gauden's Double Eagle. This coin has a reported mintage of 445,500 coins struck by the U.S. Mint. However, shortly after the coins were struck, the government ordered all examples to be melted. Decades later, several different examples of the 1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagles have surfaced. Since this is a very important and significant coin, it is very easy to track or determine how many coins exist more or less, or its' survival rate. In this case, the survival rate for the 1933 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle is approximately 10 coins known.
Let's turn things around a bit and discuss a coin that has a high survival rate closer to its original mintage. In 1950, the Mint struck 2,630,030 Jefferson Nickels. This was considered a very small mintage at the time for a circulation strike Jefferson Nickel. As a comparison, the 1958-D Nickel had a mintage of over 168 million coins struck, or almost a 65 times higher mintage than the 1950-D Nickel. Shortly after it was struck, coin collectors and dealers were paying significant premiums to buy the coins because of its well-publicized and reported low mintage.
In fact the 1964 Red Book listed the 1950-D Nickel at $26 in Uncirculated condition! A coin that in the same condition today can be bought for just under $10. Therefore, many collectors and including the public would set aside any 1950-D Jefferson Nickels that they encountered, thanks to its significant premium and it's well known low mintage status. Consequently, most 1950-D Nickels were saved and its' survival rate, is believed to be very high and even close to its' original mintage.
So, mintage is definitely an important factor when collecting coins but let's not forget about one small and important detail, which are coins survival rates.