Mintage figures often play a significant role in numismatics and often have a major influence on a coin's value. A general rule is that as the mintage goes lower, the value goes higher. A great illustration of this rule is the Uncirculated 1997 Jackie Robinson $5 gold commemorative.
Boasting a total mintage of a mere 5,174 pieces, this is the lowest-mintage U.S commemorative produced since 1982. Because of its low mintage, the Jackie Robinson commemorative is also the most valuable of any modern commemorative coin.
Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia on January 31, 1919. When Jackie was only six months old, his father abandoned the family. Jackie's mother raised her son during tough times when racial conflicts surrounded their everyday lifestyle. Despite the hardships, Jackie became the first African-American to play on a Major League baseball team when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in April 1947.
That same year, he became Rookie of the Year. In 1949, Jackie was named Major League baseball's Most Valuable Player of the year, along with winning the batting title. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. He later died of a heart attack on October 24, 1972 at the relatively young age of 53. One of Robinson's most memorable quotes was, "a life is not important except in the impact it has on others' lives."
In 1997, the Mint created two different coins (a silver $1 coin and a gold $5 coin) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's ground-breaking integration of baseball. The Mint authorized a maximum mintage of 100,000 coins for the mint state version of the $5 commemorative.
The Mint offered the coins at $180 each during a pre-issue period from July 3rd to August 15, 1997. The regular issue price was then adjusted to $205 per coin beginning in August 16, 1997 through the ordering deadline of August 16, 1998.
Unfortunately, sales were disappointing, achieving less than six percent of the authorized mintage. This created a wonderful opportunity for astute collectors who were far-sighted enough to add examples to their collections.
The obverse of the coin features a three-quarter profile of a mature Jackie Robinson by the artist, William Cousins. The reverse of the coin was designed by Jim Peed and features a baseball inscribed with "1919-1972" (Jackie's birth and death years) and the words "Legacy of Courage."
The Jackie Robinson commemorative coins also included a proof version of the $5 gold piece and proof and mint state versions of the silver dollar. The coins were offered singly or as a complete set of all four coins.
The pre-issue price for the four-piece set was originally set at $425, and the regular issue price was later adjusted up to $460 per set. Collectors who purchased the complete set or either of the gold pieces managed to secure a very profitable investment. In hindsight, the best deal was the uncirculated $5 gold.
As of this writing, the PCGS Price Guide lists the values for the Mint State Jackie Robinson $5 commemorative coins in MS69 $3,500. and $6,000 in MS70. The Uncirculated $5 Jackie Robinson coins tend to be of very high quality since they were produced at the West Point Mint (known for the superior quality of its products) and because the softer gold alloy takes a better impression from the dies.
Since 1892, the United States has produced a variety of intriguing coins commemorating special events or individuals that have had a significant impact in our country's history. The $5 Jackie Robinson commemorative coins combine numismatics, sports and history in a very special edition. As if Jackie Robinson was not famous enough for breaking the color barrier in American baseball, he has the added distinction of being the first African-American to be depicted on a U.S. gold coin.
Commemorative coins are a great way to enjoy the hobby of numismatics because of the diversity and beauty of the designs. Unlike regular issue coins, where the designs are fairly stable, the designs on commemoratives are unique and varied. The concept of circulating commemorative coins (i.e., State quarters and Presidential dollars) is a modern development in American numismatics, but the series of U.S. commemoratives has a long and rich history. Commemorative coins are designed by some of the most skilled artists in the world, many of whom have developed a strong following of their own outside of numismatics. Commemorative coins are "mini-classrooms" where we can learn about history, people, geography and events in our country's heritage. From a financial standpoint, commemorative coins are one of the most active areas of today's marketplace. Commemorative coins offer an opportunity for collectors to own precious and semi-precious metals with legal tender status.
There is no right or wrong way to collect commemorative coins. You may choose to collect mint state or proof coins by denomination, date, and mintmark, or even by design. One of the "thrills of the hunt" is trying to determine which new commemorative coin will prove to be as wise an investment as the Uncirculated $5 Jackie Robinson coin turned out to be. Whichever way you choose to collect them, look forward to lots of enjoyment in the world of modern commemorative coins.