A key date coin is one of a series which is either scarce, rare, or much less common than most of the other dates in the series. When collectors or dealers pick through a large quantity of coins to form a complete date collection, it is always the "key date" which they find hardest to get. A key date coin is also usually the lowest mintage of the denomination or series.
Semi Key Dates
Some dates are not quite as scarce as others, but still not as common as most dates, and these are often referred as semi-key dates.
Below is a list of some of the more popular issue key date coins.
Indian Head Cents (1859-1909)
1909-S ONE CENT - INDIAN HEAD The 1909-S Indian Head Cent has THE lowest mintage of the entire series (at 309,000 pieces, the mintage is less than half that of the revered 1877 Indian Head Cent). Collectors love this date not only for its rarity but because it is one of only two dates struck at the San Francisco Mint (the other being the 1908-S). 1909 was the last year of production for the Indian Head Cent and fore-sighted collectors saved many nice examples, thus keeping the price of Uncirculated examples reasonable relative to their rarity. Many counterfeit examples of this date exist, so certification is a must.
Lincoln Wheat Cents (1909-1958)
1909-S V.D.B. LINCOLN CENT The 1909-S V.D.B. Penny has long been considered one of the key dates in the series, filling the dreams of collectors young and old. While the mintage of 484,000 may seem high compared to many other American rarities, one must understand that there are millions of people who collect Lincoln Head Cents. There are simply not enough 1909-S VDB Pennies to satisfy all of the collector demand.
Buffalo Head Nickels (1913-1938)
1937-D "Three Legged" Buffalo Nickel A rare Three-Legged version was created when Mint personnel over-polished an already worn die.
Mercury Head Dimes (1916-1945)
1916-D Mercury Head Dime This is the key to the series with a mintage of 264,000 and it is eagerly sought after in all grades.
Standing Liberty Quarters (1916-1930)
1916-P Standing Liberty Quarter This is the key and is very scarce as a circulation strike with a mintage of 52,000. Proofs are extremely rare and have a satin, slightly matte finish.
Washington Quarters (1932-1998)
1932-D Washington Quarter This is the key to this series with a mintage of 436,800, although all of the 1932 quarters are semi keys.
Walking Liberty Half Dollars (1916-1947)
1916-S Walking Liberty Half Dollar This is the key to the series with a mintage of 508,000, although all of the 1916 Walking Liberty Half Dollars are semi keys.
Morgan Silver Dollars (1878-1921)
1893-S Morgan Silver Dollar This scarce 1893-S Morgan Silver Dollar is the key to the series with a mintage of 100,000 and is rare in all grades.
American Silver Eagles (1986-present)
1995-W Proof Silver Eagle - This 1995-W Proof Silver Eagle is the key to the series with a mintage of 30,125
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