Mint News Blog

News, Information, and Commentary on US Mint Products

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

While I was away...

I went away for a quick two day vacation with my wife to celebrate our 2nd anniversary. It seems that plenty has happened while I was away. Briefly, here is a summary of some of the US Mint related events of the past few days.

The 2008 Proof Gold Buffalo 4 Coin Set has now sold out at the US Mint. Other collectible Gold Buffaloes which sold out previously include the 1/4 oz. and 1/10 oz. Uncirculated versions and the 1 oz. and 1/10 oz. Proof versions.

The One-Half Ounce 2008-W Uncirculated Platinum Eagle has sold out. This joins the previously sold out 1/4 oz, 1/10 oz, and 4 coin set for the 2008-W Uncirculated Platinum Eagles.

The 2007 Dolley Madison First Spouse Gold Coin is no longer available for sale. Approximately 30,900 of the 40,000 maximum authorized mintage had sold. The breakdown is approximately 12,550 uncirculated coins and 18,350 proof coins. Many collectors had been wondering how long the US Mint would sell each release of the First Spouse Gold coin series. Based on this recent action, it appears that each coin will be on sale for one year following release.

The US Mint has announced details on sales of remaining 2008 and upcoming 2009 dated bullion coin products. For 2008-dated bullion, only 1 ounce Gold and Silver Eagle coins remain. For 2009-dated bullion, 1 ounce Gold and Silver Eagles will be available for sale on December 29. Other bullion coin releases will be delayed. Here is the full text of the US Mint memo to authorized bullion purchasers.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and enjoy some time off with friends and family!

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Martin Van Buren's Liberty First Spouse Gold Coin

The latest coin for the First Spouse Gold coin series featuring Martin Van Buren's Liberty will go on sale at the US Mint on November 25, 2008 at 12:00 Noon ET. A bronze medal replica will also go on sale at the same date and time.

Martin Van Buren did not have a spouse while serving as President, so the obverse design of the coin will feature an image of Liberty taken from a circulating coin of his era. The design is taken from Christian Gobrecht's Liberty Seated Dime, which was produced between 1837 and 1891.

The reverse design of the coin will feature a depiction of a young Martin Van Buren reading a book under a tree. The reverse was designed by Thomas Cleveland and sculpted by Jim Licaretz.

The Martin Van Buren's Liberty First Spouse Gold Coin will be available in both proof and uncirculated versions, limited to 40,000 coins overall. This is the same overall limit set for all prior releases for the First Spouse Gold series. Only the first three coins sold the full 40,000, while subsequent issues remain available for sale.

Proof coins are priced at $549.95 and uncirculated coins are priced at $524.95. This is in line with the price levels for the other 2008 First Spouse Gold coins, following the recent price reductions. The US Mint is placing an initial ordering limit of 10 coins per product option per household.

The product pages for the coins have already been posted, however ordering options are not available until the official start of sales.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

US Mint Responds, New Pricing Method Coming in 2009

Shortly after the US Mint suspended most gold and platinum products and then brought them back at predominantly lower prices, I wrote a post entitled "How the US Mint Could Have Handled Price Reductions Better."

I was very grateful that Numismatic News recently republished this post as a Viewpoint article. You can find the post republished online at Shortly after the article went live, the US Mint sent a response to Dave Harper the editor of Numismatic News.

Apparently, the US Mint had provided statements regarding price changes and pricing policies. These statements were sent (presumably) to a number of coin related news outlets around the time when pricing was first adjusted for the 2008 Platinum Eagles. From what I can determine, these statements were not distributed very widely and not published anywhere.

The statements provide some insight into the US Mint's current pricing methods and mention a new method which will be effective for 2009. From my perspective, this is very encouraging. It shows that the US Mint is aware that the pricing methodologies currently in place are less than ideal, especially in times of volatile precious metals prices. I look forward to seeing details on their new pricing methods and hope they will take some of my recommendations into consideration.

Reprinted below in full are the bullet points provided by the US Mint:
The United States Mint’s gold, silver, and platinum numismatic coins are intended as collectibles, rather than investment tools. Accordingly, the United States Mint strives to maintain the established prices for these coins throughout the life of the program year.

As a Federal agency, Federal law (31 U.S. C § 9701) requires the United States Mint to base its price for each numismatic product on the production cost to the Government, as well as on the current value of the product to its recipient. Significant increases in the price of gold, silver, or platinum must trigger a pricing review. A review ensures that the Agency establishes a new price that recovers our production costs, and is consistent with the prevailing market value of the product’s precious metal content.

Significant decreases in the price of gold, silver or platinum also trigger internal reviews of our pricing. Where possible, should the price of these metals fall significantly, the United States Mint will attempt to re-adjust their pricing downward. The degree to which the United States Mint can lower its prices is driven primarily by the cost paid for the gold, silver, or platinum that was used in the fabrication of the coins.

The United States Mint is developing a method by which it will be able to adjust the prices of its 2009 numismatic products in a manner that is more responsive to substantial changes in the value of their precious metal content. More details will be available in the coming weeks.


Friday, November 21, 2008

2008-W Platinum Eagle Sales Figures

With the 2008-W Uncirculated Platinum Eagle 4 Coin Set recently sold out, we can now start to piece together rough numbers for some of the sold out individual coins.

Many collectors have been intensely focusing on these numbers. When the 2008-W Uncirculated Platinum Eagles first went back on sale the numbers were low enough to create the possibility of a new key date for the series.

Listed below are the sales figures for 2008-W Uncirculated and Proof Platinum Eagles. The most recently published Mint Stats from Numismaster contains sales data through November 16. Since the 4 Coin Set sold out a few days after that, the number may still increase slightly from these levels.

The first column displays the amount for the ordering option. The second column displays the total for each coin (individual sales plus 4 coin set sales). Coins which are sold out and no longer available from the US Mint are listed in bold.

2008-W Uncirculated Platinum Eagle Sales Figures

Individual Combined
1 oz. 669 2,834
1/2 oz. 1,061 3,226
1/4 oz. 2,027 4,192
1/10 oz. 2,504 4,669
4 Coin Set 2,165 N/A

2008 Proof Platinum Eagle Sales Figures

Individual Combined
1 oz. 1,865 3,736
1/2 oz. 927 2,798
1/4 oz. 1,157 3,028
1/10 oz. 2,528 4,399
4 Coin Set 1,871 N/A

The previous key date for the series are the 2006-W Uncirculated Platinum Eagles. For comparison, the mintages for each coin appear below. These amounts are not yet "official mintages" but represent the last release sales figures for that year.

2006-W Uncirculated Platinum Eagle Mintages

Individual Combined
1 Ounce 1,079 3,068
1/2 Ounce 588 2,577
1/4 Ounce 687 2,676
1/10 Ounce 1,555 3,544
4 Coin Set 1,989

As you can see, the sold out 2008-W coins all ended up ahead of the 2006-W numbers. However, with mintages below 5,000, the numbers are still quite low. The coins could see some appreciation as collectors seem to be finding a renewed interest in the series. Notably, the 2008-W 1 oz. coin is still below the mintage level of the 2006-W.

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More Gold and Platinum Coins Sold Out

Several more of the US Mint's gold and platinum product offerings have recently sold out. The following products are now sold out and no longer available for sale:
  • 2008-W Uncirculated Platinum Eagle- 1/10 oz. Individual Coin
  • 2008-W Uncirculated Platinum Eagle- 1/4 oz. Individual Coin
  • 2008-W Uncirculated Platinum Eagle- 4 Coin Set
  • 2008-W Uncirculated Gold Buffalo - 1/4 oz. Individual Coin
  • 2008-W Uncircualted Gold Buffalo - 1/10 oz. Individual Coin
  • 2008 Proof Gold Buffalo - 1 oz. Individual Coin
  • 2008 Proof Gold Buffalo - 1/10 oz. Individual Coin
This is a relatively long list of sell outs to see at this point in the year. Last year, most of the 2007 dated gold and platinum products remained available until sales of the 2008 dated coins started.

The pace of the sell outs is probably being driven by a number of factors:

First, I think the Mint only has a limited inventory of the products on hand. The US Mint has been prioritizing the production of bullion coins over collectible coin offerings. The Mint may have also scaled back production due to the perceived unpopularity of these products.

Second, the US Mint recently reduced prices for most gold and platinum products. The reduced prices may be drawing demand from collectors who had previously written off the offerings as too expensive.

And last, the US Mint recently announced the discontinuation of numerous gold and platinum products. Most of the sold out products listed above are actually slated for discontinuation after this year. The fractional Gold Buffalo coins may be providing a unique allure, as 2008 will be the one and only year the coins are issued. Ironically, collectors are finding a new appreciation for the products now that they are being discontinued.

I think we will continue to see a brisk pace of sold out products as we continue to move into the end of the year.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

2009 Lincoln Commemorative Coin Designs Unveiled

Today the United States Mint unveiled the designs for the upcoming 2009 Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar. The unveiling took place at Soldier's National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It was part of the annual Dedication Day Ceremony on the 145th anniversary of Lincoln's delivery of the Gettysburg Address.

The obverse of the coin features a portrait of Abraham Lincoln designed by Justin Kunz and sculpted by Don Everhart. It was inspired by a sculpture of Lincoln created by Daniel Chester which resides in the Lincoln Memorial.

The reverse of the coin prominently features the final words of the famous Gettysburg Address. The words are surrounded by a laurel wreath and Lincoln's signature is incused within a banner below the wreath.

The 2009 Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollars will be issued in a quantity of up to 500,000 coins and sold throughout 2009. Pricing and the official release date have not yet been announced.

Large size images of the 2009 Lincoln Commemorative design appear below:

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10th Anniversary Platinum Eagle Set Back on Sale

The 2007 10th Anniversary Platinum Eagle Set quietly went back on sale at the US Mint within the last few days. It just noticed the listing this morning, but it appears that the sets may have went back on sale as early as Monday of this week. The sets are now listed for $1,249.95 with no ordering limits.

Each sets contains a 1/2 oz. 2007-W Proof Platinum Eagle and a 1/2 oz. 2007-W Reverse Proof Platinum Eagle. The reverse proof coin features mirrored raised elements and a frosted background, the reverse of the typical proof finish. In 2006, the US Mint had offered 20th Anniversary Gold and Silver Eagle Sets which featured reverse proof coins. These sets were extremely popular and sold out quickly, perhaps prompting the Mint to produce a similar set for Platinum Eagles.

The 10th Anniversary Platinum Eagle Set was first offered for sale on December 13, 2007 priced at $1,949.95. In April 2008, the price for the sets was increased to $2,649.95.

To date, approximately 18,000 sets have been sold at the higher prices. The US Mint had indicated in interviews that the entire maximum authorized mintage of 30,000 sets had been produced in December of 2007, meaning that nearly 12,000 remain in inventory.

In my opinion, this is a beautiful set, but it probably does not have as much potential as the 2008 dated Platinum Eagle coins currently available at the US Mint. The mintage of 30,000 coins for the 10th Anniversary Set is extremely high for the Platinum Eagle series. Also, it will probably take the US Mint a long time to sell the remaining 12,000 sets. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this set remains available for sale for several years.

You can find the US Mint's product page for the set here.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Sold Out at US Mint's Last Chance Sale

The US Mint's Last Chance Sale went live on Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 12:01 AM ET. This sale features over 150 different products that the US Mint is hoping to clear out in advance of moving to a new shipping facility.

All products available in the sale can be found in a special section of the US Mint's website located here.

After being live for only a few days, several of the Last Chance products have already sold out. Some of the products, such as the 2004 Mint Set, sell for big premiums on the secondary market. With no ordering limits, these products were quick sell outs. Other items may have sold out quickly since there may have only been a few units available for sale.

So far the sold out products are the following:
  • 2007 50 State Quarters Proof Set
  • 2004 US Mint Set
  • 2006 US Mint Set
  • 50 State Quarters and Euro Coin Collection
  • Official Coin Collecting Starter Kit
  • 2004 Wisconsin Quarter Two Roll Set
  • 2005 Minnesota Quarter Two Roll Set
  • 2007 Utah Quarter Two Roll Set
  • 2001 Sacagawea 25-Coin Roll (P)
  • 2003 Jefferson Nickel Two Roll Set
  • 2005 Sacagawea Dollar 250-Coin Bag (P)
  • 2007 George Washington Dollar Coin Cover
  • 2006 Nebraska Coin and Die Set (D)
  • 2004 Iowa Collector's Spoon
  • 2004 Westward Journey Nickel Series Coin Set
  • 2006 Westward Journey Nickel Series Coin Set
The remaining products will be available for sale until December 19, 2008 5:00 PM ET, or until they sell out. Products included in this sale have a special 7 Day Return policy in effect. Returns are only accepted if items are received damaged.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

How the US Mint Could Have Handled Price Reductions Better

This week the US Mint unexpectedly suspended nearly all gold and platinum products and then brought them back after less than one day with mostly lower prices.

Collector response to the price changes has been mostly negative. Some customers who recently placed orders felt that the Mint should issue refunds for the price differences. Others, who routinely purchase their coins as soon as they are released, felt betrayed by the Mint.

Here is one anonymous quote by a Mint News Blog reader that sums up some of these sentiments:
After 50 yrs of buying USMint collector items, I am fed up with this repricing and am giving up all dealing with them. Once an item is offered for sale as a collector item then it should not change in price for ANY reason.
Some customers are reacting by returning coins purchased within the last 30 days at the higher prices, and re-purchasing their coins at the lower prices.

Another anonymous reader quote:
I have purchased within the last 30 days. The coins I bought 10/17 will be shipped back, except for the 1/10 unc plats, refunded and if I choose I can go online to buy again. The coins I bought yesterday morning, I had to cancel that order, they would not reprice it over the phone.
I should note that there were some collectors who were happy about the price declines. Some collectors used the lower prices as an opportunity increase their holdings of certain coins. Others, who had avoided buying gold products due to the high premiums, have finally decided to place orders now that premiums are lower.

I have not seen any official statements or explanations from the US Mint on the price reductions. Nor does there seem to be any policy to refund customers who recently purchased coins at higher prices. I've seen some reports that the US Mint canceled orders placed earlier in the week ahead of the price changes, but I am not sure if this was the case for all orders.

Even if the US Mint does come out with an official policy or statement, there are definitely ways they could have handled the recent price changes better.

1.) Have a clear policy on when precious metals related products will be repriced. There should be a specific threshold at which the US Mint reprices products. The current process seems somewhat arbitrary. Platinum coins were repriced on Oct 17 and November 13. The market price of platinum on each date $857 and $814 representing a decline of only 5%. Gold coins were not repriced until the price had declined more than 20%.

2.) Have clear messages regarding suspensions on product pages. This year, when products have been suspended for price changes they have contained the ambiguous message, "Product is not available." This is misleading since it is also the same message used for sold out products. In addition, earlier this year, Platinum Eagle listings simply disappeared from the US Mint's website without explanation. This left collectors guessing for more than two months.

In prior years, the US Mint used a product page message for suspended products which clearly explained the situation. This message was used in 2006 and 2007: "Due to the increasing market value of gold, the American Eagle Gold Uncirculated Coins are temporarily unavailable while pricing for this option can be adjusted; therefore, no orders can be taken at this time."

3.) Have a clear policy on customer orders placed at higher prices. Because of the Mint's liberal 30 day return policy, many customers are choosing to return coins purchased at higher prices and re-purchase them at the new lower prices. Instead of forcing customers to go through this tedious process, the US Mint could issue refunds to customers for orders placed within the return period. This would save the Mint the trouble of processing all of the returns and new orders and build some goodwill with their customer base.

4.) And the most logical, but unlikely suggestion, have prices adjusted daily or weekly based on precious metals market prices. The majority of the cost of gold and platinum US Mint products comes from the cost of the precious metal content. So why not have floating prices, which adjust at set intervals based on the market value of precious metal content?

As an example, prices could be adjusted each day based on the closing market price of the precious metal plus a mark up. If the price makes a significant move during the day, offerings could be immediately suspended for the rest of the day. Customers wouldn't have to worry about spontaneous re-pricings and could have piece of mind that they are paying prices based on the current market value of the metals. The Mint could limit returns on these products since customers will paying prices directly based on precious metals prices at the time of order.

Unfortunately, based on my understanding of how the US Mint must price products, this suggestion is not possible. However, it would clearly make a lot of sense.

At any rate, this is the final year for many of the US Mint's platinum and gold products, so these suggestions are somewhat moot. The US Mint recently announced the discontinuation of 22 gold and platinum products due to lack of popularity. One has to wonder, if the US Mint had more clearly defined policies and accurate pricing, maybe the discontinued products would have been popular enough to survive.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

US Mint Gold and Platinum Products Return, Prices Mostly Lower

Around 12:00 Noon ET today, all of the gold and platinum products went back on sale at the US Mint. These products had become unavailable for sale yesterday without any explanation from the Mint.

The only products which have not gone back on sale are the three Sold Out products noted yesterday: the 2008-W 1/10 oz. Unc Gold Buffalo, 2008-W 1/10 oz. Unc Platinum Eagle, and 2008-W 1/4 oz. Unc Platinum Eagle.

The vast majority of new prices are lower. Oddly, some prices have been increased. The increases have impacted all 1/10 oz. coins and some of the 1/4 oz. coins.

Below is a list of all of the gold and platinum products, including the old prices, new prices, and change in price:

Product Old Price New Price Change
2008 Jackson FSG Proof 619.95 549.95 (70.00)
2008 Jackson FSG Unc 599.95 524.95 (75.00)
2008 L. Adams FSG Proof 619.95 549.95 (70.00)
2008 L. Adams FSG Unc 599.95 524.95 (75.00)
2008 Monroe FSG Proof 619.95 549.95 (70.00)
2008 Monroe FSG Unc 599.95 524.95 (75.00)
2008 1 oz. Gold Buffalo Proof 1,199.95 1,049.95 (150.00)
2008 1/2 oz. Gold Buffalo Proof 619.95 549.95 (70.00)
2008 1/4 oz. Gold Buffalo Proof 329.95 312.45 (17.50)
2008 1/10 oz. Gold Buffalo Proof 159.95 164.95 5.00
2008 Gold Buffalo Proof 4 Coin Set 2,219.95 2,005.45 (214.50)
2008-W 1 oz. Gold Buffalo Unc 1,059.95 999.95 (60.00)
2008-W 1/2 oz. Gold Buffalo Unc 539.95 524.95 (15.00)
2008-W 1/4 oz. Gold Buffalo Unc 289.95 297.45 7.50
2008-W 1/10 oz. Gold Buffalo Unc 129.95 N/A N/A
2008-W Gold Buffalo Unc 4 Coin Set 1,959.95 1,902.45 (57.50)
8-8-08 Double Prosperity Set 1,228.88 1,078.88 (150.00)
2008 Buffalo Celebration Coin 1,118.88 968.88 (150.00)
2008 1 oz. Gold Eagle Proof 1,199.95 1,024.95 (175.00)
2008 1/2 oz. Gold Eagle Proof 609.95 534.95 (75.00)
2008 1/4 oz. Gold Eagle Proof 329.95 302.45 (27.50)
2008 1/10 oz. Gold Eagle Proof 149.95 162.95 13.00
2008 Gold Eagle Proof 4 Coin Set 2,199.95 1,952.45 (247.50)
2008-W 1 oz. Gold Eagle Unc 1,119.95 974.95 (145.00)
2008-W 1/2 oz. Gold Eagle Unc 565.95 509.95 (56.00)
2008-W 1/4 oz. Gold Eagle Unc 295.95 287.45 (8.50)
2008-W 1/10 oz. Gold Eagle Unc 124.95 154.95 30.00
2008-W Gold Eagle Unc 4 Coin Set 2,039.95 1,862.45 (177.50)
2008 1 oz. Platinum Eagle Proof 1,324.95 1,119.95 (205.00)
2008 1/2 oz. Platinum Eagle Proof 674.95 599.95 (75.00)
2008 1/4 oz. Platinum Eagle Proof 349.95 359.95 10.00
2008 1/10 oz. Platinum Eagle Proof 149.95 199.95 50.00
2008 Platinum Eagle Proof 4 Coin Set 2,419.95 2,179.95 (240.00)
2008-W 1 oz. Platinum Eagle Unc 1,214.95 1,069.95 (145.00)
2008-W 1/2 oz. Platinum Eagle Unc 619.95 569.95 (50.00)
2008-W 1/4 oz. Platinum Eagle Unc 319.95 N/A N/A
2008-W 1/10 oz. Platinum Eagle Unc 134.95 N/A N/A
2008-W Platinum Eagle Unc 4 Coin Set 2,219.95 2,089.95 (130.00)

I will have additional information later along with some thoughts and responses on the sudden and unexplained price decreases.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nearly All Gold and Platinum Products No Longer Available

Currently nearly every gold and platinum product in the US Mint's online store is listed as "Product is not available."

This includes:
  • All 2008 Proof Gold Eagles
  • All 2008-W Uncirculated Gold Eagles
  • All 2008 Proof Platinum Eagles
  • All 2008-W Uncirculated Platinum Eagles
  • All 2008 Proof Gold Buffaloes
  • All 2008-W Uncirculated Gold Buffaloes
  • Andrew Jackson's Liberty First Spouse Gold Coins
  • Louisa Adams First Spouse Gold Coins
  • Elizabeth Monroe First Spouse Gold Coins
The only gold or platinum coin actually still available for purchase is the Dolley Madison First Spouse Gold Coin.

It does not appear that all of the unavailable coins are sold out.

The only coins that are actually sold out are likely the following, which appear on the US Mint's "No Longer Available" section which lists Sold Out products:
  • 2008-W Uncirculated One Quarter Ounce Platinum Eagle
  • 2008-W Uncirculated One-Tenth Ounce Platinum Eagle
  • 2008-W Uncirculated One-Tenth Ounce Gold Buffalo
The US Mint website does not have any message to explain the sudden unavailability these products, but it appears that a massive repricing might be in process. A reader reported the following today in a comment:

just got off the phone with the mint and supposedly the plan now is at noon friday the plat UC 1/2oz goes for 569, the 1/2oz UC GAE goes for 509, and the proof 1/2oz gold first day spouses go for $549. that's friday 11/14 at noon.

I have not confirmed this with the Mint, but it seems like this is a likely scenario. It's supported by the fact that the Dolley Madison coins have remained on sale. These coins have been priced at $529.95 and $509.95. If the new price level will be $549, then no adjustment was needed, allowing the coins to stay on sale.

This raises a few questions. In the past, repricings have taken much longer to accomplish and have usually been preceded by a sales suspension which lasted at least a few weeks. How was the Mint able to pull off a re-pricing so quickly this time?

Second, since the coins were being sold at higher prices as recently as one week ago, what happens to all of the collectors who purchased coins at higher prices? The Mint does have a 30 day return period. Collector who paid higher prices could simply return their coins and purchase new ones. Or the Mint could potentially issue automatic refunds of the price difference for anyone still within the return period.

Yesterday I wrote about the unwieldy management of the gold and platinum related products. These recent events certainly play into that, as collectors are once again taken off guard by a sudden change. I'll post more information as it becomes available.

Update: Most Gold and Platinum Products are now back on sale. Prices are lower. Full post following shortly.


Full List of US Mint's Last Chance Sale Products

Earlier this week, the US Mint announced a Last Chance Sale. The purpose of the sale is to help the Mint clear their inventory shelves to coincide with a move to a new shipping facility.

The sale is scheduled to begin on Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 12:01 AM ET and will conclude on December 19, 2008 at 5:00 PM ET.

In my prior post, I had included a summary of the products that will be included in the sale, but many people are looking for a full and comprehensive list. So here it is without further ado:

Annual Sets
2007 United States Mint Proof Set
2007 United States Mint 50 State Quarters Proof Set
2004 United States Mint Uncirculated Coin Set
2006 United States Mint Uncirculated Coin Set
2007 United States Mint Uncirculated Coin Set
2007 United States Mint Silver Proof Set
2007 United States Mint 50 State Quarters Silver Proof Set

50 State Quarters Bags & Rolls
Wisconsin Two-Roll Set
Minnesota Two-Roll Set
Minnesota 1,000-Coin Bag (P)
Minnesota 1,000-Coin Bag (D)
Oregon 1,000-Coin Bag (D)
Colorado 100-Coin Bag (P)
Nebraska 1,000-Coin Bag (P)
Nebraska 1,000-Coin Bag (D)
Nebraska 100-Coin Bag (D)
Colorado 1,000-Coin Bag (P)
Colorado 1,000-Coin Bag (D)
North Dakota 100-Coin Bag (D)
North Dakota 1,000-Coin Bag (D)
South Dakota 100-Coin Bag (D)
Montana 1,000-Coin Bag (P)
Wyoming 100-Coin Bag (P)
Wyoming 1,000-Coin Bag (P)
Wyoming 100-Coin Bag (D)
Wyoming 1,000-Coin Bag (D)
Utah Two-Roll Set
Utah 1,000-Coin Bag (P)
Utah 1,000-Coin Bag (D)
Oklahoma Two-Roll Set
Oklahoma 100-Coin Bag (P)
Oklahoma 100-Coin Bag (D)
Oklahoma 1,000-Coin Bag (P)
Oklahoma 1,000-Coin Bag (D)
New Mexico Two-Roll Set
New Mexico 100-Coin Bag (P)
New Mexico 100-Coin Bag (D)
New Mexico 1,000-Coin Bag (P)
New Mexico 1,000-Coin Bag (D)
Arizona Two-Roll Set
Arizona 1,000-Coin Bag (P)
Arizona 100-Coin Bag (D)
Arizona 100-Coin Bag (P)
Arizona 1,000-Coin Bag (D)

Other Bags & Rolls
2001 Sacagawea Golden Dollar Roll (P)
2001 Kennedy Half-Dollar 200-Coin Bag
2001 Kennedy Half-Dollar Two-Roll Set
2002 Sacagawea Golden Dollar 2000-Coin Bag (P)
2002 Sacagawea Golden Dollar 2000-Coin Bag (D)
2003 Jefferson Nickel Two-Roll Set
2004 Sacagawea Dollar 2000-Coin Bag (D)
2005 Ocean in View Nickel 1,000-Coin Bag (P)
2005 Ocean in View Nickel 1,000-Coin Bag (D)
2005 Sacagawea Dollar 2000-Coin Bag (P)

50 State Quarters First Day Coin Covers
New Jersey
South Carolina
New Hampshire
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island
West Virginia
North Dakota
South Dakota
Presidential $1 Coin Coin Covers
George Washington
John Adams
Thomas Jefferson
James Madison

50 State Quarters Coin & Die Sets
North Carolina (P)
Rhode Island
Tennessee (D)
Maine (D)
Iowa (P)
Oregon (P)
Nebraska (D)
Nebraska (P)
Colorado (P)
North Dakota (D)
North Dakota (P)
South Dakota (D)
South Dakota (P)
Montana (D)
Montana (P)
Washington (P)
Idaho (D)
Idaho (P)
Wyoming (P)
Wyoming (D)
Utah (D)

50 State Quarters Collector’s Spoons
West Virginia
North Dakota
South Dakota
New Mexico

50 State Quarters Greetings from America Series
1999 Card Set
1999 Portfolio
2000 Card Set
2000 Portfolio
2001 Card Set
2001 Portfolio
2002 Card Set
2002 Portfolio
2003 Card Set
2003 Portfolio
2004 Card Set
2004 Portfolio
2005 Card Set
2005 Portfolio
2006 Card Set
2006 Portfolio
2007 Card Set
2007 Portfolio
Card Set Album
Portfolio Album

Westward Journey Nickel Sets
2004 Westward Journey Nickel Series Coin Set
2006 Westward Journey Nickel Series Coin Set

Special Sets
50 State Quarters And Euro Coin Collection
Official Coin Collecting Starter Kit


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thoughts on US Mint Product Discontinuations

As a follow up to yesterday's news of the US Mint's Product Eliminations, I wanted to provide some thoughts and opinions on what it means and what it might change. In the first section I have included the official statements from the US Mint, but in my opinion there is more to the story. Specifically, regarding the discontinuation of the fractional proof offerings and uncirculated "W" offerings for Platinum Eagles, Gold Eagles, and Gold Buffaloes.

Why were the products eliminated?

The US Mint's press release mentions that the product eliminations were spurred by collector concerns that the US Mint was offering too many products. The Mint also states their intention to focus resources on core products. Finally, they cite number of units sold as a determining factor for which products should be retained.

CoinWorld has a quote from the US Mint Deputy Director Andrew Brunhart, "We're hearing the numismatic community loud and clear. We're trying to react not only to collector comments and concerns, but to the broadest base of Americans."

These reasons are all valid and true, but I think there were some larger issues under the surface. I think that managing an array of bullion type offerings across gold, silver, and platinum metals became unwieldy and possibly unprofitable for the US Mint.

The Mint sold the offerings at fixed prices while the values of the underlying precious metals constantly fluctuated. The last few years have seen extreme volatility in precious metals prices. While precious metals climbed in 2006 and 2007, constant suspensions and repricings were necessary. The requirement for the US Mint to publish new prices in the Federal Register made each suspension/repricing a lengthy process.

In 2008, precious metals prices dropped substantially. Since product prices were fixed while precious metals prices were high, the coins ended up with extremely high premiums. The only prices adjusted downward were for Platinum Eagle coins. But even after nearly 50% reductions, premiums as compared to the market value of the metal remained extremely high. These enormous premiums are undoubedtly a drag on sales. In other words, low sales weren't necessarily an indication that the products were unpopular, it had more to do with the fact that premiums were much too high.

Secondly, even with the high premiums it is entirely possible that the US Mint is taking losses on some of the products. This seems likely for the Platinum Eagle products in particular. The Mint may have acquired the platinum used to make the coins when prices were much higher. Platinum was trading at $1,921 per ounce when the coins initially went on sale compared to today's price of $814 per ounce. The Mint must have experienced some losses from coins produced while prices were high and sold while prices were low.

The Mint is also presumably still holding onto approximately 12,000 unsold 2007 10th Anniversary Platinum Eagle Sets. These were produced at the end of 2007, meaning that the platinum was definitely acquired at higher price levels. These sets have been suspended since August and have not made a reappearance.

In addition to the precious metals price risk, there are also the fixed costs of each product offering to consider. With the low sales levels experienced this year, these fixed costs are spread across fewer products, again possibly making the offerings unprofitable.

How will this impact 2009?

Shopping at the US Mint will be a much different experience in 2009. In recent years, the vast number of bullion related products overshadowed many of the US Mint's traditional offerings. These expensive offerings also took up a big portion of coin collector's budgets, leaving less money for other coins. With many of the fractional proof and "W" uncirculated coins gone, collectors might shift their focus to other series.

Possible beneficiaries include the First Spouse Gold Coin series. After strong popularity in early 2007, collector interest waned. In previous posts I have written that one contributing factor may have been the vast array of other bullion related products the Mint was producing. With less competition, interest might flow back into the series.

Commemorative coin issues may also show renewed interest. This year's Bald Eagle Commemorative coins have posted strong sales, but failed to reach sell out levels despite an excellent design and popular subject matter. Again, part of the reason may have been collector focus and money which shifted to the bullion related offerings. Next year's commemorative line up will include a 2009 Lincoln Commemorative and 2009 Louis Braille Commemorative. Designs and details have not yet been released, but I think the Lincoln Commemorative will be a sell out.

Lastly, I think the biggest beneficiary of the reduced product line up will be the hotly anticipated 2009 Ultra High Relief Gold Double Eagle. The product eliminations basically clear the slate for this coin to make a big splash when it is released.

What does the future hold for the discontinued coins?

The future may be bright for some of the now discontinued offerings. Specifically, I think perception may change for the Uncirculated coin offerings with the "W" mint marks. Instead of being viewed as follow-ons to the bullion coins, they may being to be viewed as collector coins, as they were intended. In almost all cases, the mintages are a fraction of the bullion coin mintages. In the case of the American Buffalo Gold Coins, the 2008 fractional coins will be unique for the series.

With low mintages and dispersed supply, the some of the discontinued coins may be poised for higher prices if perception shifts and demand materializes. This will be an interesting situation to watch, particularly as the 2008 issues continue to sell out.


Monday, November 10, 2008

US Mint Cuts Product Offerings by 60%

In a bold move, the United States Mint announced that they will be slashing the number of product offerings available for sale. The number of products will decline from the current level of 550 to a more manageable 200 items.

The move comes in response to complaints from collectors that the Mint is offering too many products. The 2009 portfolio of products will realign the Mint to producing and selling its core products with the broadest appeal.

The extent of discontinued products is shocking. It includes a large array of bullion related products, eliminating nearly all American Buffalo Gold offerings, nearly all Platinum Eagle offerings, and the fractional Uncirculated Gold Eagle offerings. This is a major retrenchment from the array of "collectible" bullion coins currently offered by the US Mint.

Other discontinued products are related to the ending of the 50 State Quarter Program. The remainder of discontinuations are for less popular offerings related Presidential Dollar series and some other fringe products like collectible spoons.

In related news, the US Mint will be offering a "Last Chance Sale" to clear their inventory of some of the discontinued products.

The list of discontinued products includes:
  • American Buffalo Uncirculated Gold Coins - These are the versions offered by the US Mint with the "W" mint mark. All fractional denominations, 4 coin set, and the one ounce coin will be discontinued. No offerings will remain.
  • American Buffalo Proof Gold Coins - The fractional 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/10 oz coins and 4 coin set will be discontinued. Only the one ounce Proof coin will remain.
  • American Platinum Eagle Uncirculated Coins - These are the versions offered by the US Mint with the "W" mint mark. All fractional denominations, 4 coin set, and the one ounce coin will be discontinued. No offerings will remain.
  • American Platinum Eagle Proof Coins - The fractional 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/10 oz coins and 4 coin set will be discontinued. Only the one ounce Proof coin will remain.
  • American Gold Eagle Uncirculated Coins - These are the versions offered by the US Mint with the "W" mint mark. The fractional 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/10 oz coins and 4 coin set will be discontinued. Only the one ounce coin will remain.
  • Presidential Dollar Coin Historical Signature Sets
  • Presidential Dollar Individual Proof Coins
  • 50 State Quarter First Day Coin Covers
  • Greetings from America Portfolio and Card Sets
  • Coin and Die Sets
  • Collectible Spoons
This significantly changes the landscape of product offerings from the US Mint. I will be posting some of my reactions to the changes in the coming days.

See related: Thoughts on US Mint Product Discontinuations


US Mint to Hold "Last Chance Sale"

Today the US Mint announced significant cuts to their current slate of product offerings. (See related post: US Mint Cuts Product Offerings by 60%.) At the same time, the Mint is also switching its order fulfillment and shipping contractor from PSFWeb to Pitney Bowes, which will entail moving products to a new shipping facility.

In an attempt to clear its shelves, the Mint has announced a "Last Chance Sale." Products for sale will include numerous sets, bags, and rolls. Many of the products include items from prior years that have not been available for sale from the US Mint for some time.

One of the most surprising products to see on the list is the 2004 US Mint Set. These currently sell for over $40 on the secondary market.

The sale will begin Saturday, November 15, 2008 at 12:01 AM ET and will conclude on December 19, 2008 at 5:00 PM ET.

The products offered in the last chance sale will include the following:
  • Annual Coin Sets - including 2007 Proof Set, 2007 State Quarter Proof Set, 2004 Mint Set, 2006 Mint Set, 2007 Mint Set, 2007 Silver Proof Set, 2007 Silver State Quarter Proof Set
  • State Quarter Bags and Rolls - including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona
  • State Quarter First Day Covers - many states from New Jersey to Utah
  • State Quarter Coin and Die Sets - various states form North Carolina to Utah
  • State Quarter Collector's Spoons - various states from Iowa to Arizona
  • Presidential Dollar Coin Covers - including Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison
  • Kennedy Half Bags and Rolls - including 2001
  • Sacagawea Dollar Bags and Rolls - including rolls from 2001; and 2,000-coin bags from 2002, 2004, 2005
  • Jefferson Nickel Bags, Rolls, and Sets - including 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
  • State Quarter Greetings from America Card and Portfolio Sets - including all years from 1999 to 2007
  • 50 State Quarters and Euro Coin Collection
  • Official Coin Collecting Starter Kit
There will be no household ordering limits in place. The US Mint will offer a seven day return policy, but only for items delivered damaged. Notably, the sale of some products will increase some previously stated "final" sales figures. For products with mintage limits, the Mint will not sell above the authorized mintage numbers.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

2008-W One-Quarter Ounce Platinum Eagle Sold Out

The second of the re-offered 2008-W Platinum Eagles has sold out at the US Mint. The sold out coin is the 2008-W One-Quarter Ounce Uncirculated Platinum Eagle. This joins the one-tenth ounce version of the coin as one of this year's early sell outs.

After more than two and a half months of suspension, the 2008-W Platinum Eagles went back on sale October 17 at reduced prices. Collectors quickly placed a rush of orders which more than doubled pre-suspension sales levels and led to two sell outs so far.

Notably, the 4 Coin Set of 2008-W Unc Platinum Eagles remains on sale. Therefore, the sold out coins can still be obtained by purchasing this entire set. Also, as long as the 4 Coin Set remains on sale, mintage figures for the individual sold out coins will continue to grow.

Numismaster has just published updated sales figures for the Platinum Eagles. The table below displays the sales totals for each individual option in the first column, and combined sales totals in the second column (individual sales + 4 coin set sales).

2008-W Uncirculated Platinum Eagle Sales Figures

Individual Combined
1 ounce 393 1,584
1/2 ounce 802 1,993
1/4 ounce 2,138 3,329
1/10 ounce 2,500 3,691
4 coin set 1,191 N/A

2008 Proof Platinum Eagle Sales Figures

Individual Combined
1 ounce 1,560 2,950
1/2 ounce 781 2,171
1/4 ounce 1,025 2,415
1/10 ounce 2,224 3,614
4 coin set 1,390 N/A

With the recent rush of sales, sales figures for some of 2008-W Unc versions are now above the estimated final mintages of the key date 2006-W Platinum Eagles. One big exception is the one ounce version which continues to lag in sales.

Also, collectors continue to choose Uncirculated versions over Proof versions. This has caused two proof versions to have sales totals below the respective Unc versions.

Finally, for anyone wondering how the secondary market is reacting to the sell outs, the 2008-W Unc Platinum 1/10 ounce coins are selling on eBay for around $160-$170 raw. This is above the US Mint price of $134.95, but not spectactularly so. Here are the current active eBay auctions.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Martin Van Buren Presidential Dollar Bags & Rolls

The Martin Van Buren Presidential Dollar will be released into circulation on November 13, 2008. This will mark the eighth release of the Presidential Dollar series and the final coin of 2008.

To coincide with the release of coins into circulation, the US Mint will begin offering bags and rolls featuring the new dollar coin on November 13, 2008 at 12:00 Noon ET.

Similar to prior offerings, the Mint will offer 25-coin rolls for $35.95 and 250-coin bags for $319.95. Separate rolls and bags will be available for Philadelphia and Denver minted coins. Product pages for the offerings are already available online, although ordering options won't be available until the official start of sales. Here are the pages from the US Mint's Online Catalog:

25-Coin Roll Philadelphia
25-Coin Roll Denver
250-Coin Bag Philadelphia
250-Coin Bag Denver

Although there has not been any announcement, it is likely that Martin Van Buren Presidential Dollars will also be available under the Direct Ship Program. Under this program, quantities of 250 or 500 coins can be ordered at face value with no additional costs for shipping. This is obviously a much better deal than the coins offered under the bags and rolls program.

In the past, the US Mint has not made any official announcements about new Presidential Dollars available under the Direct Ship program. However, the 250-Coin Boxes have usually gone on sale around the same time as the bags and rolls. You can keep an eye on which Presidents are available under the Direct Ship Program on this page.

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