Mint News Blog

News, Information, and Commentary on US Mint Products

Thursday, January 29, 2009

2009 Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar

The United States Mint will release the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar on February 12, 2009. This date will also mark the 200th aniversary of Lincoln's birth and the release date for the first 2009 Lincoln Cent design. While the commemorative coin's designs and release date had been known previously, there is some new information regarding price and ordering options.

The 2009 Lincoln Commemorative will be offered in both proof and uncirculated versions with a combined maximum authorized mintage of 500,000 coins. According to a recent article from Coin World, the proof coins will be priced at $37.95 and the uncirculated coins will be priced at $31.95. These prices will apply for coins ordered during the pre-issue discount period (February 12 - March 26, 2009). There will be an initial household limit of 100, each for proof and uncirculated coins.

This pricing actually represents a decrease from last year's pricing level for silver dollar commemoratives. The 2008 Bald Eagle Commemorative Silver Dollars were priced at $39.95 and $35.95 during the pre-issue discount period.

The US Mint will reserve 50,000 coins from the 500,000 maximum authorized mintage for inclusion within a special set. This set will feature proof versions of all four 2009 Lincoln Cents and the proof version of the 2009 Lincoln Commemorative. This set has not been listed on the US Mint's product release schedule, but should be available in the spring.

In my opinion, the 2009 Lincoln Commemorative will be popular and has the potential for a sell out. Lincoln is a well known historical figure, which usually bolsters commemorative coin sales. The release of the four newly designed 2009 Lincoln Cents should also serve to build collector and even mainstream awareness of the commemorative coin. Lastly, if the unavailability of the 2009-W Uncirculated Silver Eagles and 2009 Proof Silver Eagles continues, collectors may opt to purchase silver coins from the US Mint's commemorative programs.

The last commemorative silver dollar to sell out was the 2006 Benjamin Franklin Commemorative. Prior to that was the 2001 American Buffalo Commemorative Silver Dollar. Last year's 2008 Bald Eagle Commemorative Silver Dollar came close with total combined sales across all product options of 415,122 out of a maximum 500,000.


2009 Presidential Dollar Proof Set

The US Mint will begin selling the 2009 Presidential Dollar Proof Set on February 10, 2009 at 12:00 Noon ET.

The set will contain proof versions of each of the 2009 Presidential Dollars, honoring William Henry Harrison, John Tyler Dollar, James K. Polk, and Zachary Taylor. The coins will be struck at the San Francisco Mint and carry the "S" mint mark.

All four of these coins will also be included in the US Mint's 2009 Proof Set and 2009 Silver Proof Set, which are scheduled to be released in the spring. In recent years, the US Mint has been producing separate proof sets for quarters and Presidential Dollars.

The sets will be priced at $14.95, which is the same price charged for last year's set. The 2008 Presidential Dollar Set is still currently available for sale on the US Mint's website.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Order Status and Prices

Collectors who ordered the 2009 Ultra High Relief Gold Double Eagle may have received a backorder notification from the US Mint with a new shipping date this morning.

Expected shipping dates have fluctuated for collectors who placed their orders on the first day. There were reports that the book, which is included with the coin, was showing a later shipping date than the coin. Later reports indicated both shipping dates progressively being pushed forward.

This morning, I received a backorder notice for my order. It showed an expected shipping date of February 6, 2009 for both the coin and the book. Others have reported expected shipping dates of February 10, 11, or 20. When I first placed my order (January 22, 2009 at 12:17 PM ET), the expected shipping date provided was January 28, 2009.

The product page in the US Mint's online product catalog indicates that the coin will be available for shipping on February 13. Of course, all of these dates may continue to get pushed forward, if recent experience is any indicator. It will be interesting to see what date collectors start to receive the first Ultra High Relief coins.

Anyone who is still considering purchasing the coin should note that the US Mint's price will most likely increase by $50 or $100 later this week. Under the US Mint's new pricing policy, prices are subject to adjustment each week if the average weekly London Fix price of gold moves across certain thresholds. Coins are currently priced for the $800.00 to $849.99 tier. The price of gold has recently been above $900, although the average weekly price will likely fall into the $850.00 to $899.99 tier (unless their is a big move tomorrow).

The last time the US Mint adjusted prices under the new policy, product sales were halted on Wednesday around noon. Sales resumed the next day Thursday at noon, at the adjusted prices. If you have waiting to place your order, consider doing so before noon tomorrow to avoid the price increase.

Lastly, I thought it would be interesting to run a UHR related coin survey this week. As most people know, the 2009 Ultra High Relief has an ordering limit of one per household. In the past situations when there were ordering limits, some collectors used the households of friends and family to order more than one coin. How widespread is this practice? Answer the survey below and we will find out.


Monday, January 26, 2009

2009 American Gold, Silver, Platinum Eagles Still Missing

The US Mint recently updated their Scheduled Products Listing with the majority of their product line up for the 2009. They had previously posted a partial schedule of products available through the spring.

Specific release dates for newly listed products have not been posted. The availability dates are simply listed as summer, spring, fall, or winter.

Notably still missing from the schedule are all expected collectible offerings for the 2009 American Gold Eagle, 2009 American Silver Eagle, 2009 American Platinum Eagle, and 2009 American Gold Buffalo.

Assuming the US Mint will offer the same products as the prior year except for the ones that were discontinued, the expected offerings include:

2009 American Gold Eagle - 1 oz, 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/10 oz 2009 Proof Gold Eagles, the 2009 Proof Gold Eagle 4 Coin Set, and the 1 oz 2009-W Uncirculated Gold Eagle.

2009 American Silver Eagle - the 2009 Proof Silver Eagle and the 2009-W Uncirculated Silver Eagle

2009 American Platinum Eagle - the 1 oz. 2009 Proof Platinum Eagle

2009 American Gold Buffalo - the 1 oz. 2009 Proof Gold Buffalo

Last year the US Mint released many of these products early in the year. The 2008 Proof Silver Eagle was released on January 3, the first 2008 American Gold Buffalo was released on February 5, and the first 2008 American Gold Eagle was released on March 4. (View an archived version of the US Mint's 2008 Release Schedule.) The fact that the US Mint cannot yet commit to even a vague seasonal release date for this year's products raises concerns.

Besides the already released 2009 UHR Double Eagle, the only gold products the US Mint has included on their release schedule are the 2009 First Spouse Gold Coins. The US Mint is legally required to issue these coins under the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005. Besides the traditionally offered 2009 Silver Pr0of Set, the only silver coins listed are the 2009 Louis Braille Silver Dollar and the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Silver Dollar. The US Mint is legally required to issue these commemorative coins. There are no platinum products listed.

Readers can correct me if I am mistaken, but I do not believe that the US Mint has any legal requirement to produce and issue the collectible versions of the American Eagle and American Buffalo coins listed above.

Does that mean there potential that these coins will not be issued in 2009?

Last year, amidst the ongoing shortage of Silver Eagle bullion coins, the US Mint indicated that they would use all incoming silver blanks for the production of bullion coins rather than collector coins. The US Mint indicated this explicitly within one of their statements:
We are not using incoming supplies of silver blanks to produce numismatic versions of these coins (American Eagle Silver Proof and Uncirculated Coins); all incoming inventory is being used solely for silver bullion coins..."
The 2009 Silver Eagle and 2009 Gold Eagle bullion coins are currently subject to rationing. I do not believe production has even begun for the 2009 Platinum Eagle bullion coins and 2009 Buffalo Gold bullion coins. This is presumably due to continued strong demand for bullion coins combined with a shortage of gold, silver, and platinum blanks needed to produce the coins.

If the demand for bullion products remains greater than the supply of blanks the US Mint is able to obtain, will they use all incoming blanks for bullion coins throughout 2009, and forego production of gold, silver, and platinum numismatic products that are not legally required? By not including these products on their schedule, is the US Mint allowing for this possibility?

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

2008-W Uncirculated Silver Eagle Sold Out

The US Mint has now sold out of the 2008-W Uncirculated Silver Eagle. The individual ordering option no longer appears in the online product catalog and the listing has been added to the "No Longer Available" list.

The coin does remain available as part of the 2008 Annual Uncirculated Dollar Coin Set. This set is priced at $37.95 and contains the 2008-W Unc Silver Eagle, four 2008-P Presidential Dollars, and a 2008-D Sacagawea Dollar.

The "W" mint marked uncirculated American Silver Eagle coins have been offered since 2006, as a collectible version of the bullion coin. The latest sales figures suggest that the final mintage of the 2008-W Uncirculated Silver Eagle will fall below the levels of last year and slightly above the levels of 2006.

The table below presents the mintages based on the most recent or last published sales data from Numismaster. Included in the figures are all of the various products within which the "W" Silver Eagle was included.

2006-W Uncirculated Silver Eagle Mintage
Individual Sales 200,000
20th Anniv. Silver Eagle Set 250,000
20th Anniv. Gold & Silver Eagle Set 20,000
Total 470,000

2007-W Uncirculated Silver Eagle Mintage
Individual Sales 563,711
2007 Annual Unc Dollar Set 90,167
Total 653,878

2008-W Uncirculated Silver Eagle Mintage
Individual Sales 444,558
2008 Annual Unc Dollar Set 45,773*
Total 490,331
* still on sale

The 2008-W Silver Eagle may have some room for price appreciation. As long as there are not a significant number of Annual Dollar Sets remaining in the US Mint's inventory, the final mintage will be only slightly above the level of the 2006-W Silver Eagle, which sells in the $70 - $80 range.

However, the mintages alone only tell part of the story. The 2006-W Unc Silver Eagle sold only 200,000 coins individually, the rest were sold as part of 20th Anniversary Sets. Assuming the majority of the sets remain intact, this would cause a lower supply of individual coins, which may be the reason for the higher prices.

On the other hand, the 2008-W Unc Silver Eagle sales include approximately 47,000 of the 2008-W Silver Eagle Reverse of 2007 variety. This would lower the supply of the available coins with the regular reverse of 2008.

This will be an interesting coin to watch. In the long term, I think the 2008-W Silver Eagle will price above the 2007-W which sells around issue price, but won't reach the levels of the 2006-W. For now, prices will likely remain depressed until the 2008 Annual Uncirculated Dollar coin sells out.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

2009 District of Columbia Quarter Bags and Rolls

The US Mint will begin selling the 2009 District of Columbia Quarter Bags and Rolls on January 26, 2009 at 12:00 Noon ET.

This will be the first release of the 2009 District of Columbia & U.S. Territories Quarters Program. During 2009 a total of six new quarters will be released. The next five quarters will feature Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands.

The District of Columbia Quarter features a depiction of Duke Ellington seated at a piano. It was designed by Joel Iskowitz and sculpted by Don Everhart. The inscriptions include "Duke Ellington" on the piano and "Justice For All."

The quarters will be available in a two-roll set, with one roll each from the Philadelphia and Denver Mints, priced at $32.95.

The quarters will also be offered in 100-coin bags priced at $32.95 and 1,000-coin bags priced at $309.95. The bags will be available from either the Philadelphia or Denver Mints.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ultra High Relief Gold Double Eagles on Sale

The 2009 Ultra High Relief Gold Double Eagles just went on sale. The US Mint also finally issued their official press release announcing the availability and ordering options for the product.

The US Mint's website has slowed to a crawl for the UHR product page and check out pages. I have also heard reports that some phone calls to the US Mint's ordering center are picked up by an automated message asking the customer to call back later.

I managed to get an order through a few minutes ago. The status for the coin is listed as "Backordered" with a ship date listed as "2009-01-28"

Check out the Ultra High Relief Order Thread on Coin Network.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Survey Results: Will you buy the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle?

About a week ago, I posted a survey asking the question: Will you buy the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin?

Here are the results:

Yes: 271 Votes (48.57%)

No: 163 Votes (29.21%)

Undecided: 124 Votes (22.22%)

Some of the comments posted included:
Talk about a beautiful coin! I will surely buy one. This is an amazing coin, and I hope the mint doesn't stop here. The high relief process should be utilized on more coin designs. I would like to see at least 1-2 high different relief coin designs each year.

While the design is beautiful, the implementation results in an item that looks, to me, more like something I would get from Disneyland than from the Mint. The thickness, the edge lettering, and the concave surface are what makes this look more like a bauble than a coin. The only things this coin has going for it is the Augustus Saint-Gaudens design and the gold it’s made out of… and that’s not enough to justify the premium the mint is charging. Needless to say, I won’t be buying one.

I will buy the coin if one or more of my other orders (currently in backorder status) get canceled by the mint.

The day before the release, I am personally left with mixed feelings about the coin.

The US Mint first announced their intention to recreate the Ultra High Relief Double Eagle more than 10 months ago, on March 13, 2008. Ever since, they have slowly dribbled out the information and images of the coin, building collector excitement with each new announcement. The US Mint has touted the coin as a masterpiece, the most beautiful gold coin ever made, and the culmination of an artistic vision 100 years in the making. The coin was authorized to have an unlimited mintage so everyone could have the opportunity to own one.

On the eve of the release, collectors are faced with a relatively high price of $1,158.00, a one per household ordering limit, and a potential six to nine month shipping delay caused by the US Mint's supply chain constraints. Collectors also face questions resulting from the US Mint's new pricing policy combined with the potential shipping delay. If the price of the coin drops, should you cancel your order and order again? Or will that move you down the shipping queue and prolong your wait? Worse yet, will the US Mint count your canceled order towards the one per household ordering limit?

Considering all of the effort the US Mint has spent building up the coin's release, it seems they could have done more to ensure a smooth launch. Is it really too much to ask to be able to buy the coin that has been promoted to you for ten months and have it delivered within a reasonable time frame?

Good luck to everyone placing orders tomorrow. Sales start at 12:00 Noon ET.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin- Six to Nine Months For Delivery?

The start of sales for the US Mint's 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin is fast approaching, but that doesn't necessarily mean you will receive your coin any time soon.

While poking around the US Mint's website, I managed to find the unreleased product page for the Ultra High Relief, which includes this statement:
The United States Mint will accept orders beginning on January 22, 2009 at 12:00 noon (ET). Orders will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis, and could potentially take up to six to nine months to complete based on gold blank availability.
When I previewed the Ultra High Relief back in mid-December, I had mentioned the possibility that the US Mint might be having trouble obtaining gold blanks, which could lead to a delayed launch and/or household ordering limit. It appears that rather than delaying the launch, the US Mint will simply delay shipping some orders for six to nine months. I think many would have preferred a delayed launch.

In addition to the delayed shipping, the US Mint will be implementing a household ordering limit of one per customer.

You can view the US Mint's product page here, which also includes a price for the coin of $1,189.00. Under the new pricing policy this is based on the $800.00 to $849.99 gold price tier.

The delayed shipping combined with the household limit will complicate the launch and may leave many frustrated. Waiting six to nine months for an order to arrive might be more than some customers are willing to endure.

Coin dealers may also face a complicated situation. Some dealers have offered to purchase coins from individuals for a small premium in order to side-step the household ordering limit and fulfill pre-orders. The potential for a multi-month shipping delay for coins adds a new layer of complication to their purchasing and pre-order fulfillment process.

I hope that the US Mint is simply including this statement to be conservative, but the US Mint's recent track record doesn't leave me too optimistic. Time will tell...


Monday, January 19, 2009

2009 Kennedy Half Dollar Bags & Rolls

On January 22, 2009 at 12:00 Noon ET, the US Mint will begin sales of the 2009 Kennedy Half Dollar Bags and Rolls.

The rolls will be available in two-roll sets. The set will include one twenty-coin roll from the Philadelphia Mint and one twenty-coin roll from the Denver Mint. The price for the set will be $32.95, the same price as last year.

The bags will be available in 200-coin bags. Each bag contains 100 coins from the Philadelphia Mint and 100 coins from the Denver Mint. The price for the bags will be $130.95. This is also the same price as last year.

The US Mint has not yet posted product pages for these new offerings.

Related: Kennedy Half Dollars

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Saturday, January 17, 2009 Launched- Start Page for Coin Collectors

This morning I finished a new coin website that brings all of the internet's coin collecting news to a single page. It's called Click Coins - The Start Page for Coin Collectors. aggregates coin collecting news from a wide variety of blogs, coin news sites, and social sites. The most recent items from each source are listed. Roll your pointer over the item for a preview, and click to go directly to the full post or article.

The purpose of the site is to provide a single page with an organized list of all of the web's most recent content on coins and coin collecting. In addition to articles and blog posts, you will also find surveys, events, pictures, videos, and forum discussions.

Make Click Coins your home page and get an instant update on all the web's coin news every time you go online!


Thursday, January 15, 2009

US Mint Issues Press Release on New Pricing Strategy

Today the US Mint issued a Press Release on their new pricing strategy for precious metals products. The new policy had already been published in the Federal Register on January 6, 2009 and reported here on Mint News Blog the same day.

The policy has actually been in effect since January 12, 2009. New prices have been set under the new policy twice, on January 12 and January 15, 2009. The first repricing was an increase, and the second was a decreased. Even after today's decrease, prices for nearly all products remain higher than they were prior to when the new policy went into effect.

Product pages which contain the products covered by the policy now contain a link to the United States Mint Coin Pricing Grid. Here is a link to the grid (pdf link). I think it would also be helpful if the product pages also had a brief explanation about when pricing can be adjusted to help customers understand the process better.

The grid answers at least one of the questions included in my post Reactions to US Mint's New Pricing Policy. Sold out products appear highlighted in the chart and indicated as "Not on Sale." Some collectors thought the inclusion of these sold out products in the chart suggested that the products might unexpectedly return.

Also of note, the 10th Anniversary Platinum Eagle Set is highlighted, suggesting that this product will not go back on sale. The set had been unavailable on the US Mint's website since December 31, 2008 without explanation.

Many customers responded negatively when the 10th Anniversary Platinum Eagle Set was put back on sale in mid-November. The price of the set was lowered to $1,249.95, down from the prior price of $2,649.95. By putting the sets back on sale at such a low price, secondary market prices for the sets fell to the same level. In effect, this devalued the sets for anyone who had purchased them at the old price. Many thought that collectors would have been better served if the US Mint had not put the set back on sale. If the US Mint put the sets back on sale with the intention to sell them for only another month and a half, they probably did more harm than good for their customers.

The US Mint also recently made a few tweaks to the online catalog. One change that I like is the inclusion of a link to the $1 Coin Direct Ship page in the main sidebar menu. Prior to the change, the Direct Ship Dollars (sold at face value) more difficult to find than the Rolls and Bags (sold at a premium). Previously, the Direct Ship Dollar page could only be accessed via a link at the bottom of the Presidential Dollar Coin product page.


Coin Network Free Contest #2

Coin Network, the social network for coin collectors, was launched one and a half months ago. In this short time, the site has already attracted 581 members, who have posted 1,031 coin photos, participated in 279 forum discussions, wrote 25 blog posts, and formed 35 different groups.

In the past few weeks, there have been new features added to the site including Coin Surveys, which I mentioned yesterday, and a Coin Events page. The events page lists the dates of coin conventions, coin shows, and all US Mint Product Releases.

Today, Coin Network will also begin its second free contest for members. To enter, all you need to do is invite a friend to join Coin Network before January 31, 2009 and respond in the official contest thread.

The first 50 people to enter the contest will automatically win one uncirculated 2009 Native American Dollar. At the end of the contest, five grade prize winners will be selected from all entries. The five grand prize winners will each receive one bank wrapped $25 Roll of Native American Dollars.

It's never been a better time to join Coin Network and help spread the word!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gold Products Not Available

Around mid-day, the US Mint suspended sales of all Gold Numismatic products once again. Presumably the suspension is coming ahead of the second re-pricing of the year. Based on their guidance the new prices should become effective tomorrow at 10:00 AM ET.

The London Gold AM Fix prices from the prior Thursday to this Wednesday were 842.50, 854.00, 848.50, 815.50, and 827.25. Since the average price falls into the $800 to $849.99 tier, all products should have their prices adjusted lower tomorrow.

If you want to find the price for a specific product, refer to my post which contains the US Mint's Gold and Platinum Pricing Charts.

In other news, Coin Network has a new survey feature. A new question will be posted approximately every week for the community to answer. Here's this week's survey.

Discuss your vote or the results in the Coin Survey Group


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reactions to US Mint's New Pricing Policy

It has now been one week since the US Mint unveiled their new pricing policy for Gold and Platinum Numismatic products. Yesterday, collectors got a first taste of the new policy as prices for nearly all gold coins increased, ironically coinciding with a sharp decrease in the market price of gold. So far, reactions to the new pricing policy have been resoundingly negative.

While I do believe the US Mint had the best of intentions when they decided to overhaul their pricing policy, their implementation leaves much to be desired. Below I will examine some of the most common observations from myself, Mint News Blog readers, and Coin Network members.

» High Premiums

The most common complaint about the new pricing policy is the high premiums for coins. I compiled some historical data, which confirms that premiums have been expanding. The table below shows the premiums for the Proof Gold Eagle 4 Coin Set over the past few years. Each date represents a new pricing point established by the release of a new coin or a pricing adjustment.

Proof Gold Eagle 4 Coin Set Premiums

Price Spot Gold Gold Value Premium Percent
February 2, 2006 1,350.00 572.15 1,058.48 291.52 27.54%
May 22, 2006 1,575.00 652.50 1,207.13 367.88 30.48%
July 12, 2006 1,495.00 650.00 1,202.50 292.50 24.32%
February 5, 2007 1,449.95 649.40 1,201.39 248.56 20.69%
October 12, 2007 1,695.95 749.50 1,386.58 309.38 22.31%
March 5, 2008 2,199.95 974.50 1,802.83 397.13 22.03%
November 14, 2008 1,952.45 747.50 1,382.88 569.58 41.19%
New Pricing 2,013.00 821.00 1,518.85 494.15 32.53%

It could be argued that the premiums gold and platinum products have expanded worldwide due to the recent high demand. On the other hand, premiums for US Mint products under the old pricing policy were significantly lower as recently as a few weeks ago. At the end of December the price of gold rose to $880. At this price, the premium for the Proof Gold Eagle 4 Coin Set was less than 20%.

Even though the US Mint had adjusted prices to a 40% premium in November, because the old policy was less reactionary with adjustments, lower premiums were still possible. Under the new policy, prices are subject to adjustment each week, keeping premiums at permanently high levels.

Perhaps the most unjustifiable premiums are for the collectible uncirculated coins. These are the uncirculated coins bearing the "W" mintmark which the US Mint introduced in 2006. Currently, the 2008-W Uncirculated Gold Eagles remain on sale.

When the US Mint first introduced this product line, they described the pricing as "at the relative mid-point between the American Eagle Proof Coins and the American Eagle Bullion Coins." (See their own press release.) Under the new pricing policy, the Uncirculated versions are priced a mere $6 or $7 below the Proof versions and far above the prices for bullion coins.

The chart below shows how the premiums for the one-ounce Uncirculated "W" Gold Eagle have expanded over time. Each date represents a pricing point established by the release of a new coin or a pricing adjustment.

One-Ounce Uncirculated "W" Gold Eagle Premiums

Price Spot Gold Premium Percent
September 28, 2006 720.00 603.00 117.00 19.40%
April 27, 2007 749.95 677.50 72.45 10.69%
October 12, 2007 831.95 749.50 82.45 11.00%
February 1, 2008 1045.95 914.75 131.20 14.34%
April 1, 2008 1119.95 887.75 232.20 26.16%
November 14, 2008 974.95 747.50 227.45 30.43%
New Pricing
1078.00 821.00 257.00 31.30%

Mint News Blog reader Scott commented:
These new price levels are too high. There's no legitimate reason an uncirculated one ounce gold eagle should cost almost $300 over spot. These prices are virtually the same or higher than when 2008 gold coins were first available. Nobody's going to buy from the mint at these prices, recent history has already proven that.

» Fixed Pricing Tiers

The US Mint's pricing tables for the new pricing policy are structured in fixed price tiers. At every level of the chart, a $50 increase in the precious metals price yields a $50 increase in product prices. By structuring prices in this fashion, the premium expressed as a dollar amount remains constant, but varies widely as a percentage.

This can most easily be seen with an example. The chart below shows the premium for a one-ounce Proof Gold Buffalo coin expressed as a dollar amount and as a percentage at various gold prices.

One Ounce Proof Gold Buffalo Premiums
Product Price Spot Gold
Dollar Premium Percent Premium
810 500 310 62.00%
860 550 310 56.36%
910 600 310 51.67%
960 650 310 47.69%
1,010 700 310 44.29%
1,060 750 310 41.33%
1,110 800 310 38.75%
1,160 850 310 36.47%
1,210 900 310 34.44%
1,260 950 310 32.63%
1,310 1,000 310 31.00%
1,360 1,050 310 29.52%
1,410 1,100 310 28.18%
1,460 1,150 310 26.96%

This pricing structure is not typical. As was seen in previous examples, the old pricing policy always seemed to set a specific percentage premium (albeit an expanding one). Does the US Mint really think people will pay a 62% premium for a one ounce gold coin?

» Discontinued Products in Pricing Charts

The US Mint included numerous products on the pricing charts which are sold out and discontinued. This includes the fractional Gold Buffalo coin and fractional Platinum Eagle coins. So far, there has been no explanation for the inclusion of these coins. Some collectors have questioned whether the products might be making a comeback in 2009 or whether some 2008 products might unexpectedly return.

I don't have any information on why these products were included. I do know that the US Mint has been working on this new pricing policy for at least a few months. It may simply be the case that when they created the charts, they anticipated that the products might still be available when the policy went into effect. For example, the fractional 2008-W Uncirculated Gold Eagles are still available even though they have been discontinued for 2009.

» Disappearing and Reappearing Products

Late last week, the one-tenth ounce 2008 Proof Gold Eagles seemed to have sold out. The coins were even added to the US Mint website's "No Longer Available" section, which has commonly been used as confirmation that a product is officially sold out rather than suspended. Later in the day, the coin reappeared for sale. What happened?

I think this was a consequence of the US Mint's new pricing policy. The one-tenth ounce Proof Gold Eagle was one of two products which experienced a price decrease under the new policy. Prior to implementing the new policy, the product may have received sufficient orders to exhaust the US Mint's inventory, causing the Mint to remove the offering. As news of the new pricing policy spread, customers may have started canceling orders or returning products with the intention to re-purchase them when the new prices came into effect. Once the returns and cancellations started to pile up, the US Mint put the product back on sale. This scenario is speculation on my part, but the pieces fit.

The US Mint has a 30 day return policy and allows orders to be canceled for a brief period after they are placed. With prices potentially adjusting every week, many customers will use the cancellation and return window to take advantage of more favorable prices. Every time the price of precious metals drops, the US Mint can expect an influx of returns and order cancellations. Customers can expect a confusing situation of disappearing and reappearing products similar to the one described above.

» Turning Coin Collectors into Precious Metals Speculators

While it may have always been a partial consideration, the US Mint has forced coin collectors to place even greater emphasis on precious metals prices when making their coin buying decisions. I do not think this is a good thing for collectors or the US Mint.

As one Coin Network member said:
Now there is a lot more incentive for folks to wait out the market and wait for commodity prices to drop. Pricing your product on a weekly basis is an invitation for the consumer to not buy--- and especially when the pricing is volatile.
How many collectors will spend weeks waiting to see if precious metals prices change? If precious metals prices drop, should they buy more? If prices go up, have they missed the boat?

Product releases from the US Mint used to be somewhat exciting events. Remember when the First Spouse Gold Coins were introduced? Collector excitement was high and the US Mint's website was slowed to a crawl by the influx of traffic. Now, the joy of adding a newly released coin to your collection might be overshadowed by the uncertainty and speculation over the price of the coin next week.

While it was probably not the US Mint's intention, they have completely changed the dynamic of collecting gold and platinum coins with their new pricing policy. I sincerely hope someone at the US Mint is taking as much time to examine the situation as their customers are.


2009 Native American Dollar Rolls

The US Mint will begin sales of 2009 Native American Dollar Rolls on January 15, 2009 at 12:00 Noon ET.

The offering will consist of 25-coin rolls of the new dollar coins from either the Philadelphia or Denver Mint. Each roll is wrapped in specially designed yellow and black US Mint branded paper. The rolls are priced at $35.95.

The individual product pages are already online, although sales options will not be available until the official start of sales.

Readers of this blog may recall that the US Mint has already begun selling rolls of Native American Dollars in a different format. On January 2, 2009, the US Mint began selling the coins through its Direct Ship Program. Through this program, the coins are available at face value with no charge for standard shipping.

The only differences between the Direct Ship Native American Dollars and upcoming rolls offering are the following:
  1. With the upcoming roll program, you can purchase rolls individually. The Direct Ship Program requires you to order $250 or $500 worth of coins.
  2. The roll program allows you choose coins from a specific Mint. The Direct Ship Program does not allow you to specify the Mint. In the past, I have received coins from the Philadelphia Mint.
  3. The coins in the upcoming roll offering have "special" wrappers. The Direct Ship rolls have standard wrappers.
  4. The coins in the upcoming roll offering are explicitly described as "never circulated." The Direct Ship rolls are described as "circulation grade." However, experience has proven that coins from both offerings are of equal quality.
In most cases I don't think these differences are worth the extra premium.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

First 2009 US Mint Re-Pricing

Yesterday the US Mint switched the status of all remaining gold products to "Product is not available." This was in advance of their first product re-pricing under their new pricing policy. The coins reappeared this morning with new prices.

The price changes are indicated in the table below:

Old Price New Price Change
2008-W Unc Gold Eagle 1 oz 974.95 1,128.00 +153.05
2008-W Unc Gold Eagle 1/2 oz 509.95 575.00 +65.05
2008-W Unc Gold Eagle 1/4 oz 287.45 297.00 +9.55
2008-W Unc Gold Eagle 1/10 oz 154.95 129.50 -25.45
2008-W Unc Gold Eagle 4 Coin Set 1,862.45 2,097.50 +235.05
2008 Proof Gold Eagle 1/10 oz 162.95 135.50 -27.45
8-8-08 Double Prosperity Set 1,078.88 1,175.00 +96.12
2008 Buffalo Celebration Coin 968.88 1,147.00 +178.12
2008 Unc Monroe First Spouse Gold 524.95 591.00 +66.05
2008 Proof Monroe First Spouse Gold 549.95 604.00 +54.05
2008 Unc L. Adams First Spouse Gold 524.95 591.00 +66.05
2008 Proof L. Adams First Spouse Gold 549.95 604.00 +54.05
2008 Unc Jackson First Spouse Gold 524.95 591.00 +66.05
2008 Proof Jackson First Spouse Gold 549.95 604.00 +54.05
2008 Unc Van Buren First Spouse Gold 524.95 591.00 +66.05
2008 Proof Van Buren First Spouse Gold 549.95 604.00 +54.05

The prices have been adjusted for an average gold price in the $850 to $899.99 range. Gold is currently trading at $828. Gold has declined from its recent peak around $880 with more than a $20 drop this morning.

It's somewhat ironic and frustrating that the US Mint's first price adjustment is a sharp increase, which comes amidst a $50 drop in the price of gold. On the bright side, the next price adjustment might come as soon as this Thursday if the price of gold remains under pressure.

See the full US Mint Pricing Charts.


Friday, January 9, 2009

2008 Proof Gold Eagles Sold Out

As of yesterday, all options for the 2008 Proof American Gold Eagles have sold out at the US Mint. This includes individual 1 oz, 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, 1/10 oz coins and the 4 Coin Set.

Over the past few weeks, the 2008 Proof Gold Eagles have steadily disappeared from the US Mint's website. It seemed that every few days another option would slip into back order status or sell out. The first options to go were the 1 ounce coin and 4 Coin Set. The 1/2 ounce coin and 1/4 ounce coin followed, with the 1/10 ounce coin the last to sell out.

The US Mint sales figures published January 5 by Numismaster show low sales figures which should translate into low final coin mintages. The first column displays the sales per individual ordering option and the second column displays the total per coin (individual sales plus 4 Coin Set sales).

2008 Proof Gold Eagle Sales Figures

Individual Total
1 oz 16,327 25,896
1/2 oz 10,887 20,456
1/4 oz 6,073 15,642
1/10 oz 10,897 20,466
4 Coin Set 9,569

These numbers are quite low for Proof Gold Eagles. By comparison, the last reported sales figures for the 2007 Gold Eagles show amounts more than double the 2008 figures above. Looking back over the entire Proof Gold Eagle series, the only numbers I see around these low levels are for the 1997 and 1998 coins.

As the proof versions sold out, the 2008-W Uncirculated Gold Eagles slipped into back order status. Sales figures are also at very low levels. With the exception of the 1/2 ounce coin, the sales figures for 2007-W Unc Gold Eagles were more than double the amounts below. As with the proof coins, these numbers can still increase, but things are certainly looking interesting.

2008-W Unc Gold Eagle Sales Figures

Individual Total
1 oz 5,727 8,073
1/2 oz 1,783 8,995*
1/4 oz 2,911 5,257
1/10 oz 7,261 9,607
4 Coin Set 2,346

*includes sales figures for Double Prosperity Set


Thursday, January 8, 2009

James Monroe Missing Edge Lettering Error Discovered

A Mint News Blog reader and Coin Network member reports the discovery of a satin finish 2008 James Monroe Missing Edge Lettering Error!

The coin was found in a 2008 Annual Uncirculated Dollar Set. This set contains the four 2008-P Presidential Dollars, 2008-D Sacagawea Dollar, and 2008-W American Silver Eagle. The Presidential Dollars and Sacagawea Dollar feature the satin finish used for coins included in Mint Sets.

The reader ordered two of the 2008 Annual Uncirculated Dollar Sets in mid-October. The James Monroe Dollar remains intact in the original set packaging. The reader intends to send the entire set to PCGS for grading.

This looks to be a significant find. Missing edge lettering errors were relatively common for 2007 George Washington Presidential Dollars with tens of thousands identified. Much smaller and ever diminishing numbers of missing edge lettering errors escaped the Mint for 2007 John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison Dollars. Only a handful of 2008 Presidential Dollars with missing edge lettering seem to have been identified to date.

The PCGS Population Report lists only three 2008 Presidential Dollars graded with missing edge lettering. These are also James Monroe satin finish coins. An article from September 2008, indicates that ICG handled three James Monroe Dollars and one Andrew Jackson Dollar with missing edge lettering. These were found in 2008 Mint Sets.

Unless there are more that I haven't seen reported, that makes only seven 2008 Presidential Dollar Missing Edge Lettering Errors identified.

Congrats to the reader on this exciting find. Everyone else, you might want to take another look at your sets!

Find more information on Presidential Dollar Errors.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

US Mint Publishes New Pricing Policy for Gold & Platinum Numismatic Products

Today, the US Mint published notification of a new pricing policy for Gold and Platinum Numismatic products. This pricing policy will apply to collectible gold and platinum products that the US Mint sells directly to collectors. The new policy is drastic and much needed change that provides a greater level of predictability and transparency for the US Mint's customers.

The move seems to be in response to the incredibly volatile precious metals prices experienced during 2008. During the course of 2008, platinum was up more than 48% at its peak and down more than 50% at its low. Gold was up over 21% at its peak and down over 14% at its low. Amidst these fluctuations, the US Mint raised prices for platinum products once, suspend sales twice, and lowered prices twice. Gold products were available for sale at very high premiums for most of the year before being briefly suspended and resumed with lowered towards the end of the year.

The US Mint's pricing policy will allow them to adjust the prices of products on a weekly basis, when the average price of gold and platinum cross certain thresholds. The new pricing methodology will become effective January 12, 2009.

The notification also provides collectors with the price for the 2009 Ultra High Relief Gold Double Eagle. Provided the average price of gold remains between $850.00 - $899.99, the price will be $1,239.00.

I will have a follow up post tomorrow with some reactions and thoughts. For now here is the US Mint's notification and charts for pricing of Gold and Platinum coins (click on the charts for large size versions):

[Federal Register: January 6, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 3)]
[Page 493-496]


United States Mint

Notification of New Pricing Methodology for Numismatic Products
Containing Platinum and Gold Coins

SUMMARY: The United States Mint is implementing a new pricing methodology for its numismatic products containing platinum and gold coins to mitigate the effect that fluctuating gold and platinum commodity costs has on the pricing of these products. The new pricing methodology is based primarily on the London Fix weekly average (average of the London Fix prices covering the previous Thursday a.m. Fix through the Wednesday a.m. Fix) platinum and gold prices, which reflect the market value of the platinum and gold bullion that these products contain. As required by law, the prices of these products also must be sufficient to recover all other costs incurred by the United States Mint, such as the cost of minting, marketing, and distributing such products (including labor, materials, dies, use of machinery, and promotional and overhead expenses). This pricing methodology will allow the United States Mint to change the prices of these products as often as weekly so they better reflect the costs of platinum and gold on the open markets.

DATES: The new pricing methodology, as further explained in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section, will go into effect on January 12, 2008.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Pursuant to the authority that 31 U.S.C. 5111(a)(3), 5112(i), 5112(k), 5112(o), and 5112(q) grant the Secretary of the Treasury to mint and issue gold and platinum coins and to prepare and distribute numismatic items, the United States Mint sells to the public numismatic products containing American Eagle Gold and Platinum Coins, American Buffalo Gold Coins, First Spouse Gold Coins, and the 2009 United States Mint Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin. In accordance with 31 U.S.C. 9701 31 U.S.C. 9701(b)(2)(B), the United States Mint is changing the prices of these coins to reflect a new methodology in pricing.

Effective January 12, 2009, the United States Mint will commence selling numismatic products containing American Eagle Gold and Platinum Coins, American Buffalo Gold Coins, First Spouse Gold Coins, and the 2009 United States Mint Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin at prices established by using the new pricing methodology. Specifically, each Wednesday, the United States Mint will apply the average London Fix for platinum and gold (average of the London Fix prices covering the previous Thursday A.M. Fix through the Wednesday A.M. Fix) to the below pricing schedules. Price adjustments as a result of this process, if any, will be effective at 10 a.m. E.S.T. on the immediately following Thursday.
Price Chart for Gold Numismatic Products (click to enlarge)

Price Chart for Platinum Numismatic Products (click to enlarge)


Tour of the Philadelphia Mint

On Monday, I had the opportunity to visit the Philadelphia Mint. It's something that I have wanted to do for some time. Since my wife had to travel to Pennsylvania this week, we decided to make the drive a day early to visit the Mint. We went with her parents and our 9 month old son.

My first impression was the immense size of the facility. The building actually takes up the entire block. It is mostly windowless and looks like a very secure fortress. We circled the building once by car, and then parked at a nearby parking garage. The Philadelphia Mint does not provide parking. The picture below is the front of the building. You can see one of the guards in front of the entrance.

Before we could enter the building, we had to show a government issued picture ID and pass through a metal detector. The guards were strict about not allowing any cameras into the building. Anyone considering a tour, should read this US Mint page beforehand. In addition to cameras, there is a long list of prohibited objects including "pens." These items are not even allowed in the building, so be sure to leave them in your car.

The tour is self guided, with a few televisions placed at various stations to provide video. The tour takes place through several corridors. The main corridor seems run the length of the entire building and overlooks the production floor through plate glass windows.

The production floor below was packed with machinery. Most of the processes seem highly automated. When we took the tour there didn't seem to be much coin producing activity taking place. We may have taken the tour during a slow period. We saw less than ten Mint workers below, which might have been due to the high automation of the process or the lack of coin production.

Before and after the main corridor were various displays, which included medals, commemorative coins, historic US Mint equipment, and copies of some historic documents. The coin displays were put together at least a few years ago (perhaps 2002) and didn't include recent issues. We took the tour at a leisurely pace and it took less than an hour.

After the tour, we visited the Philadelphia Mint Gift Shop. They sold various coin themed or Mint branded items, coin jewelry, and some of the familiar US Mint coin products. This included Mint Sets, Proof Sets, Gold Eagles, Silver Eagles, and the Gold Buffalo Celebration coin. (Unfortunately there were no 2008 Proof Sets on sale!) Most of the products for sale are currently available online, with the exception of the 2007 Annual Uncirculated Dollar Set, the 2007 Commemoratives, and the 2008 Bald Eagle Half Dollar Commemorative.

A machine in the lobby was available to change bills for new quarters or dollar coins. The quarters dispensed were 2008 Hawaii Quarters. The dollar coins dispensed were the new 2009 Native American Dollars. This is the earliest I have ever had a current year dated coin in hand.

First impression of the coin, the obverse and reverse almost seem mismatched. The style of the image and lettering differ on each side, making it seem more like two different coins than two sides of the same. The obverse looks curious and unbalanced without the date on the right side. It's a big blank area where I have become accustomed to seeing the date as part of the Sacagawea Dollar design.

Another observation, the style of the edge lettering looks very different than the edge lettering I have seen on 2007 and 2008 Presidential Dollars. The lettering is thinner, closer together, and incused less deeply. The lettering is impressed so shallow and thin that I am wondering whether coins which experience circulation might quickly become dateless.

Below is a picture of the new 2009 Native American Dollar. Also included are two pictures comparing the edge lettering of the 2009 Native American Dollar (above) to the the edge lettering of a 2008 John Quincy Adams Presidential Dollar (below).


Friday, January 2, 2009

Double Prosperity Set- A Good Buy?

I've only written about the 8-8-08 Double Prosperity Set once, just before it was released. At the time, I highlighted the fact that the two coins in the set could be purchased individually for $193.05 less than the price of the set. So basically, you were paying nearly $200 for a custom wooden box. Since that post, circumstances have changed and the Double Prosperity Set now looks like a good buy.

The Double Prosperity Set contains two coins: the one-half ounce 2008-W American Gold Eagle and the one-half ounce 2008-W American Gold Buffalo.

To highlight a point, the coins do contain the "W" mint marked coins. This is significant because it means that these are the collectible versions of the coins, which are minted in much lower quantities than the bullion versions.

Many readers have sent me questions about this set, since the US Mint's product page makes no mention of the "W" mint mark. Reports from (other) readers, as well as the US Mint's initial press release found here, confirm that the coins do have the "W" mint mark. From the press release:
"Both coins in the 8-8-08 Double Prosperity Set are legal tender with a nominal face value designation of $25. But their gold metal content and artistry make them worth far more. Inscriptions on the coins include the "W" mint mark for the United States Mint at West Point, the date, the fineness and the weight."
Since the coins went on sale, three circumstances have aligned, which make the set now look like a good buy.

First, the premium above the prices of the individual coins has declined. This happened when the US Mint had a massive re-pricing of nearly all of their gold and platinum products in mid-November. The prices for the individual coins were re-priced $15 and $56 lower, while the Double Prosperity Set was re-priced $150 lower. This served to eliminate some of the excessive premium for the set.

Second, the one-half ounce 2008-W Gold Buffalo coin sold out in November and secondary market prices have risen. From the data in my recent post examining prices for sold out US Mint products, this coin has been selling for prices in the $650 to $720 range.

The Double Prosperity Set is currently priced at $1,078.88. If the Gold Buffalo coin is worth $650, then you are getting the Gold Eagle for $428.88. This is nearly $80 less than the US Mint's individual price, and actually less than the value of the gold content of the coin. Additionally, both coins seem to have some potential for further price appreciation down the line.

Third, the most recent Mint Stats published on Numismaster show that only 4,563 sets have been sold. This is the first time the sales figure for the set has been published, and it is much lower than I would have expected.

The number is low enough so that the value of the Gold Buffalo coin should not be diluted, and it may also eventually create a premium for the Double Prosperity Set as packaged. As I have examined previously, sometimes specially packaged sets derive premiums far above the values of the individual coins.

When you put these three factors together, the Double Prosperity Set might actually live up to its name.

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