Mint News Blog

News, Information, and Commentary on US Mint Products

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Harrison Presidential $1 Coin and First Spouse Medal Set

The Presidential Dollar and First Spouse Medal Set for William Henry Harrison and Anna Harrison will go on sale at the US Mint on April 7, 2009 at 12:00 Noon ET. Past releases for these interesting little sets have proved to be very popular.

Each set includes one 2009-P Uncirculated William Henry Harrison Presidential Dollar and one Anna Harrison First Spouse Bronze Medal. The coin and medal are placed on a custom designed card featuring portraits of the President and spouse. The sets are priced at $7.95 each.

The two coins included in the set are already (or will be) attainable through other US Mint products. The 2009 Uncirculated William Henry Harrison Dollar will be included in the 2009 Presidential $1 Coin Uncirculated Set which goes on sale later this week. It will also be included in the regular 2009 Mint Set, which should go on sale some time this summer.

The Anna Harrison First Spouse Bronze Medal is already available for sale individually, priced at $3.50. You can find this product on the US Mint's website here. The medal will also be included in the 2009 First Spouse Bronze Medal Set, which will include all five of the 2009 First Spouse Medals. This product is slated to go on sale in the winter.

Despite the separate options, many seem to prefer the distinctively packaged coin and medal set and have been willing to pay up for some of the previously sold out sets. I wrote previously about the First Spouse Bronze Medals outperforming the corresponding Gold Coins. Many seem to have taken note of this and started paying more attention to the medals. Recently, sold out products containing the medals still seem to be appreciating, but not as much as some of the earlier issues.

The US Mint still has the two prior coin and medal sets available for sale, which feature Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren.

Update: The product page for the Harrison Presidential Coin and First Spouse Medal is now posted here. The US Mint also appears to have raised the price of the set to $8.95, although a prior press release announced the price at $7.95.


Monday, March 30, 2009

US Mint Bags & Rolls Offerings Sell Out

Some of the US Mint's 2009 bags and rolls offerings are turning up as surprise sell outs and big winners on the secondary market. The outlier example is two roll set of 2009 Birthplace Lincoln Cents, but the same may hold true for quarter and dollar coin offerings.

All 2009 District of Columbia offerings have now sold out, including the Two Roll Set and the 100-coin bags and 1000-coin bags of coins from the Philadelphia and Denver Mints. The 2009-P William Henry Harrison Rolls were briefly listed as "not available." Although they have returned, these rolls have sold at a faster pace than the last two Presidential Dollar releases.

The new found popularity of the bags and rolls offerings can be attributed to several reasons.

First, 2009 dated coins are proving extremely difficult to obtain through the normal channels for circulating coin distribution. In past years, with some effort, uncirculated rolls new circulating coins could be obtained from banks or financial institutions at face value. This year it has become much more difficult. For most denominations, it seems that banks are no longer able to order unmixed quantities of newly minted coins. Most 2009 coins seem to be turning up only sporadically or mixed with older coins. Many collectors who would have gotten their 2009 coins from banks, might be turning to the US Mint instead.

Second, several 2009 circulating coins have the lowest reported mintages in decades. As a result of the current economic environment, old coinage is reentering circulation and retail activity is diminishing. These two factors create less demand for new coins and lowered production from the Mint. The lower mintages are no doubt catching the attention of some collectors, hoping to put away rolls and bags of future key dates.

Third, the US Mint has far fewer product offerings this year. At the end of last year, the US Mint slashed their product offerings by 60%. They have also recently announced the delayed release of the 2009 Proof and Uncirculated Gold and Silver Eagle coins. In the absence of other options, collectors seem to be buying more bags, rolls, and commemoratives coins.

Finally, it seems like the US Mint is putting aside less coins for the bags and rolls sales. For example, the District of Columbia Two Rolls Sets are listed as sold out. Last week's sales statistics indicated that 27,505 of the sets were sold. This is far below the number of two roll sets sold for prior quarter releases. The US Mint sold around 70,000 Two Roll Sets of the Alaska and Hawaii Quarters before the products were removed. The US Mint might be doing this intentionally to try to avoid overstocking their inventory (remember the "Last Chance Sale"?), or this might be a consequence of the overall lower production.

Taken together, the factors have created a situation of increased demand and diminished supply. The US Mint's offerings sell out quickly and then secondary market prices begin to escalate.

The recently sold out 2009 Lincoln Birthplace Two Rolls Sets were briefly selling for over $100 on eBay. This compares to the $8.95 issue price, which many considered high in the first place. Prices have settled down, but they still seem to be holding above $70. View current eBay auctions here.

When the 2009-P William Henry Harrison Rolls were temporarily listed as "not available," eBay prices surged briefly above $100. The offering went back on sale at the US Mint on Friday at the original offering price of $35.50. (As a side note, the US Mint now seems to be using the notice "Sold Out" rather than "Product is not available," which should help to avoid mistaken sell outs.) Nonetheless, it was surprising how quickly prices spiked after there seemed to be a sell out.

Some other big winners might be yet to come. Today the 2009 Puerto Rico Quarter Bags and Rolls went on sale. Before the release of this latest quarter design, the US Mint apparently has already stopped production. The posted mintages are 53 million from Philadelphia and 86 million from Denver. As mentioned in 2009 coin production, this will be the lowest mintage in decades. If distribution through traditional channels continues to be sporadic, the US Mint's premium for the bags and rolls should be well worth it.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

2009 Lincoln Cent Birthplace Two Roll Sets Sold Out

The 2009 Lincoln Cent Two-Roll Set for the "Birthplace" design has just sold out at the US Mint. The quick sell out attests to the continuing strong demand for the newly designed Lincoln Cent, and the lack of availability through regular channels.

The sets were priced relatively high at $8.95 plus shipping and handling for $1.00 face value worth of coins. They were also subject to a five per household limit. Despite these obstacles the coins sold out less than two weeks after the product release on March 13, 2009.

According to Numismaster, the roll sets had sold 97,149 so far, with a steady pace of about 50,000 per week. I am guessing that the final sales number might be an even 100,000.

It does not seem that any of the rolls have shipped yet. I placed an order during the first hour of sales and received an email notification last week with an expected shipping date of April 4, 2009. (Update: based on a comment, some appear to have been shipped)

The US Mint plans to offer similar roll sets for the other three 2009 Lincoln Cent designs. Release dates have not yet been posted, and only seasonal estimates of spring, summer, and winter have been posted. It's possible that for the remaining three roll sets, the US Mint could coordinate the product release with the circulation launch date for each design. (See 2009 Lincoln Cent Release Dates.) I suspect that the US Mint will also be more prepared for the strong Lincoln Cent demand, and may allocate more coins for the two roll set offerings.

A related product, the Five Coin Lincoln Proof Set has recently appeared on the US Mint's Scheduled Products Listing with a release date of "summer." This set will contain all four 2009 Proof Lincoln Cents in bronze composition (95% copper, 5% tin and zinc), along with the 2009 Proof Lincoln Commemorative.

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Braille Commemorative on Sale, Uncirculated Lincoln Sold Out

Today, the 2009 Louis Braille Commemorative Coin went on sale at the United States Mint. A ceremony to mark the launch was also held at the headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland.

Three separate ordering options are available: the proof coin, the uncirculated coin, and the uncirculated coin in a special easy open capsule to accommodate anyone wishing to read the Braille characters on the reverse of the coin.

The US Mint has placed an ordering limit of 50 units each per household. This compares to an ordering limit of 100 per option, which had been set for the Lincoln Commemorative. The total authorized maximum mintage for the Braille Commemorative is 400,000 coins across all product options.

The launch of the Braille Commemorative coin seems to be generating much more mainstream attention than the launch of the prior Lincoln Commemorative. Dave Harper mentions that the story was covered on CBS Radio and I saw a story online from CNN. I commented before about the lack of mainstream attention for the Lincoln Commemorative coin launch, which seemed to have been overshadowed by the launch of the newly designed cent on the same day. It will be interesting to see if this added exposure translates into higher sales for the Braille coin.

In my opinion, I don't think the Louis Braille Commemorative will achieve a sell out, although it is definitely one of the most unique commemorative coin offerings in recent memory.

Meanwhile, the uncirculated version of the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Commemorative coin has now officially sold out. The coin had been put on "waiting list status" on Tuesday. The proof version of the coin remains available for sale, but likely not for long.

Numismaster reported the latest sales figrues for the Lincoln Commemorative. Proof coin sales are 312,075 and uncirculated coin sales are 135,793. This puts the total across both options at 447,868. This leaves only 2,132 individual coins left available for sale.

Update: On Friday, the 2009 Lincoln Proof Commemorative moved into "waiting list status."


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

2009 Uncirculated Lincoln Commemorative Wait List

This afternoon the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Uncirculated Silver Dollar went on "waiting list" status. The Proof version of the coin remains available for sale without the waiting list notice.

The message on the Uncirculated coin's product page in part states the following:
The number of orders we have taken meets the maximum limit for the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Uncirculated Silver Dollar. You may still place an order for his product, which will go on a waiting list. If a product becomes available due to an order cancellation, we will fulfill orders from the waiting list on a first-in, first-served basis.
As posted over the weekend, combined sales through March 15, 2009 was 423,451, bringing the total very close to the 450,000 individual sales needed to reach a sell out. The maximum mintage for the 2009 Lincoln Commemorative is actually 500,000, but 50,000 have been reserved for a special 5 Coin Proof Set to be released this summer.

The maximum authorized mintage does not specify separate maximums for the proof and uncirculated versions of the coins. The breakdown is generally determined based on demand from customer orders. As a practical matter, the US Mint probably must determine an allocation for the final production runs in advance of the actual sell out.

The proof version of the Lincoln Commemorative has sold more than twice as many coins as the uncirculated version. When the additional 50,000 proof coins to be included in the special set are considered, the final proof mintage might be close to triple the uncirculated coin's mintage. For some past commemorative coin issues, the uncirculated coin which was less popular during the sales period eventually became more expensive on the secondary market due to the lower mintage.


2009 Presidential $1 Coin Uncirculated Set

The US Mint will offer the 2009 Presidential Dollar Uncirculated Coin Set on April 2, 2009 at 12:00 Noon ET.

This set will include one uncirculated coin from the Philadelphia and Denver Mint for each of the 2009 Presidential Dollar Coins. In past sets, the coins have been the satin finish versions of the Presidential Dollars found in Mint Sets, as opposed to regular circulation strikes. The eight coins come in a custom holder which includes biographical sketches of each President.

The following coins will be included:

2009 P & D William Henry Harrison Presidential Dollars
2009 P & D John Tyler Presidential Dollars
2009 P & D James K. Polk Presidential Dollars
2009 P & D Zachary Taylor Presidential Dollars

Collectors can actually obtain these eight coins in the full 2009 Uncirculated Mint Set, which is currently scheduled to be released by the US Mint in the summer. It's generally a better value to buy the full annual set, however the US Mint sells a surprisingly large number of the separate Presidential Dollar Uncirculated Sets. To date, they have sold over 75,000 units of the 2008 set, which still remains on sale at the time of writing this post.

The sets are priced at $15.95 each and the US Mint's product page can be found here, although ordering options won't be available until the start of sales.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

2009 Coin Production

The current economic situation has caused a slow down in commercial activity and brought many long hoarded coins back into circulation. As a result, production figures for new coins are down dramatically. It's a frequent observation that recessions produce key date coins, will this hold true for the current cycle?

The table below lists the 2009 coin production figures published by the US Mint for the first two months of the year. Some denominations have the separate designs split out (such as the quarters). In the past, once a figure had been posted for an individual design, this has represented the final production number. The figures for the static designs (and the Lincoln Cent which has not been separated by design) continue to increase as new months are reported.
2009 Coin Production (Jan 2009 - Feb 2009)

Philadelphia Denver
Lincoln Cent 194.40 M 342.40 M
Jefferson Nickel 23.04 M 30.24 M
Roosevelt Dime 67.50 M 41.50 M
District of Columbia Quarter 83.60 M 88.80 M
Puerto Rico Quarter 53.00 M 86.00 M
Kennedy Half 1.70 M 1.70 M
Native American Dollar 7.28 M 0.70 M
William Henry Harrison Dollar 43.26 M 55.16 M

While the numbers are uniformly low, there are a few figures that are of particular interest. The Lincoln Cent figure might represent a comparatively huge decline from prior years. Last year, each Mint produced more than 2.5 billion cents. If the figures above represent the total production for the "Birth and Early Childhood" design, this would be just a fraction of the usual cent mintage. Availability of the 2009 Lincoln Cent continues to be sporadic, except for the US Mint offering, which already pegs the value at $4.50 per roll.

The Jefferson Nickel and Roosevelt Dime figures will be figures to watch as we move further into the year. If the numbers above are annualized, the final mintages will have a drop of about 50% from the prior year levels. More importantly, I think these two denominations are much less likely to be saved by collectors since they are overshadowed by this year's quarters and pennies. The availability of BU circulation strikes for this year might eventually be very limited.

The figures for the first two quarters from the District of Columbia & US Territories Quarters Program represent a sharp drop from the production figures for the prior State Quarters series. Last year, each mint produced roughly 200 - 250 million of each quarter. The lowest mintage for the entire State Quarters series was the Oklahoma Quarter with 194.6 Million. The figures above indicate that the 2009-D Puerto Rico Quarter has a production of only 53 million. A circulating quarter has not had a mintage this low since 1962.

One thing to note about the figures. They seem to represent coin production for coins minted during 2009. It's possible that the US Mint produced 2009-dated coins during December 2008, which may be included in the prior year numbers. This is particularly evident for the Native American Dollars figure- the prior year figure experienced a huge jump in December, which seems to be attributable to 2009 Native American Dollars produced rather than an extra run of 2008 Sacagawea Dollars. For this reason, some of the production figures might not translate directly into the final mintages.

Nevertheless, there will most likely be some very low mintage 2009 coins when all is said and done. It won't be easy, but if you can acquire fresh rolls of 2009 coins from your bank at face value and put them away, I think you will be rewarded down the road.

I will follow up on the 2009 coin production situation as we move through the year, but you can also track the numbers directly on the US Mint's website here.


Puerto Rico Quarter Bags & Rolls

The US Mint will begin sales of the 2009 Puerto Rico Quarter Bags and Rolls on March 30, 2009 at 12:00 Noon ET. This will mark the release of the second coin for the 2009 District of Columbia and U.S. Territories Quarters Program.

The reverse of the 2009 Puerto Rico Quarter features a view of the sea from a sentry box in old San Juan. Also included is the hibiscus, which is the state flower of Puerto Rico, and the inscription "Isla del Encanto," whch translates to "Island of Enchantment." The reverse was designed and sculpted by Joseph Menna.

The US Mint will sell two roll sets of the Puerto Rico Quarters, which contain one roll from the Philadelphia Mint and one roll from the Denver Mint in custom coin wrappers. The two roll sets are priced at $32.95. Both 100-coin and 1,000-coin bags will be available from each individual mint. The bags will be priced at $32.95 and $309.95, respectively.

It's interesting to note that the District of Columbia Quarter Bags and Rolls offering has already sold out of both 1,000-coin bag offerings. With newly minted coins becoming more difficult to obtain through the normal channels, the US Mint is likely seeing an uptick in their sales of bags and rolls.

Product pages for the upcoming offerings have not yet been posted on the US Mint's online catalog.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

2009 Lincoln Commemorative Approaching Sell Out

Strong sales for the 2009 Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar continued at the US Mint. Recent sales figures show that the coins are very close to a sell out, although there are some factors which may temporarily slow the pace of sales.

Numismaster reported the following sales figures as of March 15, 2009:
2009 Lincoln Commemorative Coin Sales
Proof 296,488
Uncirculated 126,963
Total 423,451

The maximum authorized mintage for the commemorative coin offering is 500,000 across all ordering options. In order to attain a sell out, individual coin sales must reach a combined level of 450,000. A special five coin set containing the proof version of the coin will be offered later in the year and 50,000 coins will be reserved for the set. There was initially some speculation about whether another 50,000 coins would be reserved for inclusion in the American Legacy Collection, however I have now been told that this product is discontinued for 2009.

With only 27,000 coins left to go, it might seem that a sell out could happen soon, but there are a number of factors which may slow the pace of sales and possibly keep a sell out temporarily at bay.

First, the prices for the 2009 Lincoln Comemmoratives were raised after the pre-issue discount period ended on March 16, 2009. The current prices are now $41.95 and $33.95 for the proof and uncirculated versions, respectively. Since the pre-issue discount period is widely known, most collectors will purchase early to take advantage of the lower prices. Once the higher prices come into effect, there is usually a temporary lull in sales.

The Louis Braille Commemorative will be released on March 26, 2009. This competing commemorative coin program may draw some interest, and at least temporarily overshadow the Lincoln Commemorative.

Finally, the household ordering limit of 100 remains in place. This limit was put in place for the first 30 days of sales, to be re-evaluated at each subsequent 30 day period. While this is a fairly high order limit, it may prevent some bulk ordering.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

2009 Louis Braille Commemorative Silver Dollar

The US Mint will release the 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar on March 26, 2009 at 12:00 Noon ET. This coin celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, the inventor of the Braille System of reading and writing used by the blind and visually impaired.

The 90% silver coin features a portrait of Louis Braille on the obverse, which was designed by Joel Iskowitz and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill. The reverse of the coin features a young child reading a book in Braille. In the background is a bookcase filled with Braille books and featuring the word "Independence." The letters "BRL" the abbreviation for the word "Braille" is included prominently in the upper field of the reverse of the coin. The reverse was designed by Susan Gamble and sculpted by Joseph Menna.

The Louis Braille Commemorative is notable because it is the first US coin, which includes readable Braille characters. Braille characters have appeared on other US coins, however the characters were too small to be considered readable. The other coins included the 2003 Alabama State Quarter and the 1995 Paralympics Commemorative coin.

The US Mint will offer the Louis Braille coin in both uncirculated and proof versions. The introductory pricing for the coins is $37.95 and $31.95 for proof and uncirculated versions respectively. After April 27, 2009 the regular prices of $41.95 and $33.95 will be put into effect. The uncirculated version of the coin will also be offered in an "Easy-Open Capsule" for anyone wishing to read the Braille characters of the coin by touch.

The maximum authorized mintage is 400,000 coins across all options. The US Mint also states that a special set containing the coin will be available later this year with an allocated mintage limit of 25,000 coins.

This will be the second commemorative coin program launched by the US Mint during 2009. The previous program featured the 2009 Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar, which is still available for sale.

What do you think of the upcoming Louis Braille Commemorative? Rate and review this coin at Coin Review!


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

2009 DC & US Territories Quarter Silver Proof Set

The 2009 District of Columbia & U.S. Territories Quarters Silver Proof Set will go on sale at the US Mint on Monday, March 23, 2009 at 12:00 Noon ET.

The set will contain 90% silver versions of the six quarters issued during 2009 to honor Washington DC and the five United States Territories. In prior years the US Mint had issued similar sets featuring each year's State Quarters.

The following quarters will be included:

2009-S District of Columbia Quarter
2009-S Puerto Rico Quarter

2009-S Guam Quarter

2009-S American Samoa Quarter

2009-S US Virgin Islands Quarter

2009-S Northern Mariana Islands Quarter

Each set will be priced at $29.95 each. This represents an increase over the price of the similar sets issued in prior years. The 2008 State Quarters Silver Proof Set (still available at the time of writing this post) is priced at $25.95. The $4 increase is likely due to fact that the 2009 set contains six coins instead of the usual five.

You can view the US Mint's product page for the 2009 DC & US Territories Silver Proof Set here, although ordering options won't be available until next week.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

2009-W Uncirculated & Proof Gold Eagles Suspended

Following a similar statement posted for the 2009-W Proof & Uncirculated Silver Eagles, the US Mint has "temporarily suspended" production of the collectible American Gold Eagle Coins.

The suspended coins would include the 1 oz, 1/2 oz, 1/4 oz, and 1/10 oz 2009 Proof Gold Eagles and the 1 oz. 2009-W Uncirculated Gold Eagle. The remaining fractional denominations for the collectible uncirculated Gold Eagles had previously been announced as discontinued.

The following message is posted on the US Mint's website on the product pages where the collectible Gold Eagles would usually appear:
Production of United States Mint American Eagle Gold Proof and Uncirculated Coins has been temporarily suspended because of unprecedented demand for American Eagle Gold Bullion Coins. Currently, all available 22-karat gold blanks are being allocated to the American Eagle Gold Bullion Coin Program, as the United States Mint is required by Public Law 99-185 to produce these coins “in quantities sufficient to meet public demand . . . .”

The United States Mint will resume the American Eagle Gold Proof and Uncirculated Coin Programs once sufficient inventories of gold bullion blanks can be acquired to meet market demand for all three American Eagle Gold Coin products. Additionally, as a result of the recent numismatic product portfolio analysis, fractional sizes of American Eagle Gold Uncirculated Coins will no longer be produced.
Collectors or investors looking to purchase 2009 dated gold coins from the US Mint have extremely limited options at this point.

On the bullion coin front, the US Mint has only produced the basic 1 oz. American Gold Eagle coins. To date they have not produced any of the fractional Gold Eagle denominations or the 24 karat Gold Buffalo bullion coins. The 1 oz. 2009 Gold Eagle continues to be subject to rationing.

On the collectible coin front, the only 2009 dated gold coins available are the 2009 Anna Harrison First Spouse Gold Coin and the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin. Both of these coins arguably carry high premiums. They are currently priced at $629.00 (proof) or $616.00 (uncirculated) for the Anna Harrison coin and $1,289.00 for the UHR Double Eagle.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Lincoln Cent Birthplace Two Roll Set Sales Begin

Sales of the 2009 Lincoln Cent Birthplace Two Roll Set have begun at the US Mint.

As mentioned previously the two roll sets have been priced at $8.95 plus the standard shipping and handling charge. The US Mint has also imposed an ordering limit of five sets per household, which was not announced previously. You can find the US Mint's product page here.

The US Mint has also responded on the issue of pricing. When the pricing was first announced in the press release, many felt it was excessive. The two rolls of Lincoln Cents in the set have a value of $1.00, leaving a premium of $7.95 above face value. The US Mint has the following Question & Answer posted on their website:
Question: Is the United States Mint pricing model for the Lincoln Two-Roll Cent Set consistent with other coin roll products, such as nickels, half-dollars and dollars?

Answer: Yes, pricing for the Lincoln Cent rolls is consistent with the pricing of the other numismatic coin roll products. All coin roll products are priced at face value of the rolled coins plus costs for packaging, transportation, storage, order fulfillment, marketing and general and administrative expenses.
As I have mentioned, a few years ago the US Mint offered two roll sets of nickels for $8.95. After the $4.00 face value, this left $4.95 for the mentioned "packaging, transportation, storage, order fulfillment, marketing and general and administrative expenses."

For a look at the premiums for current roll products, the Kennedy Half Dollar Two Roll Set is priced at $32.95 for $20 fave value, representing a $12.95 mark up. The DC Quarter Two Roll Sets are priced at $32.95 for $20 face value representing a $12.95 premium. Lastly, the Presidential Dollar Rolls are priced at $35.95 for $25 face value, representing a premium of $10.95.

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The Slowing Pace of 2009 UHR Double Eagle Sales

Sales of the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin started off strong, selling more than 40,000 coins in the first four days. Following the opening week, the pace of sales has experienced a sharp and continuing decline.

The table below presents the weekly sales figures reported by Numismaster. The last column shows the incremental increase from the prior report.
2009 Ultra High Relief Sales History
Date Total Sales Change
1/26/2009 40,727
2/8/2009 45,420 +4,693
2/16/2009 47,999 +2,579
2/22/2009 49,788 +1,789
3/1/2009 51,398 +1,610
3/9/2009 52,373 +975

Reasons behind the slowing pace of sales

After watching the pace of sales slow for the first few weeks, I thought that the increasing price of the coin may have been impacting sales. In accordance with the US Mint's new pricing policy, the price of the coin can be adjusted weekly in response to the changing price of gold. The price of the coin was adjusted upwards several times in the first weeks of offering. These increases may have caused some customers to delay placing orders until the price retreated. While the price increases may be a contributing factor, they are probably not the main driver. Last week, the price of the coin was reduced, but sales showed a sharper decline.

A bigger contributor to the slowing sales is probably the one per household limit, which has been in place since the start of sales. The US Mint has stated that they evaluate the limit weekly, but there has been no indication that the limit will be lifted or changed. Although some people have gotten around the limit by enlisting the help of friends and family, the household limit still puts an ultimate cap on orders.

A final potential contributor might be the numerous problems surrounding the offering, which may have put off some customers. Problems have included the initial blank supply, miscommunications on shipping dates, website security, shipping security, not following FIFO for shipping, and production problems for the companion book. With problems mounting, some may have decided to forgo or delay their order until the issues have been resolved.

Observations and Projections

One interesting observation is that for the last three out of four weeks, the 2009 Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollars have outsold the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagles. This is computed based on the dollar amount of sales for each offering. For much of the past year, the US Mint has heavily promoted the UHR Double Eagle. They have not very heavily promoted the Lincoln Commemorative. It's very interesting to see customers having basically the opposite reaction.

If the average pace of 2009 UHR Double Eagle sales manages to stay around the 1,000 coins per week level, this would put the final mintage around 90,000 coins. A lot can certainly happen to impact the pace of sales such as lifting the household limit or changes in the price of gold. Nonetheless, I think a mintage of less than 100,000 is possible.

An interesting point of reference is the 2006 Proof Gold Buffalo Coin. This was the first year for the new American Buffalo Gold Coins and the first time the US Mint struck coins in 24 karat gold. Similar to the UHR, it also featured a classic coin design. The 2006 Proof Gold Buffalo was priced at $800 when gold was at $583.10 and had a household limit of ten. The US Mint sold over 250,000 coins.

Before the UHR was launched, I thought we might see a similar final mintage. Now the possibility seems remote.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Most 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagles Grading MS70?

Although there have been some reports of damaged or flawed 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coins, the vast majority seem to be arriving in excellent condition. It also seems that the majority of coins sent to PCGS or NGC for grading are coming back MS70.

I just reviewed the PCGS and NGC graded 2009 UHR's listed on eBay and was surprised by the high proportion of MS70 graded coins. While this might not be indicative of the overall population of graded and ungraded coins, it seems to suggest that most of the UHR Double Eagles being received are beautiful high grade coins-- or "perfect" MS70 coins in the eyes of the major grading companies.

At the time of writing this post, there were 13 PCGS graded 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagles listed on eBay. A total of 11 out of 13 coins were graded PCGS MS70. Searching completed auctions finds another 11 coins. From this batch 11 out of 11 were graded PCGS MS70. These coins all carry the (sometimes controversial) "First Strike" designation. This designation is available for coins submitted to PCGS within the first 30 days of release.

The UHR Double Eagles graded PCGS MS70 have sold for prices from $2,650 to $3,500. The first UHR graded by PCGS, which was mentioned in several print publications seems to have sold for a best offer of $10,000. View the current eBay auctions for UHR's graded PCGS MS70.

On the other side of the field, there were 15 UHR's graded by NGC listed on eBay. A total of 12 out of 15 were graded NGC MS 70. Each coin carried the "Early Releases" designation. Completed auctions find another 8 NGC graded UHR's with 7 out of 8 graded NGC MS 70.

The UHR Double Eagles graded NGC MS 70 have sold for prices from $2,400 to $3,000. View the current eBay auctions for UHR's graded NGC MS70.

From all of the above data, there were 41 out of 47 coins received the highest grade of MS70. As mentioned, this is a very high proportion of MS70's.

It is possible that people who had their graded and received MS70's were tempted to sell the coins immediately since they saw the high prices being paid. People who had their coins graded and received MS69's may have been less tempted and kept the coins. This would distort the ratio of MS70 graded coins on the market.

It's also possible that the US Mint took extra care producing and handling the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coins, creating a high percentage of "perfect" coins. As suggested by a comment on a previous post, I have put together a survey to try to gauge the condition of coins being received by readers.

The poll is closed. Someone thought it was clever to vote unacceptable 94 times in a row.

The responses for the above survey are intentionally worded as general descriptions, so everyone can provide a response. If you want to provide more details on your coin, feel free to leave your comments below or on Coin Network.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Lincoln Cent Birthplace Roll Set Pricing

Today, the US Mint officially announced the Lincoln Cent Birthplace Two Roll Set offering. Last week, entries for the roll sets had been added to the US Mint's 2009 Product Schedule, but pricing for the offering was not revealed.

The Two-Roll Sets will go on sale March 13, 2009 at 12:00 Noon ET. Each set will contain one roll of 50 coins from the Philadelphia Mint and one roll of 50 coins from the Denver Mint. The Lincoln Cent rolls will have custom designed US Mint wrappers. The roll sets will be priced at $8.95.

I thought that the rolls would be priced lower than this. When the US Mint had previously offered Two-Roll Sets of nickels, they had been priced at $8.95. Above the $4 face value of the nickels, this represented a premium of $4.95. Since the 2009 Lincoln Cent roll sets have a face value of $1, the premium above face value is a hefty $7.95. On top of that, a shipping and handling fee of $4.95 is added to all orders.

While the press release does not mention it, I have confirmed that the rolls will contain the zinc versions of the 2009 Lincoln Cents, identical to the coins struck for circulation. Many collectors have expressed interest in the 95% copper or bronze versions of the 2009 Lincoln Cents. So far, it seems that these coins will be offered in the 2009 Mint Set, 2009 Proof Set, 2009 Silver Proof Set, and 2009 Lincoln Five Coin Set.


Friday, March 6, 2009

2009-W Proof & Uncirculated Silver Eagle Availability

The US Mint recently posted a statement regarding the missing 2009-W Proof and Uncirculated Silver Eagles on the product category pages. The statement explains that production of the coins has been "temporarily suspended."

The message appears to have been posted yesterday. Members of Coin Network noticed the message and several readers emailed me about it.

The statement posted is as follows:
Production of United States Mint American Eagle Silver Proof and Uncirculated Coins has been temporarily suspended because of unprecedented demand for American Eagle Silver Bullion Coins. Currently, all available silver bullion blanks are being allocated to the American Eagle Silver Bullion Coin Program, as the United States Mint is required by Public Law 99-61 to produce these coins “in quantities sufficient to meet public demand . . . .”

The United States Mint will resume the American Eagle Silver Proof and Uncirculated Coin Programs once sufficient inventories of silver bullion blanks can be acquired to meet market demand for all three American Eagle Silver Coin products.
In late January, I had written a post on the missing 2009 Silver, Gold, and Platinum Eagles. At the time, the products were simply missing from the product scheduled with no explanation provided. More or less, I had surmised the situation described above.

Now that we know the reason for the products absence, can we expect the situation to be resolved soon?

Maybe not. There's no indication that the "unprecedented demand" for Silver Eagle bullion coins is abating. Following a sales halt in February 2008, the US Mint began rationing Silver Eagle bullion coin sales to its network of Authorized Purchasers. The rationing has continued into 2009. The rationing implies continued unmet demand for the 2009 Silver Eagle bullion coins. As long as this persists, the US Mint will be legally unable to use incoming silver blanks to strike coins for collectors.

As an aside, it's great to see the US Mint communicating with their customers better. Last year, the 2008 Proof Silver Eagles became unavailable in August 2008. The product page simply stated "Product is not available" leaving customers guessing about whether the coins would return. I wrote a post exploring what might have happened with the 2008 Proof Silver Eagles. Looking back, it seems that I put the pieces together correctly.

At least for 2009, we all know what's happening. Now collectors interested in purchasing the 2009-W Proof or Uncirculated Silver Eagles will just have to wait and see if the situation changes.


The New Gold Eagle Key Dates

Based on last reported sales data, it seems that four 2008 Gold Eagles may have the lowest mintages ever for their respective denominations. This includes one coin which might have the lowest mintage for any American Gold Eagle ever.

Three of the new lows were reached for the so-called "collectible" uncirculated versions of the Gold Eagle. The US Mint first offered these coins in 2006. The coins are struck on specially burnished blanks and carry the "W" mint mark for the West Point Mint. Late in 2008, the US Mint announced that most of these collectible uncirculated versions would be discontinued for 2009.

The figures below are the last reported sales figures for the 2008 Gold Eagles. The sales figures for each coin reflect the totals from both individual sales plus four coin set sales. For the 2008-W $25 Unc Gold Eagle, the figures also include Double Prosperity Set sales. Final mintage figures for the 2008 Gold Eagles have not yet been released by the US Mint.
Gold Eagle Sales Figures

1 oz. 1/2 oz. 1/4 oz. 1/10 oz.
Proof 29,399 27,864 28,301 29,155
Uncirculated (W) 12,387 16,126 9,200 13,376

2008-W Uncirculated $50 Gold Eagle - With last reported sales of 12,387, this coin would have the lowest mintage for any one ounce uncirculated Gold Eagle. The next lowest figure is more than double. This coin also has the lowest mintage for any one ounce Gold Eagle in any version. The only one ounce Gold Eagle with a lower mintage was the 2006-W Reverse Proof Gold Eagle at 10,000.

2008 Proof $5 Gold Eagle - With last reported sales of 29,155, this coin would have the lowest mintage for any one-tenth ounce Proof Gold Eagle. The next lowest figure of 34, 977 was reached in 1997.

2008-W Uncirculated $5 Gold Eagle - With last reported sales of 13,376, this coin would have hte lowest mintage for any one-tenth ounce Uncirculated Gold Eagle. The next lowest mintage is the 2007-W with 24,300. This coin would also have the lowest mintage for any one-tenth ounce Gold Eagle in any version.

2008-W Uncirculated $10 Gold Eagle - With last reported sales of 9,200, this coin would have the lowest mintage for any one-quarter ounce Uncirculated Gold Eagle. The next lowest mintage is the 2007-W with 14,615. Most notably, this coin would have the lowest mintage for Gold Eagle ever. This is across all denominations ($50, $25, $10, $5) and all versions (uncirculated, proof, bullion).


Thursday, March 5, 2009

First Spouse Gold Coin Sales Figures

It's been some time since I examined the most recent sales figures and mintages for the First Spouse Gold Coins. For some collectors, this series has moved off the radar, but it might be time to give the series a second look.

The First Spouse Gold Coin series initially started off strong. The first three coins sold out within less than one day and secondary market prices for the coins spiked. Subsequent releases did not generate the same amount of interest and the premiums for the first three coins quickly receded. Starting with the fourth release, the First Spouse Coins have showed a pattern of declining sales figures, which briefly broken by Andrew Jackson's Liberty First Spouse Gold Coin.

The latest sales figures for all releases are presented below. The coins which are still on sale are shown in italics.

Unc Proof
Martha Washington 20,000 20,000
Abigail Adams 20,000 20,000
Jefferson's Liberty 20,000 20,000
Dolley Madison 12,541 18,355
Elizabeth Monroe 4,519 7,933
Louisa Adams 3,215 5,749
Jackson's Liberty 3,519 6,180
Van Buren's Liberty 2,773 5,078

The US Mint has stated that they will produce and sell each First Spouse Gold Coin until the coins have sold out or for approximately one year from the release date. In practice, it seems like the US Mint is removing the oldest coin as new coins are released. Most recently, when the Martin Van Buren's Liberty coin was released, sales of the Dolley Madison coin ended.

Today the US Mint will release the Anna Harrison First Spouse Coin. To coincide with the new release, they will likely stop selling the Elizabeth Monroe coins. The coins initially went on sale February 28, 2008, so it will be just over a year. Baring a sales surge in the closing days, the Elizabeth Monroe Uncirculated Coin seems likely to have mintage of less than 5,000.

I can't recall any modern gold coin with a mintage this low. The closest is the 1997-W Uncirculated Jackie Robinson Gold Commemorative which had a mintage of 5,174. This coin currently sells for a considerable premium. Will the low mintage give collectors a newfound appreciation for the Elizabeth Monroe First Spouse Gold Coin?

It's possible, but I would add the caveat that mintages below 5,000 might actually become commonplace for the First Spouse series. Each of the uncirculated versions of the coins currently for sale remain below this level. Looking ahead, the 2009 releases might end up with even lower mintages. The coins feature relatively lesser known figures, the price of gold remains high, and there seems to be very little collector interest in the series. This will be an interesting situation to watch as the series progresses.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

More UHR Double Eagles Arriving

More collectors are reporting that their 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coins have arrived or are shipping. This now includes collectors who placed the orders on the first day of sales.

Although the US Mint has stated that orders would be shipped on a "first-come, first-served" basis, it's still not clear whether there is any rhyme or reason to their shipping. Over the weekend, I wrote a post regarding the order of shipments and included a survey to try to determine which customers were receiving their coins. I closed the survey this morning and present the results below.

Total Received Coin Percent
Ordered in the first hour 245 20 8.16%
Ordered after the first hour, but in first day 163 7 4.29%
Ordered on the second day 23 13 56.52%
Ordered after the second day 30 10 33.33%

Dates Coin Received
Ordered in the first hour 2/9, 2/11, 2/25, 2/26, 2/27, 3/2 (5), 3/3 (9)
Ordered after the first hour, but in first day 2/25 (3), 2/26, 2/27 (2), 3/3
Ordered on the second day 2/25, 2/26, 2/27 (6), 2/28, 3/2
Ordered after the second day 2/27 (3), 2/28 (2), 3/2 (5)

Based on this survey, a much greater percentage of people who ordered their coins on the second day or after the second day have received their coins than people who ordered in the first hour or first day. This trend is starting to reverse as more people who ordered within the first hour are finally receiving their coins. Of the twenty people in the "first hour" category who received coins, 14 of them were received in the past two days.

Based on the data and the dates reported, we can try to reverse engineer what may have happened. Initially, customers who ordered coins first were receiving coins first. This is supported by the 2/9 and 2/11 receipt dates for customers who placed orders in the first hour. No customers who ordered after the first hour reported receipt dates this early.

After a two week lapse, shipping resumed but coins were shipped to customers across every category, most heavily for the "second day" and "after the second day" categories. Ironically, this took place after the US Mint's email which specifically stated that coins would be shipped on a first-come, first-served basis.

Also of note, customers receiving their coins over the past few days are still reporting that UPS is dropping the packages on their doorsteps with no signature requirement.

As more collectors have their Ultra High Relief Double Eagles in hand, some of the negativity about the US Mint seems to be subsiding. However, I don't think waiting for the coins was what upset most people-- from the outset customers were warned that it might take six to nine months to deliver. What upset customers was the barrage of emails providing conflicting shipping dates, shipment and website security issues, the inability to get satisfactory answers by phone, and the overall lack of communication.

The US Mint might see a temporary respite from customer complaints because they have shipped their coins, but they have not really addressed the underlying issues and broader issues which caused most of the recent problems. When I wrote the post Message to the US Mint: Your Customers Are Not Happy, I intentionally tried to play up these larger issues which have not gone away in the least.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

2009 Lincoln Cent Rolls from the US Mint

Is the 2009 Lincoln Cent Mania coming to an end? The US Mint has quietly added 2009 Lincoln Cent Two-Roll Set offerings to their scheduled products listing.

The following were added to the schedule yesterday with the corresponding release dates:

Lincoln Cent Birthplace Roll Set 3/13/2009
Lincoln Cent Formative Years Roll Set Spring
Lincoln Cent Professional Life Roll Set Summer
Lincoln Cent Presidency Roll Set Winter

Specific details for the Lincoln Penny rolls have not yet been released. Presumably each set would include one roll from the Philadelphia Mint and one roll from the Denver Mint in custom US Mint wrappers. It seems likely that the coins contained in the rolls would be the regular zinc versions also struck for circulation. So far, the US Mint has stated that the bronze (or 95% copper) collectors versions would only be included in the 2009 annual sets and 2009 Lincoln Five Coin Set.

Pricing for the two roll sets has also not yet been announced. The price for the two roll nickel sets released in prior years was $8.95 for $4 face value of coins. The two roll penny sets would likely be priced below that level.

The release dates for the next three 2009 Lincoln Cent releases are listed only with seasonal dates, but hopefully the US Mint will be able to coordinate the offerings with the launch dates into circulation. I listed the tentative Lincoln Penny Release Dates previously.

Roll set offerings usually begin on the same day the coins are officially launched into circulation. In this case, the first roll set is a month late. The US Mint initially did not intend to offer roll sets for the 2009 Lincoln Cents. They only decided to put together an offering after it became apparent that circulation of the new coins through normal channels would be delayed.

Hopefully this offering will put a ceiling on some of the ridiculous prices that were being paid for the coins on eBay. At the time of writing this post, prices already seem to have come down quite a bit.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Message to the US Mint: Your Customers Are Not Happy

It’s not a secret that the US Mint has made many of their customers unhappy this year. The discontentment ranges from new customers who are having a bad experience with their very first coin purchase to long time customers of 30 or 40 years who are becoming fed up with recent issues.

When I first started this blog, I rarely wrote about customer service issues, policy changes, and complaints because there were few. In recent months, this has become a large portion of my coverage. I’ve mentioned many of the issues and discussed some of the issues from different angles. I wanted to write a single post which puts everything on the table. In an attempt to provide some balance, I will conclude with some of the things that the US Mint has done right and some of the challenges of the current environment.

Part One: US Mint Customer Complaints and Problems

Disastrous vendor changes

In January 2008, the US Mint changed providers for their online ordering system. Problems were encountered which resulted in the US Mint taking their entire Online Catalog off-line for more than one week. Customers literally could not place orders online and were met with long wait times if they tried to order by phone. The website outage coincided with the first major product launch of the year for the 2008 Bald Eagle Commemorative Coins.

In January 2009, the US Mint changed providers for their order fulfillment. In the midst of the changeover, the signature requirement was dropped seemingly for all orders. This resulted in packages containing thousands of dollars in gold coins being left on customer's doorsteps. These issues came amidst the launch of the 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle Gold Coin, one of the most highly touted US Mint products in recent history.

Questionable handling of platinum price decline

Last year the price of platinum declined from its peak price above $2,200 per ounce to less than $800. The US Mint suspended sales of platinum products as the price of the metal started to decline. After a multi-month suspension, the products were put back on sale at drastically reduced prices. Customers who had purchased the coins at the higher prices were not offered any refund or return option beyond the standard return period which had already passed.

While the Mint is not responsible for the losses incurred by their customers due to the decline in precious metals prices, they were not under any obligation to put the coins back on sale at such low prices. As a case in point, sales of the 10th Anniversary Platinum Eagle Set were suspended when the price was $2,649.95. After more than four months, the sets were put back on sale at $1,249.95. The secondary market prices instantly fell to match the new price level, and anyone who purchased the set at the higher price was put face to face with the fact that they had lost $1,400.00.

In the next five weeks approximately 1,500 more sets were sold before the offering was removed for good. I still receive comments from customers who remain unhappy about the US Mint’s handling of this situation. Was the brief relaunch and slight incremental sales really worth the long standing customer resentment that was created?

Inability to supply core products

Two of the most popular US Mint products unexpectedly sold out and were not available for customers to purchase. The 2008 Proof American Silver Eagle was not available for purchase after mid-August 2008. The 2008 Proof Set was not available for purchase after mid-December 2008. These "sell outs" caught many customers off guard who justifiably expected the products to be available for much longer. Other products such as the Gold Buffalo and Platinum Eagle coins also sold out before the end of the year.

While the unavailability of the silver, gold, and platinum coins could be explained by the ongoing precious metals blank shortage, the unavailability of the 2008 Proof Set is not so easily explained. Was this poor inventory planning? Or did the US Mint intentionally under produce the set so they did not have to transport the extra inventory to their new shipping facility following their change of fulfillment vendors?

Reducing collector favorites from the product line up

In mid-November, the US Mint announced that they would be cutting their 2009 Product line up by 60%. Deep reductions were made in precious metals numismatic offerings, including some collector favorites like the American Gold Buffalo fractional proof and uncirculated coins. As a testament to their popularity, the remaining 2007 dated Gold Buffalo coins sold out within one month of the announcement.

The 2009 Product line up is dominated by rolls and bags offerings for circulating coins and coins which the US Mint is legally required to produce such as the First Spouse Gold Coins. The reduced number of American Silver, Platinum, and Gold Eagles which the US Mint presumably will be offering are still missing.

Implementing policies with limited notice

The US Mint recently shortened their return policy from 30 days to only 7 calendar days. The policy was made public just one day before it became effective. The US Mint's official press release was issued after the policy had already been implemented. Not even considering the fact that the majority of US Mint customers feel the new return period is too short, some advance notice would have surely been appreciated.

Not following their own policies

In at least two recent instances the US Mint has not followed their own published or stated policies. The first instance relates to their pricing policy. Although their official notification in the Federal Registrar states that price updates would be effective Thursdays at 10:00 AM ET, the most recent changes took place last Wednesday around 2:00 PM ET. While the early change didn't seem to cause much distress, the implication that the US Mint has no qualms about breaking with their own published policies.

The second instance relates to their shipping policies. The US Mint sent an email to all customers who ordered the Ultra High Relief Double Eagle plainly stating that orders will be shipped on a first-come, first-served basis. Shipments of 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagles and 2009 Lincoln Commemoratives suggest that they have not followed this policy. In both cases customers who placed orders on the second or third day of sales have received their coins while customers who ordered on the first day are still waiting.

Not effectively communicating with customers

US Mint customers are frequently left in the dark about shipping delays, issues regarding products they ordered, policy changes, and serious security issues. The US Mint will often release statements only through selected outlets days or weeks after the issues first arose, if they release statements at all. Besides the automatically generated emails with incorrect shipping dates, the only communication broadly distributed to all customers who ordered the Ultra High Relief Double Eagle was the recent email notification, which seemed to raise more questions than it answered.

Customers who call the Mint are often not provided with any useful information. Even the numismatic press has difficulty obtaining simple answers from the US Mint on straightforward questions.

No clear options for customer feedback

If you are a US Mint customer unhappy with your experience, where do you complain? If you call by phone, you are put in touch with representatives who are not responsible for the problems and do not have authority to solve them. Oftentimes they do not have information about the current issues or refuse to disclose the information. For the average customer there is no email address or phone number readily available to voice concerns or complaints.

Many Mint News Blog readers have asked for some way to voice their concerns directly to the US Mint. I can provide the following address:

Andrew Brunhart
United States Mint
801 9th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20220

Andrew Brunhart is the Deputy Director of the United States Mint. Although this address is public knowledge, it is not often publicized. Writing to him might be the best way to have your concerns heard.

Part Two: What the US Mint has done right

As previously stated, I wanted to also list some of the things that the US Mint has done right and some of challenges of the current environment which complicate their business and lead to some of the issues.

Last year, the US Mint produced more than ten billion coins for circulation. Other than discussion of coin designs or the necessity for certain denominations, there are rarely complaints on their performance in this area.

Last year, the US Mint produced more than twenty million American Silver Eagles. This was an all time record number, which they managed to produce amidst a silver blank shortage which impacted all world mints.

The 2009 Ultra High Relief Double Eagle was made possible by the efforts of the US Mint and Director Edmund Moy. This coin was not created through legislation, as is the case for most other coins. The coin was authorized directly by the Treasury of the Secretary under 31 U.S.C. § 5112(i)(4)(C), presumably at the request of the US Mint. The US Mint was able to recreate Saint-Gaudens' original design and successfully mass produce the coin.

The US Mint has implemented new policies in an attempt to deal with known issues. Some of the resulting policies are far from perfect, but the intentions are to fix problems. One of this year’s new policies allows the US Mint to adjust the prices of gold and platinum numismatic products are often as once per week in response to changing precious metals prices. While I did have some critiques on the policy after it was announced, the issues the new policy creates are lesser than the issues it resolves.

The US Mint is dealing with some of the highest demand for gold and silver bullion coins in recent history. In many cases they are competing with world mints for a limited supply of precious metals blanks. The US Mint is legally required to produce bullion coins to meet public demand. They also produce numismatic precious metals offerings, which they are often not legally required. The US Mint is sometimes forced to make choices and prioritize.


Even amidst the current challenging environment and perhaps the heightened expectations of a high profile coin release, there are definite issues which the US Mint needs to consider and address. I sincerely hope that I am writing this lengthy post at a turning point, when the various problems start to be addressed with positive change and more open communication.

As always readers are invited comment with their thoughts on any of the issues or anything I may have left out. I will do what I can to make sure the proper people at the US Mint read this post and all of your comments.