Mint News Blog

News, Information, and Commentary on US Mint Products

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Still No 2010 Proof Gold and Silver Eagles

The US Mint has announced the release dates for their "remaining" 2010 products. The collectible Proof and Uncirculated 2010 Gold Eagles and 2010 Silver Eagles are still missing from the schedule, although the US Mint still preserves a glimmer of hope that these popular products might be produced.

The updated schedule includes exact on-sale dates for all previously listed products (although the dates are still stated as tentative). No new products have been added to the schedule, although I would have thought that the US Mint would release the "new" America the Beautiful Quarter Products this year. It's possible that they will be added to the scheduled later.

The 2010 Proof and Uncirculated Gold and Silver Eagles are listed on the schedule as "TBD." The US Mint has provided the now familiar explanation about the status of the products:
*Public Laws 99-61 and 99-185 mandate that the United States Mint mint and issue its American Eagle Silver and Gold Bullion Coins "in quantities sufficient to meet public demand..." There is no corresponding legal requirement to mint and issue the proof and uncirculated coins in quantities sufficient to meet public demand. The bureau, however, is continuing to work with current and potential blank suppliers to increase the supply of silver and gold blanks in amounts that may make it possible to offer the proof and uncirculated versions of American Eagle Silver and Gold Coins in 2010.
I suppose its somewhat favorable that the US Mint has not yet ruled out the offerings completely. At the ANA National Money Show in Fort Worth Texas held March 25-27, 2010, US Mint Director Edmund Moy raised the possibility that the 2010 Proof Silver Eagle would be canceled, citing demand for bullion coins. After that announcement, many collectors already began assuming that the cancellation was a foregone conclusion.

The 2009 Proof and Uncirculated Gold and Silver Eagles were finally announced as canceled in October.

The updated release schedule for 2010 US Mint Products is shown below:

Presidential $1 Coin & First Spouse Medal Set - Pierce 6/24/2010
Franklin Pierce $1 Coin Cover 07/01/10
2010 United States Mint Uncirculated Coin Set 07/15/10
2010 United States Mint Proof Set 07/22/10
Yosemite Quarter Bags and Two-Roll Sets 07/26/10
2010 American Eagle One Ounce Platinum Proof Coin 08/12/10
James Buchanan Presidential $1 Coin Rolls 08/19/10
2010 United States Mint Silver Proof Set 08/26/10
Buchanan's Liberty First Spouse Gold Coins 09/02/10
Buchanan's Liberty Bronze Medal 09/02/10
Grand Canyon Quarter Bags and Two-Roll Sets 09/20/10
Presidential $1 Coin & First Spouse Medal Set - Buchanan 09/23/10
James Buchanan Presidential $1 Coin Cover 09/30/10
Mount Hood Quarter Bags and Two-Roll Sets 11/15/10
Abraham Lincoln Presidential $1 Coin Rolls 11/18/10
Mary Todd Lincoln First Spouse Gold Coins 12/02/10
Mary Todd Lincoln Bronze Medal 12/02/10
First Spouse Bronze Four-Medal Set 12/02/10
Presidential $1 Coin & First Spouse Medal Set - Lincoln 12/23/10
Abraham Lincoln $1 Coin Cover 12/30/10
2010 American Eagle Silver Proof Coin TBD
2010 American Eagle Silver Uncirculated Coin TBD
2010 American Eagle Gold Proof Coin TBD
2010 American Eagle Gold Uncirculated Coin TBD
Coin Update News: Latest Weekly US Mint Sales Report


Changes to US Mint's Direct Ship Program

A few weeks ago, the US Mint made some changes to their Direct Ship Program. This program has been tweaked many times as the Mint seemingly tries to preserve the utility of the program, while limiting the potential for abuses.

The Direct Ship Program was introduced in June 2008 as a way for businesses and individuals to obtain circulating dollar coins directly from the US Mint. The purpose of the program was to remove barriers and improve circulation of the dollar coin. In the most recent fiscal year, the US Mint reported distributing an astounding $85.2 million worth of coins through the program, representing 18.6% of the total dollar coin shipments.

Abuses of the product came to light in late 2009, when some mainstream publications ran stories about frequent fliers who were using the program to earn miles and other rewards on their credit cards. These individuals would order thousands of dollars worth of coins with their credit cards and then immediately deposit the coins into a bank account. The purchase and deposit would net to zero, as rewards and miles accrued.

The US Mint responded by cutting off some of the known offenders and adding bold messages to their product pages explaining the intended purpose of the program. Further, a message was added that: By clicking “Add to Cart” I agree that I understand, and will comply with, the intended purpose of the Program.

An article in the LA Times had also stated that purchases through the program would be coded as cash advances, so as not to earn rewards. However, I have subsequently confirmed that this is not correct. Orders are treated as regular credit card purchases.

The most recent change to the program has been to restrict orders based on time period, rather than cumulatively. A 4-box limit ($1,000 face value) now applies for every 10-day period across any and all Direct Ship orders. Before the change, the cumulative limits of 50 boxes of Native American Dollars and 2 boxes of Presidential Dollars were in place. Exemptions could be requested under both the old and new limits.

The US Mint currently has available 2001 Sacagawea Dollars; 2010 Native American Dollars; 2007 Presidential Dollars for George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison; and 2008 Presidential Dollars for Andrew Jackson.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sales Ending for D.C. & U.S. Territories First Day Coin Covers

Next week on June 30, 2010 at 5:00 PM ET, the United States Mint will conclude sales of the 2009 District of Columbia & U.S. Territory Quarters First Day Coin Covers.

All six of the covers are still available for sale currently, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Each cover is priced at $14.95 each.

These products may be worth a look since they represent the last First Day Coin Covers produced for quarters for the foreseeable future. The US Mint previously confirmed that they will not be creating similar products for the new America the Beautiful Quarters Program. This final year of covers also marks an improvement in design from the somewhat bland template used for the State Quarter covers. Finally, the covers boast relatively low production runs, as compared to the Presidential Dollar and State Quarters Coin Covers.

The Presidential Dollar Coin Covers have sold as many as 50,000 units for the initial releases of the series. Current releases have shown a decline in popularity, but still top more than 20,000 units each. The earliest State Quarter Coin Covers sold 100,000 per state before descending to lower levels. I wasn't table to find any sales figures for the later years of the series, but this old Mint News Blog post has some interim sales figures for the 2007 covers, showing sales above 20,000 for each state.

The last reported sales figures for the DC & U.S. Territories covers are included below. These numbers include sales through June 20, 2010. This week's full sales report is available on Coin Update News.

District of Columbia 20,009
Puerto Rico 16,943
Guam 13,420
American Samoa 11,821
U.S. Virgin Islands 10,665
Northern Mariana Islands 10,187

The figures above should place the total sales solidly below even the lowest production State Quarter and Presidential Dollar Coin Covers. Time will tell whether these low numbers will create a new allure for these covers on the secondary market.

Recently completed eBay auction show some of the tougher to find State Quarter First Day Coin Covers selling around $30 to $40 each. About a year ago, I recall some covers selling for more than $100 each. On the low end of the spectrum, some of the high production covers sell for as little as $4 or $5 each. It bears mentioning that there seems to be somewhat of a thin market for these covers at present. Most are listed for sale with fixed Buy It Now prices and the sell through rate is low.

There may already be some measure of speculation taking place for the DC & U.S. Territory covers. Ever since the US Mint announced the impending conclusion of the offering, the pace of sales has increase to 100 or more covers per location per week. In the last week nearly 200 covers were sold for each location . Prior to the announcement, sales had been running about 30-40 per week for most issues.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Franklin and Jane Pierce Presidential Dollar & First Spouse Medal Set

On June 24, 2010, the United States Mint will release the Presidential $1 Coin and First Spouse Medal Set for Franklin and Jane Pierce.

This will actually mark the first numismatic product release from the Mint following a three week gap. On June 3, the 2010 Proof Gold Buffalo and Jane Pierce First Spouse Gold Coins had been released. There have been no products released during the interim.

The Presidential $1 Coin and First Spouse Medal set will include one uncirculated (satin finish) Franklin Pierce Presidential Dollar and one Jane Pierce Bronze Medal. The coin and medal will be mounted on an illustrated plastic card with issuance information on the back. The sets are priced at $11.95 each.

Previous releases for this product type remain available for sale for John & Julia Tyler, James & Sarah Polk, Zachary & Margaret Taylor, and Millard & Abigail Fillmore. The last of this product type to sell out featured John & Letitia Tyler and sold 9,695 units.

In other US Mint related news, the Proof 2010 Boy Scouts Silver Dollars went on waiting list status before the weekend. This means that the US Mint has received enough orders to reach the maximum authorized mintage of 350,000 coins across proof and uncirculated options. Orders are still accepted for placement on a waiting list. These orders will be fulfilled on a FIFO basis for any coins available due to order cancellations.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Favorite Coins from World Mints

For more than two and a half years and throughout more than 600 posts, Mint News Blog has exclusively covered coins and collectible products from the United States Mint. During this time, the US Mint has cut its product line by more than 60%, canceled some of its most popular products, and arguably experienced a decline in the quality of coin designs.

When I first started writing this blog, I collected exclusively U.S. coins. As time has moved on, I have started to allocate a small portion of my collecting budget to coins from other world mints. This is perhaps due in part to some of the factors mentioned above and also a result of greater exposure to world coins that I have gained through writing and editing Coin Update.

While the focus of Mint News Blog will remain the US Mint and its coins and products, as a one time change of pace, this post will explore some of my favorite products from other world mints. Readers: please feel free to share your own favorite non-US Mint coins in the comments of this post.

Most of the following coins instantly resonated with me for one reason or another, and I knew I wanted to add them to my collection. It is refreshing to find coins that have a design, execution, unique theme, or "coolness" factor that make them instantly likable to a degree that you know for certain that you will enjoy them.

Netherlands - 2006 Netherlands and Architecture 5 Euro

This 92.5% silver 5 euro commemorative coin was issued in 2008. The design for "The Netherlands and Architecture" coin was created as the result of a competition organized by the Dutch Ministry of Finance between various architecture offices and artists.

The winning design features the image of the queen constructed using the names of 109 famous Dutch architects. The names towards the edge of the coin are large enough to be readable. The size of the names decreases towards the center, with the smaller names readable with magnification. The order of the 109 architects is based on the number of hits each name registered on the internet.

The reverse of the coin features books on architecture. They are arranged in such as way as to create an outline of the Netherlands at the center. A bird flies above the location of the capital of each province.

Netherlands - 2009 400 Years of the Netherlands and Manhattan 5 Euro

The following year, the Netherlands issued another 92.5% silver 5 euro commemorative to mark the 400 years of ties between the Netherlands and Manhattan. Henry Hudson and his crew of the Dutch East India Company set foot on Manhattan in 1609 and later established the colony of New Netherlands on the southern tip.

The coin design represents 400 years of Manhattan by showing a precise topographical view of Manhattan in 2009 created with images from Google Earth. The reverse of the coin shows the landscape as it was in 1609, reproduced based on scientific research by the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York.

Perth Mint of Australia - Silver Kookaburra

The Silver Kookaburra has been produced by the Perth Mint since 1990. Each year has featured a unique depiction of the Kookaburra. This native Australian bird has a distinctive call that sounds like human laughter.

The coins are available in a range of sizes from one ounce to one kilo. The one ounce coins cost about $5 more than the one ounce American Eagle Silver bullion coins. I am happy to pay this premium for an exceptionally well produced coin with a unique design. The Perth Mint has also offered the Silver Koala since 2007, which features a unique Koala design each year.

Royal Canadian Mint - .99999 Gold Maple Leaf

The Royal Canadian Mint offers a huge array of collector products, which can be somewhat daunting. Their bullion products have been of greater interest to me.

Something that caught my eye recently is the Gold Maple Leaf .99999 Special Edition. If you count the 9's, you will note that there are five of them. This makes the coin .00009 purer than 24 karat gold coins from other world mints. The background of the coin features a wavy netting that gives the coin a special look. The face value of this coin is $200, rather than the $50 face value used for the regular .9999 fine Gold Maple Leaf. These coins are priced about $50 higher than other one ounce gold bullion coins.

It's also worth mentioning that the Royal Canadian Mint offers the Platinum Maple Leaf and Palladium Maple Leaf coins. The US Mint has not produced platinum bullion coins since 2008 and has never produced palladium coins.

Kazakhstan - 2006 Space Silver and Tantalum 500 Tenge

While U.S. collectors may never see the twice proposed series of NASA commemorative coins, other world mints have issued various space themed coins. I particularly liked this 500 tenge coin issued by Kazakhstan. It is a bimetallic proof coin with an outer ring of silver and inner disc of tantalum, a blue gray metal used in the aerospace industry.

The obverse features a representation of the unity of man and the universe. This design was used for the obverse of each coin in the space series. The reverse design of this coin shows an astronaut and a representation of our solar system. I think this design is the best of the space series. Other issues of the series depict satellites or spacecraft.

Austria - 2010 Renewable Energy Silver and Niobium 25 Euro

The Austrian Mint recently released a 25 euro silver and niobium coin with the theme "Renewable Energy." The niobium is colored a vibrant blue that looks beautiful next to the outer silver ring.

The obverse of the coin depicts the cycle of nature for a tree. This is juxtaposed with a reverse design which depicts the various methods of harnessing renewable sources of natural energy with a stylized globe in the background.

Bulgaria - Various Commemorative Coins
My wife was born in Bulgaria. While a teenager, she moved to the United States with her parents, and they all later became American citizens. Bulgarian coins have helped me to learn more about her culture and the history of Bulgaria. When my children are older, I think these coins will also help them learn about Bulgaria, just as their U.S. coins will help them learn about America.

Bulgaria has issued a wide array of commemorative coins over the years. Most of the older ones can be obtained relatively cheaply. Some were produced in silver, others in base metal, and a few in gold. I have purchased groups of some of the older issues and have been buying the newly issued silver coins as they are released.

The coins pictured above present some important people, places, and events in Bulgarian history. The April uprising in 1876 (top left) led to the Bulgarian independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878 (bottom right). The Rila Monastery (top right) was built in the 10th century and is considered one of Bulgaria's most important cultural, historical, and architectural monuments. I was able to visit the Rila Monastery while on vacation. The Belogradchik Rocks (bottom left) were featured on the most recently released silver commemorative coin.

Coin Update News

Back to U.S. coins, the second part of the interview with United States Mint Director Edmund Moy has just been published. The second part includes a discussion of the canceled 2009 Proof Silver Eagles, U.S. coin design, the international coin market, and Director Moy's coin collection. Also, if you have any questions for him, please leave them in the comments of the interview and we will see if we can get them answered.

Links to both parts of the interview are provided below:

Interview Part One
Interview Part Two

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

2010 Proof Boy Scouts Silver Dollar Approaching Sell Out

The proof version of the 2010 Boy Scouts of American Centennial Silver Dollar is finally approaching the sales level necessary for a sell out. Based on the current pace of sales, the sell out should occur within a week.

The 2010 Boy Scouts Silver Dollar initially went on sale March 23, 2010. Because there are about four million of current youth members of the Boy Scouts of America and as many as 110 million past members, a complete sell out of the maximum authorized mintage of 350,000 coins was widely expected. The coin's design did draw some criticism from some who believed that the design should have focused on the history and continuity of the organization, rather than the highlighting the diversity of current programs.

Coins were available in uncirculated and proof versions, initially priced at $33.95 and $39.95, respectively. More than 200,000 coins were sold during the first week of availability, but in the following weeks, the pace of sales slowed. After four weeks, sales had reached 312,653. Around that time, introductory pricing period ended and prices were increased fro $35.95 and $43.95.

On April 23, the uncirculated version of the coin was put on waiting list status and officially announced as sold out on April 29. For the past month and a half, the proof version of the coin has remained available for sale.

This week, the US Mint released revised sales totals for the Boy Scouts Silver Dollars indicating total sales of 105,000 uncirculated and 243,800 proof coins for a combined total of 348,800. Recently, the proof coins have been selling about 1,600 to 1,800 coins per week, suggesting that a sell out (or waiting list status) will occur within a week's time.
Coin Update News: Fractional 2010 Gold Eagle Sales


Monday, June 14, 2010

Sales Ending for 2009 Annual Sets and 2009 Lincoln Cents

On June 15, 2010, the United States Mint will end sales of the 2009 Proof Set, 2009 Silver Proof Set, 2009 Uncirculated Mint Set, and the 2009 Lincoln Cent Two Roll Sets for the "Professional Life" and "Presidency" designs. The impending close of sales has been known since mid-May, when a "Last Opportunity" section was added to the US Mint's website.

The 2009 Proof Sets and Mint Set each contain the four different 2009 Lincoln Cents struck in a special composition of 95% copper, rather than the standard predominantly zinc composition. In the future, this may help the sets hold distinction and elevated demand.

As it stands, the last reported sales figures for the 2009 annual sets are above the levels of last year's sets with the exception of the Silver Proof Set. The tables below show the sales start date, sales end date, and total sales for each set for 2009 and 2008.
Product Sales Start Sales End Sales To Date
2009 Proof Set June 1, 2009 June 15, 2010 1,475,264
2009 Silver Proof Set July 17, 2009 June 15, 2010 690,822
2009 Mint Set Oct 1, 2009 June 15, 2010 771,204

Product Sales Start Sales End Total Sales
2008 Proof Set June 24, 2008 Dec 14, 2008 1,405,674
2008 Silver Proof Set Aug 26, 2008 July 17, 2009 774,874
2008 Mint Set July 30, 2008 Feb 25, 2009 745,464

The 2008 Proof Set had sold out unexpectedly before the close of the year and ended up with the lowest total sales for a standard proof set since 1959. The sets began selling at a premium immediately after the early sell out. The 2009 Proof Set looks like it will have marginally higher total sales, but this will still be a low number on a historical basis. As mentioned, the higher mintage may be offset by the greater residual demand created by the included 2009 Lincoln Cents and the countless number of sets broken up to obtain the cents.

The 2009 Silver Proof Set is on track to have the lowest total sales for a silver proof set since 1998. After peaking at 1,175,934 with the 2004 Silver Proof Set, total sales have decreased steadily each year since then.

The 2008 Mint Set has enjoyed a large rise in price since it sold out. The sets seem to sell for $45 to $50, which is almost double the original issue price at the higher end of the range. Last year, before the 2008 Mint Set sold out, I mentioned it frequently as a potential winner. This year, I also like the prospects of the 2009 Mint Set. It was available for a shorter period of time compared to the other sets and will have relatively low final sales. Once again, the inclusion of special composition Lincoln Cents should add a permanent incremental source of demand. Of all the products going off-sale on June 15, I like the 2009 Mint Set the best.

Last but not least, sales of the 2009 Lincoln Cent Two Roll Sets will end on Tuesday. When initially announced, many collectors didn't like the fact that sets containing $1.00 face value worth of circulating coins were priced at $8.95 each. After the first set sold out in a few weeks and began selling at a big premium on the secondary market, more collectors started ordering the sets.

The final two designs will fall between the first two designs in terms of total number of sets sold. The final sales or last reported sales are shown below.

Sales To Date
Birthplace 96,000
Formative Years 300,000
Professional Life 291,534
Presidency 259,941

The final set for the "Presidency" design has better prospects than the "Professional Life" design because of the lower total sales and also the low mintages of the coins included. The 2009 P & D Presidency Lincoln Cents had a final mintages of 129,600,000 and 198,000,000, respectively. These represent the lowest mintages for circulation strike cents since 1955.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

2010 Gold Buffalo Proof Coin Sales at 12,778

Numismatic News is reporting that the 2010 Proof Gold Buffalo sold 12,778 coins through June 8, 2010. The coins originally went on sale June 3, 2010, priced at $1,510 each.

The coins are on a slower pace than last year's 2009 Proof Gold Buffalo offering, which sold 19,468 coins in the first three days of sales from October 29 to November 1, 2009. The offering eventually sold a total of 49,388 coins through the end of sales on March 29, 2010.

A slower start was expected for this year's offering for a number of reasons. First, the coins are priced $150 higher than the initial price of last year's offering. This may have caused some collectors to scale back or attempt to wait for a lower price.

Second, the 2009 Proof Gold Buffalo coins haven't matched the stellar performance of the 2008-W Gold Buffalo coins. Oftentimes, strong secondary market performance for a US Mint product will lead to more robust sales of the following issue from collectors hoping for a repeat.

Third, there was not the sense of urgency and pent up that was present last year. Sales of the 2009 Proof Gold Buffalo began following nearly a year of unavailability for collector versions of the coin and uncertainty about whether the coins would be offered at all. The total number of coins available was also unknown, which may have accelerated the early pace of sales. This year, the coins are offered after just a few months of unavailability for collectible Gold Buffaloes and collectors may be more confident that the offering will be available for some time. Of course, this might not actually be the case if "unprecedented demand" for gold bullion rears it's head.

It seems likely that the 2010 Proof Gold Buffalo will end up with a mintage below last year's level, but how much lower will be the question. The table below shows the final mintages for each of the Proof Gold Buffalo coins.

Proof Gold Buffalo Mintages

1 oz 1/2 oz 1/4 oz 1/10 oz
2006 246,267

2007 58,998

2008 18,863 12,169 13,125 18,884
2009 49,388*

*Last reported sales
New Coingrader Capsule: In Praise of PCGS


Thursday, June 10, 2010

The First 2010 Jefferson Nickels

The first of the 2010 Jefferson Nickels have now surfaced in the channels of circulation.

Circulation strike nickels and dimes have gotten a lot of attention in the past few years. This is due to the extremely low mintages compared to typical levels, which routinely had been in the hundreds of millions or billions. Also, nickels and dimes are currently the only circulating coins that are not offered directly by the United States Mint through their numismatic bags and rolls program. This means that there is no easy or ready source to obtain the coins for the average collector.

Anyone lucky enough to be able to obtain the newly minted nickels and dimes directly from a bank or depository institution has been able to sell them for big premiums above the face value.

Coin production figures through the end of May 2010, indicate that 29.28 million of the 2010-P Jefferson Nickels produced for circulation. This is still below last year's total production of 39.38 million. There have not been any 2010-D Jefferson Nickels produced yet. Last year's total was 46.8 million.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

First Spouse Gold Coins - Last Reported Sales Figures

With this post, I wanted to summarize the last reported sales figures for each release of the First Spouse Gold Coin series. This now includes a total of fifteen different coins in proof and uncirculated versions. Eleven of the coins are no longer available for sale at the US Mint, and four coins remain currently available.

The US Mint has not yet provided sales figures for the recently released 2010 Gold Buffalo Proof Coin, which many readers have been waiting for. Additionally, the last available sales figures for the Letitia Tyler and Julia Tyler First Spouse coins remain unchanged from the prior week. For a while now, the US Mint has not been reporting final updated sales figures for products which had sales end during the weekly reporting period.

Until final audited mintage figures are reported, these figures will remain the best available numbers. I think the final numbers will probably be very close to these, if not lower. In the past, whenever final audited numbers have been released for collectible gold and silver coins, they have been a few percent lower than the last reported sales figures.

First Spouse Gold Coin Sales Figures

Proof Unc Total
Martha Washington 20,000 20,000 40,000
Abigail Adams 20,000 20,000 40,000
Jefferson's Liberty 20,000 20,000 40,000
Dolley Madison 18,355 12,541 30,896
Elizabeth Monroe 7,933 4,519 12,452
Louisa Adams 7,454 4,223 11,677
Jackson's Liberty 7,806 4,754 12,560
Van Buren's Liberty 7,515 4,334 11,849
Anna Harrison 6,250 3,537 9,787
Letitia Tyler 5,163 3,152 8,315
Julia Tyler 4,830 2,861 7,691
Sarah Polk 4,687 2,841 7,528
Margaret Taylor 3,851 2,294 6,145
Abigail Fillmore 4,292 2,365 6,657
Jane Pierce 1,579 855 2,434

Lines listed in italics are coins that remain available for sale.

The Julia Tyler coin sets a new (perhaps temporary) sales low for the series with 4,830 proofs and 2,861 uncirculated coins reported sold, for a combined total of 7,691. This is less than 20% of the maximum authorized mintage level of 40,000 coins. Starting with the 2010 releases the maximum mintage levels were decreased.

Julia Tyler First Spouse Coins were only available from the US Mint for roughly ten months, contributing to the lower sales. It seems likely that Sarah Polk sales will surpass the numbers at some point, although it will be less certain for the Margaret Taylor release.

The newly released Jane Pierce coins have set a low for initial sales figures. The coins went on sale June 3, 2010 and sold a combined 2,434 coins through June 6. The previously released Abigail Fillmore coins sold 2,881 during its debut sales period. Higher prices likely contributed to the decline, causing some buyers to take pause or drop out of the series. The Jane Pierce coins carried the highest initial prices for any release of the series at $779 for proof coins and $766 for uncirculated coins.

This week's full US Mint sales report, which also includes debut figures for the Yellowstone National Park Quarter products, is available at Coin Update News.

There has been a continual debate within reader comments about whether or not the extremely low mintages of the First Spouse Gold Coins will eventually translate into substantially higher secondary market values.

One side of the debate is that on a historical basis, commemorative or collectible US Mint coins which have been unpopular during their period of release and experienced low sales have later become desirable, low mintage rarities which sell at big premiums. Examples of this include the 1995-1996 Olympic Commemorative Coins or the 1997-W Uncirculated Jackie Robinson $5 Gold Coin.

The other side of the debate is that First Spouse Gold Coins are unpopular now and will always remain unpopular despite the low mintages. Even though there are very few coins available, this amount will be sufficient to satisfy the continued low demand. The coins will never attain the allure of other low mintage rarities because rather than a single low mintage issue amongst a broader series with higher mintages, nearly all coins of the series will have low mintages.

Personally, I continue to sit squarely in the first camp. I collect the series for a number of reasons, and the prospect of higher secondary market prices is one of them. So far the prices for low mintage issues that are no longer available for sale have crept higher in line or sometimes faster than the rise in the price of gold. In the future, hopefully prices will continue to move upwards gradually or perhaps there will be a spark or interest that creates a more dramatic move. I will continue to be patient and collect the series for the duration.

New Content on

I wanted to take an opportunity to mention new content which will be appearing at Michael Alexander of the London Banknote and Monetary Research Centre will be contributing a series of interviews with various world mint leaders and others within the coin industry, as well as ongoing coverage of new coin releases from a selection of European Mints.

Michael Alexander's first article published today is an interview with someone well known to U.S. coin collectors and Mint News Blog readers.

Read the article: Interview with Edmund Moy, Director of the United States Mint

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

US Mint Offers Bulk Bags of America the Beautiful Quarters

Today, the United States Mint announced the America the Beautiful Quarters Bulk Purchase Program. At first, I was pretty excited about the announcement, until I read that the bulk purchases must be made in increments of $50,000. Even though most collectors will not be able to purchase through the program, it will still have an impact on anyone collecting the series.

As I have mentioned in prior posts, circulating coins are generally distributed to the channels of circulation through the Federal Reserve Banks. They supply coins to banks and other depository institutions in quantities sufficient to meet transactional demand without regard to the date or design of the coins.

For the 50 State Quarters Program and the Presidential Dollars Program, special ordering procedures were provided, which allowed banks to order unmixed quantities of the newly issued coins for certain periods surrounding the circulation release date. Special ordering procedures were not put into place for the new America the Beautiful Quarters Program.

Although some of the newly issued quarters eventually make their way into circulation, the lack of ability for banks to order the new issues specifically makes distribution spotty and uncertain, as compared to the State Quarters.

The Bulk Purchase Program provides for the purchase of bulk bags containing 200,000 coins, with a face value of $50,000. There is a processing fee of 3% or $1,500 for each order. Purchasers must also arrange pick up of the coins from the Philadelphia Mint (P mint mark coins) or Denver Mint (D mint mark coins) by a licensed commercial carrier.

Orders for upcoming America the Beautiful Quarters can be processed up to one week before the circulation release date. Interestingly, previous releases of the series will be accepted as long as unassigned inventory exists. The US Mint includes the following within the Q&A section:

"Orders for previously released coins will be accepted as long as unassigned inventory exists. The United States Mint may produce additional coins to satisfy orders throughout the year for the first few designs if time and resources permit; however, there is no guarantee, and orders may be refused. As the end of the calendar year approaches, flexibility in supplying previously released quarters diminishes."

This explains why the US Mint's monthly production statistics indicate that the figures for America the Beautiful Quarters are "preliminary" with several asterisks. In the past, the US Mint has stopped production of one rotating circulating coin design before beginning production of the next. Apparently, now the US Mint may continue minting all designs during year of issue.

Because of the high minimum purchase requirements and pick up arrangements, it's unlikely that the average individual coin collector will be able to use the program to obtain new coins. The US Mint suggests that smaller quantities should be purchased through the two roll sets ($20 face value for $32.95) or the 100-coin bags ($25 face value for $35.95).

The Bulk Purchase Program will likely have some indirect impacts to the average collector. It may create a more abundant supply of each quarter on the secondary market if dealers purchase the coins in bulk quantities. In the short term, this should make acquiring the coins easier, but in the long term it may hold down the values of low mintage coins. Rather than distributing a small mintage broadly, many coins will be in the hands of collectors through the numismatic bags and rolls offerings and potential hoards will be in the hands of dealers and others through the bulk purchase program.

Studying production figures for low mintage coins will become a more difficult task. Since production for each coin can take place throughout the entire year of issue (if time and resources permit), any coins with low preliminary production figures might be ordered in quantity through the bulk purchase program, increasing mintages and creating hoards.


Monday, June 7, 2010

2011 Medal of Honor Commemorative Coin Designs

The United States Mint recently provided design candidates for the upcoming 2011 Medal of Honor Commemorative Coins to the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) and Citizens Coinage Advisory (CCAC) for review and comment. The program includes a $5 gold coin with a maximum authorized mintage of 100,000 and a silver dollar with maximum authorized mintage of 500,000.

The Medal of Honor Commemorative coins are issued in recognition and celebration of the establishment of the Medal of Honor in 1861. This is America's highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed to an individual in the Armed Service of the United States. The coin designs are intended to be emblematic of the traditions, legacy, and heritage of the Medal of Honor and the distinguished service of its recipients.

For the obverse of the Medal of Honor $5 Gold Coin, both the CFA and CCAC recommended a design featuring an image of the Medal of Honor as it was originally created. The image is a simple depiction of the medal, free of any other design elements.

For the reverse of the gold coin, the CFA and CCAC recommended different design candidates. The CFA favored a design showing an eagle, a shield, two cannons, munitions, and a flag, but asked that the elements within the design be reduced. The CCAC recommended a design featuring a full figure of Minerva (who is also depicted on the Medal of Honor) holding a shield and flag with cannons and munitions in the background.

The Medal of Honor Silver Dollar obverse depicts the modern Medal of Honor for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. The CFA chose a depiction of the Medals separated from the neckbands, and the CCAC chose a version with the neckbands intact.

For the reverse design of the silver dollar, the CFA declined to make a recommendation from the available candidates, rejecting all four of the design provided. The CCAC chose a depiction of a soldier carrying a wounded comrade, citing the emotion present within the scene.

View all 2011 Medal of Honor Commemorative Coin Candidate Designs.

The recent CFA and CCAC meetings have brought increased attention to the two groups complaints about the quality of design candidates that the US Mint has been providing to the groups. The most frequent complaints have been that the designs should use abstraction, rather than presenting a literal interpretation of the theme, and that the designs should be simplified, distilling the art rather than jamming numerous images together. At recent meetings, the groups have sometimes rejected all provided design candidates, although this hasn't stopped the US Mint from using the rejected designs anyway.

At the CCAC meeting, there were concerns expressed that the US Mint may be filtering the design candidates before they are presented for review, potentially removing some of the best candidates from consideration. Both groups were critical of overall process that produces the coins, rather than the group of artists who create them.

Numismatic News recently ran an article where members of the CFA and CCAC expressed their disappointment on the overall poor quality of designs. You can read the full article here, but I will present a few notable quotes from the article below.

A quote from CFA secretary Tom Luebke, "The quality of designs remains embarrassingly low, both in the often amateurish character of the artwork and in the generally poor compositions."

CCAC Member Donald Scarinci said, "The fact that the CFA and the CCAC only rarely see great coin and medal designs is not the fault of John Mercanti or the artists who work with him. The fault, unfortunately, is with the Director himself. The standard of excellence that Director Moy set for himself and his staff in 2007 (at the FIDEM convention) is the standard that history will use to judge his directorship. By his own standard, Ed Moy has failed."

In 2007 and 2008, US Mint Director Edmund Moy made some extremely bold and ambitious statements about sparking a "neo-Renaissance in coin design" that would "surpass the Golden Age of coin design which began at the start of the 20th century." You can read two of his speeches here.

By 2009, the United States Mint provided some admission that they had failed to live up to these ambitious goals. The 2009 Annual Report summarized some of the issues with US coin designs.
Our designs have tended to focus on literalism, functionality and the limitations of prescribed design elements. Too often, designs lacked a unifying balance or transcendent quality that clearly links them together as part of the body of American coinage. Ultimately, the United States Mint should produce art that serves as the highest aspiration of who we are as a country or what we seek to become.
To address the issue, the US Mint wrote a white paper to establish "the philosophic path for achieving artistic excellence." The five core principles of American numismatic design expressed in the white paper simply echoed the statements Director Moy made previously. Clearly, the US Mint's efforts towards improving coin design haven't produced the desired result. We'll have to see if the CFA and CCAC's public criticism will have any impact.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Yellowstone Quarter Launch Ceremony

Yesterday, the US Mint held the launch ceremony for the Yellowstone National Park Quarter. A Mint News Blog reader was in attendance and provided a first-hand account of the event and some pictures.

A full recap of the event with pictures can be round in a separate article on Coin Update News:
Yellowstone National Park Quarter Launch Ceremony and Coin Exchange

Compared to the last quarter launch and especially the Lincoln Cent launch events, it seemed that there were far fewer coin collectors in attendance. Most of the crowd was reportedly made up of residents from surrounding areas and visitors to the park, who happened to hear about the event. Collector interest in these events seemed to have peaked with the launch ceremony for the "Formative Years" 2009 Lincoln Cent. Estimates on the number of attendees for that event ranged as high as 4,000, and it was referred to as "Woodstock for Coin Collectors."

The total number of quarters exchanged at the Yellowstone ceremony was lower compared to other ceremonies. There were 4,400 rolls worth $44,000 exchanged. This compares to 7,650 rolls worth $76,500 exchanged at the Hot Springs ceremony.

Fewer people also seemed to be taking the time to stamp and cancel the rolls. A special pictorial cancellation was available for the Yellowstone Quarter rolls and some collectors used stamps depicting Old Faithful. There were reportedly about 1,100 rolls canceled by the post office. Figures related to the number of cancellations aren't available from prior events, but I would guess that the numbers were higher.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

US Mint Coin Production May 2010

The United States Mint has provided updated circulating coin production figures through the end of May 2010. The latest update also includes the final production figures for the Franklin Pierce Presidential Dollar.

Overall production rose more than 200 million from the prior month, with 657.22 million coins produced at the Philadelphia and Denver Mints. This marks the fourth straight month that total production has increased and the highest level in more than a year.

The table below displays a breakdown of production by denomination and mint. Totals for the month and year to date are included.

2010 US Mint Coin Production Figures

May 2010 Jan 2010 - May 2010
Lincoln Cent - Denver 186.40 M 615.60 M
Lincoln Cent - Phil. 222.80 M 650.43 M
Jefferson Nickel - Denver 0 0
Jefferson Nickel - Phil. 27.60 M 29.28 M
Roosevelt Dime - Denver 64.50 M 104.50 M
Roosevelt Dime - Phil. 81.50 M 155.00 M
Quarters - Denver 28.40 M 63.80 M
Quarters - Phil. 17.60 M 59.60 M
Kennedy Half - Denver 0 1.70 M
Kennedy Half - Phil. 0 1.80 M
Native Am Dollar - Denver 27.58 M 41.58 M
Native Am Dollar - Phil. 0 32.06 M
Pres Dollar - Denver 0 75.32 M
Pres Dollar - Phil. 0.84 M 75.74 M

Total 657.22 M 1,906.41 M

During the month more than 400 million cents were produced across both mints. This represents a big jump from recent production levels. In fact, this monthly total is greater than the total mintage for the 2009 "Presidency" Lincoln Cent.

There were 27.6 million Jefferson Nickels produced at the Philadelphia Mint adding to last month's minor production of 1.68 million. The Denver Mint is still yet to make any 2010 Jefferson Nickels.

There were 146 million Roosevelt Dimes produced during the month. This monthly total is the same amount of dimes that were produced during all of 2009. In previous coin production posts, I had mentioned that the Federal Reserve reportedly ordered 224 million dimes from the US Mint. It seems that they are well on their way to fulfilling the order.

There were 46 million quarters produced at the Philadelphia and Denver Mints for the past month, bringing total quarter production for the year to 123.4 million. Previously, the US Mint indicated that the preliminary production for the Hot Springs Quarter was 59.6 million. Backing out this amount leaves 63.8 million coins, which are either completely or predominantly Yellowstone Quarters.

The Mint has not posted the specific production figures for the Yellowstone Quarter. Generally, figures for specific designs are provided in the month following the end of production. Although the Hot Springs figures came later than this.

The US Mint did provide production figures for the Franklin Pierce Presidential Dollar, indicating 38.36 million coins produced at the Denver Mint and 38.22 million coins produced at the Philadelphia Mint for a combined total of 76.58 million. This actually marks a slight increase from the total production of 74.48 million coins for the previous release of the series featuring Millard Fillmore.

Although the general trend for the Presidential Dollar series has been lower mintages for each subsequent release, there have been several occasions when a brief up tick was registered.
Coin Update News: 2010 Fractional Gold Eagles Coming June 10


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

2010 Jane Pierce First Spouse Gold Coin

Tomorrow June 3, 2010 at 12:00 Noon ET, the 2010 Jane Pierce First Spouse Gold Coin and Bronze Medal will go on sale at the United States Mint. This will mark the second release of the year for the 24 karat gold coin series, and the fifteenth release since the series began in 2007.

The Jane Pierce First Spouse Coin features a portrait of the First Lady on the obverse, as designed by Donna Weaver and sculpted by Don Everhart. The reverse depicts her sitting and listening to debates in the visitor's gallery of the Old Senate Chamber in the U.S. Capitol Building. This image was also designed by Donna Weaver, but sculpted by Charles L. Vickers.

The gold coins are struck at the West Point Mint and carry the "W" mint mark. Each coin contains one half ounce of 24 karat gold and is available in either proof or uncirculated format.

Based on recent gold prices, the proof version will be priced at $779 per coin and the uncirculated version will be priced at $766 per coin. These will represent the highest initial offering prices for an issue of the series. The prior release featuring Abigail Fillmore had coins initially priced at $729 and $716. The Margaret Taylor coins had previously carried the highest initial pricing at $754 and $741.

There is a mintage limit of 15,000 coins set across both proof and uncirculated versions of the Jane Pierce First Spouse Gold Coins. There will be no household ordering limits imposed. This year the US Mint lowered the maximum mintages after maintaining the level at 40,000 coins for the first two years of the series.

To coincide with the new release, sales of the Letitia Tyler and Julia Tyler coins are expected to end tomorrow. These coins will be notable in that they will once again set a new mintage low for the First Spouse Gold Coin series.

As of the latest US Mint sales report, the Letitia Tyler First Spouse Coin has sold 3,152 uncirculated and 5,163 proof coins for an overall total of 8,315. The Julia Tyler First Spouse Coin has sold 2,861 uncirculated and 4,830 proof coins for an overall total of 7,691. In comparison to other gold coins issued by the United States Mint during the past few decades, these levels are undeniably minuscule.
Coin Update News: Complete US Mint Sales Report


2010 American Gold Buffalo Proof Coins

On June 3, 2010, the US Mint will begin sales of the 2010 American Gold Buffalo Proof Coin.

The American Gold Buffalo takes its design from the iconic 1913 Type I Buffalo Nickel by James Earle Fraser. The obverse depicts the profile of a Native American based on a composite of three chiefs and the reverse depicts an American Bison or Buffalo. Each coin contains one ounce of 24 karat gold. Produced at the West Point Mint, the coins carry the "W" mint mark.

Based on recent gold prices, it seems that the offering will be priced at $1,510 each. The US Mint has indicated that there are no ordering limits or maximum mintage for the offering.

This year's release of a collectible version of the 24 karat gold coin will take place much earlier than the prior year. The 2009 Proof Gold Buffalo coins went on sale October 29, 2009 after some uncertainty as to whether the coins would be offered at all. The pent up demand following almost a year without collectible Gold Buffaloes and heightened performance expectations following the secondary market success of the 2008-W Gold Buffalo Coins perhaps contributed to heavy initial sales of the coin. After only four days, the US Mint had recorded sales of 19,468. The coins eventually sold out on March 29, 2010 with last reported sales of 49,388.

This year's offering of the 2010 Proof Gold Buffalo seems like it will carry a much different impression. If the price of gold remains within the current range, then the offering price will be $1,510 per coin, which is $150 above last year's initial price level. The coins are being released earlier in the year, which may remove some of the sense of urgency which existed last year. Finally, the 2009 proof coins have not been secondary market successes so far. The coins are selling for around $1,400 based on recently completed eBay auctions, which right around the price of the coins when last available directly from the US Mint. It always seems that secondary market appreciation spurs higher sales levels for the next offering of product in the next offering, and vice versa.

Despite these factors, the Gold Buffalo series does seem to carry a dedicated base of collectors. These coins will also represent the only numismatic gold coin offering besides the First Spouse Gold Coins.

If you are rooting for a low mintage for the 2010 Proof Gold Buffalo, one factor that may come into play to help make this a reality is the current elevated demand for bullion coins. During May 2010, the US Mint sold 70,500 Gold Buffalo bullion coins and recorded the highest monthly sales of one ounce Gold Eagle bullion coins since 1999.

Continuing high demand or escalating demand may cause a scarcity of precious metals blanks that can impact collector offerings. As we have seen in the past, the US Mint will prioritize the production of bullion coins over the production of collector coins, although in the case of the Gold Buffalo, I don't believe this is a legal requirement.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

2010 Yellowstone National Park Quarter Bags and Rolls

Today June 1, 2010 at 12:00 Noon ET, the United States Mint will begin sales of the 2010 Yellowstone National Park Quarter bags and rolls. This also marks the circulation release date of the coins. A launch ceremony will be held later this week on June 3.

This coin will represent the second release for the America the Beautiful Quarters Program, which honors 56 different National Parks and sites over the next twelve years. The Yellowstone Quarter features an image of the Old Faithful geyser with American Bison in the foreground and background. The obverse of the coin features John Flanagan's portrait of George Washington.

The US Mint will offer a two roll set containing one roll of 40 coins from the Philadelphia Mint and one roll of 40 coins from the Denver Mint. This product is priced at $32.95. Bags containing 100 coins from either the Philadelphia or Denver Mint will also be available, priced at $35.95 each. The products come in US Mint branded packaging, which indicates the park name, state abbreviation, face value, and mint mark.

As a change in procedure from last year, the US Mint intends to keep each quarter's bags and rolls products available for one year after the initial release date. In the past, sales of the bags and rolls had typically ended as a new design was released.

One of the enticements of the new quarter series has been the continuing trend towards lower mintages, especially in comparison to the popular 50 State Quarters Program. The Hot Springs Quarter had preliminary circulating coin production of 59.6 million across the Philadelphia and Denver Mints.

Through the end of April, the US Mint had produced a combined 17.8 million Yellowstone National Park Quarters, although production almost certainly continued into the following month. Updated production figures and perhaps a preliminary production totals for the Yellowstone Quarter should be available soon.

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