Mint News Blog

News, Information, and Commentary on US Mint Products

Friday, December 31, 2010

Mint News Blog 2011 Survey

As a way of wrapping up 2010 and looking ahead to 2011, I have created a survey for Mint News Blog readers. The questions are related to US Mint numismatic products, coins, and precious metals.

Last year about 700 people responded to the survey, providing some interesting insights and surprisingly accurate predictions. This year, the survey is a little bit shorter with fewer open ended responses to provide better focus for the coverage of results.

Take the Mint News Blog 2011 Survey

The survey will remain open through January 9, 2011. Only one response per person is allowed. Coverage of the survey responses will take place on Mint News Blog throughout the month January.

Happy New Year Everyone!


Revisiting Mint News Blog 2010 Survey

Last year I had put together a brief survey for Mint News Blog readers, which opened on December 31, 2009 and closed on January 8, 2010. The survey included questions about US Mint numismatic products, coins, and other topics of interest to collectors.

Besides looking back over the previous year, there were also questions about the upcoming year and an opportunity for readers to make predictions. With the year almost over, I thought it would be interesting to look back at some of these questions, responses, and predictions.

Will the US Mint issue a proof version of the 2010 Silver Eagle?

With 64.85% of the vote the majority of readers responded Yes. For most of 2010, the offering remained far from certain. On March 27, 2010 at the ANA National Money Show in Texas, the Mint Director made comments about the continuing record demand for bullion coins, which raised serious doubts about the collector offerings.

As the year moved on, there were two possible avenues for minting 2010 Proof Silver Eagles. First, a change in law could allow greater flexibility in producing collector coins. Second, the US Mint could meet full demand for bullion coins, allowing production of collector coins under existing law.

Eventually, a drop in bullion demand in August and September allowed the production of proof Silver Eagles to take place, although a change in law was also later enacted. The US Mint offered the 2010 Proof Silver Eagle beginning November 19, 2010 and it sold out by December 28.

Will the overall production of circulating coins for 2010 rise or fall from the number produced in 2009?

For this question, 61.41% of readers responded Fall, while 38.59% predicted Rise. Through November 30, 2010, annual circulating coin production for 2010 has already topped 2009 production by more than 77%.

Across all denominations there have been nearly 6.3 billion circulating coins produced during 2010, compared to 3.55 billion last year. Large increases for cents, nickels, and dimes, offset moderate declines in production for quarters and dollar coins.

Gold and Silver Eagle Bullion coin production

There were two questions asking whether readers thought production of Gold Eagle and Silver Eagle bullion coins would rise or fall in 2010 compared to the prior year. Responses were split, with about half of readers predicting a fall and half predicting a rise.

Through the current date, Silver Eagle bullion coin production rose, at 34,662,500 ounces compared to 28,766,500 last year. Gold Eagle bullion coin production fell, with 1,220,500 ounces sold this year, compared to 1,425,000 last year.

Will the price of gold rise or fall during 2010?

For this question, 74.18% of readers correctly predicted that the price of gold would rise. In a follow up question, readers were asked to predict the closing price of gold on December 31, 2010. The majority of responses fell into the correct range of $1,250 - $1,500 per ounce.

Out of all responses, the average guess was $1,375.13. The price of gold is currently $1,418.00 just before the end of the year.

Bold Predictions

A final section of the survey asked readers to make a bold prediction for 2010. A decent number of these predictions turned out to be accurate. I will include some of these predictions below with my comments in italics.

"Palladium UHR!"

A bill authorizing American Palladium Eagles was recently signed into law by the President. The coins will feature Adolph A. Weinman's designs from the Mercury Dime obverse and 1907 AIA Medal reverse. Coins will be issued within one year of the submission of a marketing survey.

"I expect the 5 oz silver National Parks coins will sell out immediately . Their prices will follow the same type of curve the 1st wives coins did when first released. By the second year, the release will be a non event."

Authorized purchasers have ordered the full US Mint production of 165,000 coins. Secondary market prices have spiraled higher, even before the majority of the coins have been sold to the public. We will have to wait and see about the second half of the prediction.

"Congress will mandate Eagle Proofs be minted for collectors."

The bill H.R. 6162 was recently signed into law by the President. Among other things, this bill will allow the Secretary of the Treasury the flexibility of authorizing collector versions of the Gold and Silver Eagles, even if full demand for bullion coins is not being met.

"At least one MS first spouse gold coin will finish its production run with under 3,000 sales."

The US Mint ended sales of the Julia Tyler First Spouse Gold Coin on June 3, 2010. The last reported sales for the uncirculated version were 2,861 coins.

"A metal change for circulating coins."

The recently enacted bill H.R. 6162 requires the Secretary of the Treasury to make biennial reports to Congress about the costs and cost trends of circulating coins, as well as make recommendations about coin composition changes. This seems to open the door to future changes.

"The new quarters will be hard to find, low mintage, and banks won't order them."

The 2010 America the Beautiful Quarters have the lowest mintages for the denomination in decades. However, they are readily available from the US Mint through numismatic bags, rolls, and other products. Availability at banks is spotty at best, due to the fact that the banks are not provided with special ordering procedures for each design, like they were for the prior State Quarters Program.

For anyone interested, you can read all of the survey responses and reader comments here.

A new survey for this year will be posted later today.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

US Mint 2011 Product Schedule

Yesterday, the United States Mint announced their scheduled product listing for their 2011 numismatic product portfolio.

Last year, the schedule had only been announced in preliminary format, with exact dates provided throughout the year. Also, the collector versions of the Gold and Silver Eagle were initially missing.

This year, exact release dates are provided for virtually all expected products. This includes release dates of April 21 for the 2011 Proof Gold Eagles and "by July 6, 2011" for the 2011 Proof Silver Eagle. After years of trouble meeting bullion coin demand, which resulted in delays or cancellations for the numismatic products, the situation finally seems to be under control. Bullion coins have not been suspended or rationed for many months, and the US Mint has greater flexibility in offering collector versions following the passage of H.R. 6162.

Some other pleasant surprises are earlier release dates for precious metals products, with the 2011 Proof Gold Buffalo scheduled for April 18 and the 2011 Proof Platinum Eagle for May 26.

The collectible uncirculated version of the American Gold Eagle will make a come back next year, with sales starting on May 5. These coins are struck on specially burnished blanks and carry the "W" mint mark. Only the one ounce size is expected to be available. This version of the Gold Eagle has not been offered since 2008.

The 2011-W uncirculated Silver Eagle is still listed as TBD.

Full schedule follows:

Yellowstone Quarter Three-Coin Set 01/05/11
2011 Proof Set 01/11/11
2011 Silver Proof Set 01/25/11
Gettysburg Quarter Bags and Two-Roll Set 01/27/11
2011 United States Army Commemorative Coins 01/31/11
2011 Uncirculated Mint Set 02/08/11
2011 Kennedy Half Dollar Bags and Two-Roll Set 02/15/11
2011 Presidential Dollar Proof Set 02/22/11
Andrew Johnson Presidential Dollar Rolls 02/23/11
2011 Medal of Honor Commemorative Coins 02/25/11
Yosemite Quarter Three-Coin Set 03/01/11
Eliza Johnson First Spouse Gold Coin 03/03/11
Eliza Johnson Bronze Medal 03/03/11
Andrew Johnson Presidential $1 Coin & First Spouse Medal Set 03/15/11
2011 America the Beautiful Quarters Proof Set 03/22/11
2011 Native American Dollar Rolls 03/28/11
2011 America the Beautiful Quarters Silver Proof Set 03/29/11
Andrew Johnson Presidential Dollar Coin Cover 03/31/11
Glacier Quarter Bags and Two-Roll Set 04/04/11
2011 American Gold Buffalo Proof Coin 04/18/11
2011 America the Beautiful Quarters Uncirculated Set 04/19/11
2011 American Gold Eagle Proof Coins 04/21/11
Mount Hood Quarter Three-Coin Set 05/04/11
2011 American Eagle Uncirculated Gold Coin 05/05/11
Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Dollar Rolls 05/19/11
2011 American Platinum Eagle Proof Coin 05/26/11
Julia Grant First Spouse Gold Coin 06/02/11
Julia Grant Bronze Medal 1-5/16" 06/02/11
Olympic Quarter Bags and Two-Roll Set 06/13/11
Ulysses S. Grant Presidential $1 Coin & First Spouse Medal Set 06/23/11
Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Dollar Coin Cover 06/30/11
2011 American Silver Eagle Proof Coins By 07/06/11
Gettysburg Quarter Three-Coin Set 07/27/11
Glacier Quarter Three-Coin Set 07/27/11
Olympic Quarter Three-Coin Set 07/27/11
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Dollar Rolls 08/18/11
Vicksburg Quarter Bags and Two-Roll Set 08/29/11
Lucy Hayes First Spouse Gold Coin 09/01/11
Lucy Hayes Bronze Medal 1-5/16" 09/01/11
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential $1 Coin & First Spouse Medal Set 09/22/11
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Dollar Coin Cover 09/29/11
Vicksburg Quarter Three-Coin Set 10/19/11
Chickasaw Quarter Bags and Two-Roll Set 11/14/11
James Garfield Presidential Dollar Rolls 11/17/11
2011 America the Beautiful Quarters Circulating Coin Set 11/22/11
Lucretia Garfield First Spouse Gold Coin 12/01/11
Lucretia Garfield Bronze Medal 1-5/16" 12/01/11
First Spouse Bronze Four-Medal Set 12/01/11
Chickasaw Quarter Three-Coin Set 12/20/11
James Garfield Presidential $1 Coin & First Spouse Medal Set 12/22/11
James Garfield Presidential Dollar Coin Cover 12/29/11
2011 American Silver Eagle Uncirculated Coin TBD


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Proof Silver Eagle Sold Out

The United States Mint's website is now showing the 2010 Proof Silver Eagle as sold out. This product joins the one-half ounce Proof Gold Eagle as another somewhat unexpected sell out.

The 2010 Proof Silver Eagle originally went on sale November 19, 2010 with no stated maximum mintage, and an initial household ordering limit of 100 coins. Collector interest was expected to be high, after the cancellation of the prior year release and against the backdrop of strong performance for the price of silver.

When the US Mint reported debut sales figures of 273,212 coins for the period November 19 to 21, I questioned the numbers as possibly being under reported. Later that week, it was revealed that approximately 2,200 orders had been deleted in error, accounting for some of the discrepancy. Two weeks later when the next report was available, the US Mint showed sales of 707,704.

This week's sales report
showed total sales of 834,879, unchanged from the prior week. I asked the US Mint for clarification on the figure, but have not yet received a response. It now seems that the figure may not have been updated since the product was close to selling out.

If the final sales are around this level, the 2010 Proof Silver Eagle would rank as the fourth highest mintage of all proof coins for the series. However, products which sell out unexpectedly, as opposed to lingering into the following year, seem to experience a boost in premium on the secondary market. We'll have to wait and see if this develops.


Abraham Lincoln Presidential $1 Coin Cover

The US Mint will release the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Dollar Coin Cover on December 30, 2010 at 12:00 Noon ET. This will represent the final numismatic product release of the year.

The product will follow the same format as the previous releases of the American Presidency $1 Coin Cover series. Two 2010 Abraham Lincoln Presidential Dollars from the first day of mintage at the Philadelphia and Denver Mints will be mounted on an illustrated display card. The 44-cent Flag postage stamp is canceled with the postmark "November 18, 2010, Springfield, IL" representing the official circulation release date.

The sets are priced at $15.95 each and carry a maximum production limit of 37,000. This is 5,000 units greater than the limit set for the other 2010 releases, in anticipation of higher demand for the Lincoln set.

Back when the American Presidency $1 Coin Cover series began in 2007, the production limits were set at 50,000 units and sell outs were achieved for at least the first three releases. Since that time, sales have softened, and the US Mint has dropped the product limits.

So far, the 2010 releases have sold 21,653 (Millard Fillmore), 19,808 (Franklin Pierce), and 17,908 (James Buchanan). It's almost certain that the Abraham Lincoln cover will see higher sales, but a sell out might be difficult to achieve.

Last Opportunity Products

On December 30, 2010 at 3:00 PM ET, the US Mint will conclude sales for three prior year products.

Sales will end for the 2009 District of Columbia & U.S. Territories Quarters Proof Set, which originally went on sale nearly two years ago. To date, sales have reached 635,423. The sets are available at the original price of $14.95 for the six coin set.

The presidential $1 Coin & First Spouse Medal Sets for James K. Polk and Zachary Taylor will also conclude. Each of these sets is priced at $8.95. Last reported sales for the sets are 9,889 (Polk) and 8,746 (Taylor), however the US Mint has not provided updated numbers for these products in several weeks.
Coin Update News: Latest US Mint Sales Report

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Monday, December 27, 2010

2011 Annual Sets Release Dates

The release dates are now available for the United States Mint's 2011 Proof Set, 2011 Mint Set, and 2011 Silver Proof Set. The Mint had previously announced that these products would be available earlier in the year due to collector feedback.
The 2011 Proof Set containing 14 different proof coins struck at the San Francisco Mint will be released on January 11, 2011. The 2011 Silver Proof Set, containing 90% silver versions of the proof dime, quarters, and half dollar, along with the remaining coins in standard compositions will be released on January 25, 2011. The 2011 Mint Set, containing 28 coins struck at the Philadelphia and Denver Mints will be released on February 8, 2011. The coins in this set will feature a brilliant finish rather than the satin finish.

Based on the above image included with an email from the US Mint, each of the annual sets will feature packaging designed with the US Mint's new branding.

An interesting thing to consider is that it seems the full annual sets will be released prior to the component sets. For example, typically the US Mint releases separate Presidential Dollar Proof Sets and Quarter Proof Sets prior to the release of the full sets. One of the incentives of buying the component sets was to get the coins earlier, since the full annual sets were released months later. This year, there will be less incentive to purchase the component sets, likely resulting in a drop in unit sales.

At this time, pricing details for the 2011 annual sets has not yet been provided. Last year, prices for the most popular sets were increased, despite the fact that the number of coins per set declined from the prior year. Hopefully, prices for the Proof Set and Mint Set will not be increased again, although an adjustment for the Silver Proof Set could be justified based on the higher price of silver.

Previous inquiries to the US Mint have indicated that the 2010 Proof Set, 2010 Mint Set, and 2010 Silver Proof Set will remain on sale even after sales of the 2011-dated sets begin. In recent years, the US Mint has often timed the end of sales for annual products with the start of sales for the new version. I was told that the 2010-dated sets would remain on sale until December 31, 2011.
Coin Update News: 2011 Proof Platinum Eagle Design Candidates


Thursday, December 23, 2010

2011 Presidential Dollars Images and Release Dates

The line art images and release dates for the 2011 Presidential Dollars are now available from the United States Mint. Next year's coins will feature the former Presidents Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James A. Garfield.

This will represent the fifth year and nearly the half-way point for the series. Under the current law, Presidential Dollars are issued for any former President who has been deceased for at least two years. The series continues until all eligible Presidents have been honored.

The legislative requirement that each design of the series must be available through the Federal Reserve System has kept mintages for each release relatively high, despite a growing stockpile of coins within Treasury vaults.

Many collectors report being able to acquire rolls of each new issue from their bank at face value. The Federal Reserve provides banks and financial institutions with a special ordering period surrounding the circulation release date during which unmixed quantities of newly issued coins can be ordered. Such procedures are not in place for the America the Beautiful Quarters.

The obverse design and release date for each of the 2011 Presidential Dollars appears below. The reverse of each coin features the image of the Statue of Liberty designed and sculpted by Don Everhart that has been used for each release of the series.

Andrew Johnson Presidential Dollar
Designed and sculpted by Don Everhart
Release Date: February 17, 2011

Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Dollar
Designed and sculpted by Don Everhart
Release Date: May 19, 2011

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Dollar
Designed and sculpted by Don Everhart
Release Date: August 18, 2011

James Garfield Presidential Dollar
Designed and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill
Release Date: November 17, 2011

Hopefully, this will be the last Mint News Blog post until next week, so I can spend some time with my family. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to readers and their families! Thank you for your readership and comments throughout the year.


Abraham Lincoln Presidential $1 Coin & First Spouse Medal Set

Today, the United States Mint will release the Presidential Dollar Coin & First Spouse Medal Set featuring Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. This will be the second to last US Mint numismatic product release of the year.
Each set will include one uncirculated Abraham Lincoln Presidential Dollar and one Mary Todd Lincoln Bronze Medal mounted on a plastic card containing portraits of the President and First Lady. Based on the images used on the US Mint product page, the packaging style will be the old style used for previous issues of in the series.

The sets will be priced at $11.95 each, with no household ordering limits. A production limit has not been indicated. Orders will be accepting starting at 12:00 Noon ET.

Since this is a Lincoln related product, higher sales levels than other recent issues are expected. The Lincoln Presidential Dollar Rolls have already outsold the prior release for James Buchanan by more than 30%. Interesting to note, the production levels for Lincoln Dollars were also about 30% higher than the Buchanan issue.

It seems that the US Mint has anticipated the higher demand for Lincoln Presidential Dollars and related products and produced the coins and products in greater numbers. Thus the higher demand might be offset by the greater supply, possibly eliminating any "Lincoln premium".


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mint News Blog Quick Updates

The news has really been stacking up lately. This post will quickly relay some information on the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins, Edmund Moy's resignation, and the release of 2011-dated Gold and Silver Eagles.

America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins

According to the United States Mint, nine out of the eleven authorized purchasers have ordered their allotment of ATB Silver Bullion Coins.

Scotia Mocatta and Commerzbank are the ones who have not placed orders. See the list of US Mint authorized purchasers for the names of the other nine.

The coins which would have been allocated to the two AP's who did not place orders will be reallocated to the participating AP's this week.

I know many collectors are seeking for more information on precisely where and how to purchase the coins. Unfortunately I am not privy to the sales and distribution plans of private companies.

According to the US Mint, there have been no changes to the terms and conditions set for authorized purchasers. This means that they must distribute all coins directly to the public, limit their premiums to 10% above their acquisition cost from the US Mint, impose ordering limits of one coin per design per household, and no coins may be sold to officers or employees of the companies.

The consequences of not following these rules include suspension or permanent removal from the authorized purchaser distribution network. The US Mint has reserved the right to examine records, books, and other documents of the authorized purchasers to ensure the rules are followed.

Edmund Moy Resigns

Edmund Moy, the Director of the United States Mint, announced his resignation earlier this week. He had been appointed by President George W. Bush for a five year term and was sworn in on September 5, 2006.

With his resignation effective January 9, 2011, he will have served as the 38th Director of the United States Mint for four years and four months.

The US Mint's press release indicates that he had accepted a position in the private sector. A separate press release from L&L Energy indicated that Edmund Moy will become their Vice President of Corporate Infrastructure. L&L Energy is a coal-mining company, with a corporate office located in Seattle, Washington.

2011 American Gold and Silver Eagles

The US Mint will begin accepting orders from authorized purchasers for the 2011 Silver Eagle and 2011 Gold Eagle bullion coins on January 3, 2011.

Traditionally, authorized purchasers have been able to place orders for coins bearing the following years date in December, with delivery in early January. Last year, orders were not accepted until January 19.

An inventory of 2010-dated Gold and Silver Eagles remains and seems to be expected to last through year-end. Any coins remaining in January 2011 will be sold on a ratio basis to authorized purchasers ordering 2011-dated coins.

For now, only one ounce 2011 Gold Eagles will be available. For the past two years, the fractional weight coins have been released separately, later in the year.


2010 One-Half Ounce Proof Gold Eagle Sold Out?

According to the US Mint's website, the 2010 Proof Gold Eagle individual one-half ounce option has sold out. The product has been moved to the "No Longer Available" section with the ordering buttons removed and "Sold Out" in their place.

This is a very surprising development since according to the latest US Mint sales report, the individual one-half ounce option had sold only 10,131 out of the 15,000 product limit. This suggests that nearly 5,000 coins were ordered in the past few days.

If the sell out did actually occur (in some cases US Mint products have been marked "sold out," only to later return later), perhaps the other available 2010 Proof Gold Eagles also experienced similar surges in sales during the past few days.

As of December 19, the individual one-quarter ounce coin had sold 7,930, leaving 8,070 of the product limit available. The one-tenth ounce coin had sold 17,871, leaving 9,129 available. The 4 Coin Set had sold 31,846, leaving 7,154 available.

The individual one ounce option had previously sold out on November 1, with the entire 25,000 product limit purchased in less than a month.


Monday, December 20, 2010

2011 U.S. Army Gold and Silver Commemorative Coins

The US Mint has announced the final design selections for the 2011 U.S. Army Commemorative Coins. The program will include a $5 gold coin, silver dollar, and clad half dollar.

For the past two years, commemorative coin programs have only included a silver dollar. Both of next year's programs will each include multiple coins. Between the program to honor the U.S. Army and the program for the Medal of Honor, there will be a total of five commemorative coins issued in the coming year.

The design selections made by the Secretary of the Treasury are shown below. As in the past, I will also mention the recommendations made by the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC) and the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA). All of the original design candidates can be found here.

The 2011 Army $5 Gold Coin obverse represents service in war with depictions of soldiers from different eras, including the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the modern era. The obverse was designed by Joel Iskowitz and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill. The CCAC had recommended a different view of the five soldiers from the waist up, although significant support for the selected design was also expressed. The CFA had recommended a full length view of three soldiers from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and World War II.

The reverse of the coin is based on the official U.S. Army emblem, as sculpted by Joseph Menna. This selection followed the recommendation of the CCAC, with the rearrangement of the inscriptions "United States of America" and "Department of the Army" that they had suggested. The CFA favored an alternate design with a border between the emblem and inscriptions.

The 2011 Army Silver Dollar depicts a male and female soldier with a globe in the background to symbolize the Army of the 21st Century. This was designed by Richard Masters and sculpted by Michael Gaudioso. The CCAC had recommended this design, also suggesting that the female be altered to depict an African American woman. This was not acted upon, although the goggles originally present on the male soldier were removed. Removal of the goggles had been suggested for the $5 gold coin candidates. The CFA made no recommendation, questioning "the legibility of the figures, the multiplicity of elements, and the jarring depiction of goggles on some of the soldiers."

For the reverse, an image of the Great Seal of the United States with the seven core values of the Army is presented. The reverse was designed by Susan Gamble and sculpted by Don Everhart. The CCAC had recommended a design portraying a solider carrying a wounded comrade, while a third solider provided cover. The CFA had recommended the selected design since it was "the only option that properly balances the proposed depiction of human figures on the obverse."

The 2011 Army Half Dollar is intended to symbolize service in peace. The obverse depicts a solider surveying, two servicemen building a flood wall, and the Redstone Army rocket, as designed by Donna Weaver and sculpted Charles Vickers. Both the CCAC and CFA had rejected all obverse design candidates, including the selected design. The CCAC commented that the designs were "too cluttered and lacked focus", also questioning the accuracy of some images. The CFA commented, "the multiplicity of design elements and pictorial complexity was excessive for an object at the size of a coin."

The reverse design depicts a Continental solider armed with a musket, as designed by Thomas Cleveland and sculpted by Joseph Menna. This design was recommended by both the CFA and CCAC.


Friday, December 17, 2010

American Palladium Eagles

On December 14, 2010, the bill H.R. 6166 was signed into law, which will likely result in a new series of American Palladium Eagles.

The US Mint will be required to mint and issue the one ounce .9995 fine palladium bullion coins, provided that a marketing study demonstrates sufficient demand for the coins exists. The new coins would need to be issued in quantities that the Secretary "may determine to be appropriate to meet demand", beginning within one year from the submission of the marketing study.

The designs for the American Palladium Eagle would be high relief likenesses of the work of Adolph A. Weinman. The obverse design of the Mercury Dime would be used, paired with his reverse design for the 1907 American Institute of Architects Medal.

Here are the two designs side by side.

Given the problems the US Mint has experienced in recent years meeting demand for gold and silver bullion coins, as well as this year's problems with issuing the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins, was creating another bullion program a good idea?

The legislation does provide some greater flexibility for the US Mint than past programs. The purity of the coins and the bullion weight are specified, but the diameter and thickness are left to the discretion of the Treasury Secretary. This flexibility may have been provided in response to the challenging diameter originally stipulated for the ATB Silver Bullion Coins, which led to early production problems

The legislation states that the Secretary of the Treasury shall acquire the palladium used for the coins through the purchase of palladium mined from natural deposits in the United States within one year after the month in which it was mined. However, the palladium may be sourced from other available sources if this is not feasible or if no such palladium exists. This allowance may have been provided in response to the challenges the US Mint has encountered sourcing gold and silver under the requirements sets for other programs.

On the other hand, the collector versions of the Palladium Eagles carry some very specific requirements. For some other bullion programs, specific authorization or requirements for numismatic versions are not included, but rather these coins are struck on the Treasury Secretary's general authority to create numismatic items.

For the Palladium Eagles, both proof and uncirculated versions are are specifically authorized. It is also included that to the greatest extent possible the "surface treatment" of each year's proof or uncirculated version must differ in some material way from the preceding year. Based on this requirement, there would be an alternating or possibly ever-changing appearance for the collector series.

At this point, it's not clear how the US Mint might handle this requirement in practice. Will the coins alternate in proof and reverse proof? Would different background effects be used? (The Perth Mint has used frosted or shimmer backgrounds for Silver Koalas.) Would uncirculated coins be brilliant or satin? Gilded or colorized?

Finally, there are some odd requirements for the US Mint facilities to be used in striking the Palladium Eagles. For bullion and uncirculated coins, any facility other than West Point may be used. While for proof coins, only the West Point Mint must be used.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

US Mint Coin Production November 2010

United States Mint circulating coin production figures have been updated through November 2010. Final or preliminary mintages have also been made available for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Dollar and Mount Hood National Forest Quarter.

During November 2010, the US Mint struck 531.46 million coins for circulation at the Philadelphia and Denver facilities. This represents a decline of about 200 million from the prior month and the lowest monthly production since April.

The table below presents the breakdown of circulating coins produced for November, along with total production levels for the year to date.

2010 US Mint Coin Production Figures

November 2010 YTD 2010
Lincoln Cent - Denver 177.20 M 1,982.80 M
Lincoln Cent - Phil. 166.80 M 1,970.43 M
Jefferson Nickel - Denver 34.32 M 226.56 M
Jefferson Nickel - Phil. 38.64 M 260.64 M
Roosevelt Dime - Denver 53.00 M 548.50 M
Roosevelt Dime - Phil. 61.50 M 557.00 M
Quarters - Denver 0 173.40 M
Quarters - Phil. 0 173.60 M
Kennedy Half - Denver 0 1.70 M
Kennedy Half - Phil. 0 1.80 M
Native Am Dollar - Denver 0 42.98 M
Native Am Dollar - Phil. 0 32.06 M
Pres Dollar - Denver 0 159.88 M
Pres Dollar - Phil. 0 161.56 M

Total 531.46 M 6,292.91 M

Only cents, nickels, and dimes were produced this month, with no production reported for the other denominations.

For the year to date, the Mint has struck 487.20 million Jefferson Nickels across both facilities compared to just 86.64 million in the prior year. Year to date production for Roosevelt Dimes has now reached 1,105.50 million, compared to 146.00 million in the prior year.

Year to date production of Lincoln Cents now approaches the 4 billion mark. The smallest denomination accounts for 62.8% of the US Mint's total circulating coin production for this year.

Updates have been made to the breakdown of circulating coin production figures by design. Figures for each of the different designs for the 2010 America the Beautiful Quarters and Presidential Dollars are now available.

2010 US Mint Coin Production by Design

Denver Phil. Total
Hot Springs Quarter 34.00 M 35.60 M 69.60 M
Yellowstone Quarter 34.80 M 33.60 M 68.40 M
Yosemite Quarter 34.80 M 35.20 M 70.00 M
Grand Canyon Quarter 35.40 M 34.80 M 70.20 M
Mount Hood Quarter 34.40 M 34.40 M 68.80 M

321.44 M

Fillmore Dollar 36.96 M 37.52 M 74.48 M
Pierce Dollar 38.36 M 38.22 M 76.58 M
Buchanan Dollar 36.54 M 36.82 M 73.36 M
Abraham Lincoln 48.02 M 49.00 M 97.02 M

347.00 M

The Mount Hood Quarter had 34.4 million coins struck for circulation at each facility. This is around the same level as the other four issues for this year. The US Mint indicates that the figures for all 2010 America the Beautiful Quarters are still preliminary, as production for any design may be restarted during the year of issue to fulfill demand from the bulk purchase program.

The Abraham Lincoln Dollar had overall production for circulation of 97.02 million, made up of 48.02 million coins from Philadelphia and 49 million from Denver. This breaks the general trend of declining mintages for the series. The last coin in the series with a higher mintage was the ninth release featuring William Henry Harrison at 98.42 million.
Coin Update News: 2011 Presidential Dollar Release Dates


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

US Mint Authorized Purchaser List

The US Mint has provided an updated list of authorized purchasers. There are some changes from a list provided by the Mint last week.

For current and future reference, listed below are the 11 primary distributors of United States Mint bullion products who are able to purchase directly from the Mint:

A-Mark Precious Metals (Los Angeles) Gold, Silver, Platinum
Coins 'N Things (Massachusetts) Gold, Silver, Platinum
MTB (New York) Gold, Silver Platinum
Scotia Mocatta (New York) Gold, Silver, Platinum
American Precious Metals Exchange, Inc. (Oklahaoma) Silver
Dillon Gage Incorporated of Dallas (Texas) Silver
Prudential Securities Inc. (New York) Gold, Silver, Platinum
The Gold Center (Illinois) Silver
Jack Hunt Coin Broker (New York) Silver
Commerzbank (New York) Gold, Silver
Fidelitrade (Delaware) Silver

There is also some new information on the distribution of the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins. So far, the primary distributors have ordered only 75,000 of the total 165,000 coins available.

Each of the 11 primary distributors were provided with an allocation of 3,000 coins per design, or 15,000 coins total. It looks like only five of them have placed an order with the US Mint for their allocation, and the remaining six are opting out of the program or still evaluating their options. They will have until the end of the week to place their order, or the excess coins will be reallocated to the active dealers the following week.

Separately, a new weekly US Mint numismatic products sales report is available.


Monday, December 13, 2010

End of Satin Finish Officially Announced

In a brief press release, the United States Mint has officially announced the end of "satin finish" for uncirculated mint sets and other collector products. Starting in 2011, the "brilliant finish" will be reinstated.

The "satin finish" was created by sandblasting the faces of the dies and burnishing coin blanks before striking. The resulting coins have a frosted appearance that is distinguishable from regular business strikes.

From 2005 to 2010, the satin finish was used for all Mint Sets and certain collector products. From years 2004 and prior, the US Mint used a finish for Mint Sets that is not distinguished from circulation strike coins.

The major grading services PCGS and NGC differentiate the satin finish coins from business strikes. Generally, it is possible (although sometimes difficult) to find satin finish coins in high grades like MS69, whereas business strike coins for the same issue might top out at MS67. Accordingly, graded examples of satin finish coins and business strike coins are valued differently.

Back in a post from October, I had noted a CoinWorld article, which indicated that the US Mint would stop using the finish next year. For the article, the US Mint had cited efforts to extend die life and customer feedback as the reasons for the change. For the press release, the Mint stressed the more "aesthetically pleasing" appearance that will result from reverting to the old finish. Surface marks from coin handling systems will be less apparent with the brilliant finish.

This is a major development for some collectors of modern series, who may have been acquiring separate examples of the business strike coins and satin finish coins. For example, this year five different Jefferson Nickels would have been necessary to update a collection. This would include 2010-P business strike, 2010-D business strike, 2010-P satin finish, 2010-D satin finish, and 2010-S proof. For 2011, only three coins would be required, all of which will be readily available through US Mint products.

Will the end of satin finish cause an increase in demand or greater desirability for 2005-2010 Mint Sets? If the satin finish coins are considered separately from the business strikes, some low mintages emerge. For example, the 2008 Mint Set had last reported sales of less than 750,000, far below the mintages for business strikes and even proof coins. On the other hand, all satin finish coins were distributed directly to collectors and the lower mintages of "special mint set" coins issued from 1965-1967 aren't particularly noted.

Switching finishes seems to have implications for some US Mint products. For example, separate circulating coin and uncirculated coin sets for America the Beautiful Quarters are currently offered. Will one of these products be discontinued?

New Coin Update News Contributor

I am happy to announce that Louis Golino will be a new regular contributor for Coin Update News! His articles have previously appeared in Numismatic News, CoinWorld, and other publications.

His first article is on the ATB Silver Bullion Coins, which still have not been made available to collectors. A more formal introductory article will be published next week, which will outline the themes and areas of coverage for his column. started out publishing a round up of coin collecting news from various sites around the internet. It has expanded to include original news coverage and articles on U.S. coins, world coins, and precious metals from a variety of authors, plus information about new and classic coin series.

If you haven't already, please check out Coin Update News or subscribe to receive news articles or updates by email or RSS.


2011 America the Beautiful Quarters

Amidst the tumultuous announcements and events of the past few weeks, the United States Mint unveiled the design selections for the 2011 America the Beautiful Quarters.

The United States Mint typically prepares three to five design candidates for each quarter based on source materials provided by a federal liaison to the site. The design candidates are provided to the Secretary of the Interior, the chief executive of the host jurisdiction, the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee (CCAC), the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) for review and comment. The final decision is made by the Secretary of the Treasury.

Since the opinions expressed by the CCAC and CFA are publicly available, it is always interesting to see how the final design selections compare to their recommendations.

Included below are images of the designs selected for each of the 2011 America the Beautiful Quarters, the designers and sculptors, circulation release dates, and some information about the recommendations and comments provided by the CCAC and CFA.

Images of all of the original design candidates can be found here.

Gettysburg National Military Park Quarter
Designed by Joel Iskowitz and sculpted by Phebe Hemphill
Release Date: January 24, 2011

The reverse design depicts the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry Monument. The CCAC had discussed the design candidates for this quarter at length, due to the importance of the battle as a turning point of the Civil War. They had encouraged the US Mint to prepare other design candidates that were more symbolic in nature, but had recommended the selected design with 12 out of 33 possible votes. The CFA had recommended a different design candidate depicting Soldier's National Monument.

Glacier National Park Quarter
Designed by Barbara Fox and sculpted by Charles Vickers
Release Date: April 4, 2011

The selected design portrays a view of the northeast slope of Mount Reynolds with a mountain goat standing on a rocky outcropping in the foreground. This design candidate was the clear favorite of both the CCAC and CFA.

Olympic National Park Quarter
Designed by Susan Gamble and sculpted by Michael Gaudioso
Release Date: June 13, 2011

A Roosevelt Elk is shown standing on a gravel river bar of the Hoh River. Mount Olympus is seen in the background. Once again, this was in agreement with the recommendations of both the CCAC and CFA.

Vicksburg National Military Park Quarter
Designed by Thomas Cleveland and sculpted by Joseph Menna
Release Date: August 29, 2011

The reverse of the quarter depicts the U.S.S. Cairo on the Yazoo River, as it would have appeared when it served during the Civil War. This was a city class ironclad gunboat of the Union Navy. The CFA had recommended this design, commenting on the quality of the composition, and its virtue of showcasing the historical significance of the Navy during the Civil War. The CFA had favored a different design candidate, which depicted the entrance arch of the park.

Chickasaw National Recreation Area Quarter
Designed by Donna Weaver and sculpted by Jim Licaretz
Release Date: November 14, 2011

The reverse design features an image of Lincoln Bridge, dedicated in 1909 for the centennial of Lincoln's birth. The CCAC had recommended a different candidate, which depicted Buffalo Springs amid its stone spillway. The CFA did not recommend any of the design candidates, but had suggested that the selected design be further developed by simplifying or eliminating the landscape setting. No changes from the original candidate are apparent.
Coin Update News: 2011 Army Commemorative Coins Designs


Thursday, December 9, 2010

ATB Silver Bullion Coin Premiums Capped, Orders Limited

After a few days of waiting, we have a resolution to the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins situation. In short, the premium that the US Mint's primary distributors can charge will be limited to a maximum of 10%, all coins must be sold to the public, and limits of one coin per design per household will be imposed.

These requirements are outlined in a new set of terms and conditions for authorized purchasers who wish to participate in the distribution of America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins.
See the related Coin Update News article.
These terms would accomplish the intended purpose of making the coins as widely available to the public as possible at affordable premiums. However, in practice, things might become a bit complicated.

As mentioned in some previous articles, there is a small group of 11 primary distributors who will be able to purchase the ATB Silver Bullion Coins directly from the US Mint. Each one has an allocation of 3,000 coins per design, which they will be eligible to order.

Now, the coins can only be ordered if the new terms and conditions are followed. Any distributors who order their allocation would be required to sell all coins directly to the public, at a limited premium, with household limits imposed.

To my knowledge, only one of the distributors has a well established retail level business. The others might might have a difficult time setting up the procedures or infrastructure to deal in relatively small retail level transactions with very specific requirements.

Perhaps realizing this situation, the US Mint has indicated that in the event that one or more primary distributors does not purchase their allocations, any remaining amounts would be available to active sellers on an allocated basis on December 20, 2010.

Ironically, this may result in much of the supply going to the primary distributor whose pricing started this entire chain of events. If it does, at least they would be bound by the new terms and conditions, which will result in widespread distribution at a reasonable premium.

For readers who might want to contact the US Mint's other primary distributors to see whether they plan to purchase their allocation and make it available to the public, I have a listing of all 11 below.

A-Mark Precious Metals (Los Angeles)
Coins 'N Things Inc. (Massachusetts)
MTB (New York)
Scotia Mocatta (New York)
American Precious Metals Exchange, Inc. (APMEX) (Oklahoma)
Dillon Gage Incorporated of Dallas (Texas)
Prudential Securities Inc. (New York)
The Gold Center (Illinois)
Commerzbank (New York)
Jack Hunt Coin Broker (New York)
Fidelitrade (Delaware)

List updated 12/14/2010


American Veterans Disabled for Life Silver Dollar Sales Ending December 13

Sales of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Silver Dollars will conclude at the US Mint on December 13, 2010 at 5:00 PM ET. This is one of two commemorative coin programs that were authorized for this year.

The silver dollars issued under the other program celebrating the centennial of the Boy Scouts of America previously sold out of the maximum mintage in August.

The Disabled Veterans Silver Dollars originally went on sale February 25, 2010. Initial pricing was $33.95 for the uncirculated version and $35.95 for the proof version. The maximum authorized mintage was set at 350,000, with an ordering limit of 100 coins per household in place for the start of sales.

In the first three days of availability, the US Mint recorded sales of nearly 100,000 of the commemorative coins, representing 28% of the maximum mintage.

After an introductory period, pricing was adjusted to $35.95 for uncirculated coins and $43.95 for proof coins.

According to the most recent sales figures, the US Mint has sold 262,778 coins. This is made up of 186,941 proofs and 75,837 uncirculated coins. The pace of sales has picked up in the final days of availability, with more than 7,000 coins sold in the past two weeks.

By law, the US Mint is mint and issue the commemorative coins for the entire calendar year. However, as in the past, sales will conclude earlier to allow time for order fulfillment and shipping.

Other Mint News

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential $1 Coin Cover, which will be released on December 30, 2010 will have a maximum production of 37,000 units. This compares to a production limit of 32,000 units for each of the other 2010 American Presidency $1 Coin Covers.

Similar to the situation for the Mary Todd Lincoln First Spouse Gold Coin, the US Mint must be expecting higher demand for the Lincoln product compared to other Presidents.

Separately, the US Mint dispatched a brief blurb yesterday through one of their RSS feeds indicating that next week the US Mint's website will get a "fresh, new look." This might be further extension of their recently adopted new brand promise and identity.
New Coin Grader Capsule: Coin Grading Disagreements


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

2010 Proof Silver Eagles at 707,704

The total reported sales for the 2010 Proof Silver Eagle have now reached 707,704. After less than three weeks of sales, this amount has already exceeded the final mintage of the last available issue of the series.

The US Mint did not provide sales data last week, so the latest report available on Coin Update News reflects two weeks worth of new sales data. The Proof Silver Eagle had debuted with sales of 273,212, so the latest total represents an increase of 434,492.

In most cases, the strongest sales for newly released US Mint products tend to occur within the opening days, with the pace of sales quickly diminishing in subsequent weeks. Based on the figures provided, either the 2010 Proof Silver Eagle has broken with this trend, or as I had suggested, the opening figures were possibly under reported.

Also potentially coming into play were the 2,200 orders from the first days of sales that were deleted in error by the US Mint. Likely most of these orders were reinstated in the following week. Also, the household ordering limit was removed late last week, creating the potential for large bulk orders to be placed.

As mentioned, the sales total for the current release already exceed the 2008 Proof Silver Eagle final mintage of 700,979. More broadly, the sales already represent the ninth highest mintage across all Proof Silver Eagles.

Proof Silver Eagle Mintages - Sorted High to Low
1986 1,446,778
2006 1,092,477
1987 904,732
2007 821,759
2005 816,663
2004 801,602
2003 747,831
2001 746,398
2010 707,704*
2008 700,979
1990 695,510
2002 647,342
1989 617,694
2000 600,743
1988 557,370
1999 549,330
1991 511,924
1992 498,543
1996 498,293
1998 450,728
1997 440,315
1995 407,822
1993 405,913
1994 372,168
1995-W 30,125
* still on sale.

Numismatic Gold Coin Pricing

Separately, there will possibly be another price increase for available US Mint numismatic gold coins. Under the current policy, prices may be adjusted weekly based on changes changes in the price of gold.

Price tiers are established at $50 increments for gold. If the average London Fix price of gold from the prior Thursday AM to the current Wednesday AM, moves into a higher tier, then product prices are adjusted accordingly. As an additional condition, the Wednesday PM price must also fall into the higher tier.

The average London Fix price for this week would fall into a higher tier as long as the tomorrow's London AM fix price comes in at $1,353 or higher. More key to the situation will be tomorrow's London PM fix price, established around 11:00 PM ET. If it comes in at $1,400 or high, a price increase will take place. If it comes in below $1,400, no price changes would occur.

A price increase would impact the available 2010 First Spouse Gold Coins, 2010 Proof American Gold Eagles, and 2010 Proof American Gold Buffalo.


Monday, December 6, 2010

ATB Silver Bullion Coins Delayed

As just reported on Coin Update News, the US Mint has delayed the release of the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins. The move comes in response concerns expressed by many consumers about the high premiums being charged for the new 5 ounce silver bullion series.

The US Mint is now evaluating reports and collecting information to assess the appropriate course of action.

Over the weekend, one of the US Mint's primary distributors began accepting orders for complete 5 coin sets, priced at $1,395 each. The 1,000 sets that were offered sold out in less than 24 hours.

The pricing for the set represented a premium of about $130 above the market value of the silver content. As a primary distributor, this dealer was allowed to purchase the coins directly from the Mint for $9.75 above the silver value.

The US Mint utilizes the authorized purchaser network since it is believed to be the most effective and efficient manner to distribute the bullion coins to the public. Specifically, the Mint seeks to ensure that the coins are:
A. As widely available to the public as possible;
B. Bought and sold at prices/premiums that are in line with other similar silver bullion coin products in the marketplace; and
C. Bought and sold in a manner that ensures relatively low transaction costs.
By creating a bullion coin with a minuscule mintage of 33,000 units per issue, the system broke down.

Congress put the US Mint in a difficult situation by mandating a new bullion coin program with complicated specifications at a time when they could not keep up with demand for existing programs. The US Mint put their primary distributors in a difficult situation by asking that they distribute instant rarities at reasonable premiums. The end consumer was faced with a choice of paying a high premium for a government product distributed through a privileged system, or opting out.

I am curious to see how the US Mint will handle the program at this point. If they really want "to ensure the widest possible availability, accessibility and affordability of these coins", the most logical choice would be to distribute the coins directly to the public in a manner similar to numismatic products.

The problem is that this option does not seem to be available under the authorizing legislation, which calls for the bullion coins to be distributed by "authorized dealers utilized by the Secretary in distributing bullion coins" or the National Park service. The NPS has oddly expressed no interest in buying the coins for resale, as provided under law.

Another option would be to produce the bullion coins in the kind of quantity that bullion coins should be produced. This would eliminate the rarity factor and make the coins primarily bullion.

This might happen for years 2011 onward, but for the current year, the option is probably unfeasible. The US Mint must have hit a production or supply bottleneck that only allows the limited production already indicated.