Mint News Blog

News, Information, and Commentary on US Mint Products

Thursday, July 28, 2011

2010-P Mount Hood Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coin

Today July 28, 2011 at 12:00 Noon ET, the United States Mint will release the fifth 2010-P America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coin. This issue features Mount Hood National Forest.

The reverse of the coin has a view of Mount Hood with Lost Lake in the foreground and was designed by Phebe Hemphill. The obverse of the coin features John Flanagan's 1932 portrait of George Washington.

These numismatic coins are intended to have a surface finish created through a vapor blasting technique. Some collectors have recently encountered examples which have a "light finish" or which completely lack the finish on one or both sides of the coin. The most frequent reports have come for the Grand Canyon design, although there has been at least one reported discovery for the Yellowstone design. Coin Update recently had an article providing the known information on these errors and varieties. Yesterday, the US Mint released a statement on the inconsistent finishes.

Details of the Mount Hood Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coin follow those of the previous releases. Each coin is priced at $279.95, the total mintage is 27,000 pieces, and an ordering limit of one per household will be in place for the start of sales.

Previous releases have seen relatively swift sell outs. In most cases, after the total number of orders received have met the maximum mintage, the US Mint has continued to accept orders for placement on a waiting list. These orders are only fulfilled in the event that coins become available due to order cancellations. Based on the product page of the upcoming Mount Hood coin, the US Mint will use a waiting list again.

Here are time lines summarizing the offerings for the prior four coins in the series.

Hot Springs National Park
April 28: sales begin
May 2: opening sales reach approximately 25,000
May 13: product put on waiting list as orders reach 27,000

Yellowstone National Park
May 17: sales begin
May 22: opening sales reach 24,626
June 1: product sold out, no waiting list imposed

Yosemite National Park
June 9: sales begin
June 12: opening sales reach 20,511
June 23: waiting list incorrectly posted
July 9: ordering limit removed
July 11: incorrect waiting list notice removed
July 20: product put on waiting list as orders reach 27,000

Grand Canyon National Park
June 29: sales begin
July 3: opening sales reach 19,300
as of July 28: last reported sales 22,785, ordering limit remains in effect


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gettysburg Quarter Three Coin Set

The United States Mint has released the Gettysburg National Park Quarter Three Coin Set. This is the sixth release for the ongoing product type.

The three coin sets were introduced in late 2010, and feature uncirculated versions of the coins from the Philadelphia and Denver Mints, along with the proof version of the coin from the San Francisco Mint.

The sets including the 2010-dated coins were released on dates from November 17, 2010 (Hot Springs) to May 4, 2011 (Mount Hood). The 2011-dated coins are scheduled to be released at roughly equal intervals throughout the rest of the year.

As mentioned for each previous release of the same product type, the coins included in each set can be acquired more cheaply on a per coin basis by purchasing the relevant annual coin sets. Each three coin set is priced at $14.95.

Despite the high cost on a per coin basis, the product does seem to have a small but seemingly dedicated collector base. Sales for the previous five releases are as follows:
Hot Springs National Park 18,857
Yellowstone National Park 18,974
Yosemite National Park 16,595
Grand Canyon National Park 15,999
Mount Hood National Forest 13,609

Each of these sets continues to be available for sale on the US Mint's website. There has been no indication so far as to when sales for each of the three coin set might conclude.

America the Beautiful Quarters Album

Yesterday, the United States Mint released an album to house a collection of America the Beautiful Quarters. This product had previously appeared in the upcoming products section and had a preliminary product page, which was pulled shortly before the initial anticipated release date of July 20, 2011.

The product reappeared in the upcoming products section and has been released seemingly without any changes. The album appears to be constructed to house one example of each of the 56 America the Beautiful Quarters. Facts and information about each of the sites is included, and the albums are priced at $9.95 each.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Numismatic Gold Coin Price Increase Likely

As precious metals continue to rise, another price increase for the US Mint's numismatic gold products seems likely for this week.

Under the US Mint's flexible pricing policy covering certain gold and platinum numismatic products, price changes can occur as often as weekly based primarily on the average weekly price of the metals. The average is measured based on the London Fix price from the prior Thursday AM to the current Wednesday AM. As a further confirmation, the Wednesday PM price must agree directionally.

Currently, gold numismatic coins are priced based on an average between $1,550 to $1,599.99. The average for the current weekly period is likely to fall within the next higher range from $1,600 to $1,649.99, which would prompt a price increase. A price increase would be avoided is the Wednesday AM London Fix price is below $1,553.75, or the Wednesday PM price is below $1,600.

Otherwise, price increase would take effect as follows:

Old Price New Price
2011 1 oz Proof Gold Eagle $1,835.00 $ 1,885.00
2011 1/2 oz Proof Gold Eagle $931.00 $ 956.00
2011 1/4 oz Proof Gold Eagle $478.00 $ 490.50
2011 1/10 oz Proof Gold Eagle $205.50 $ 210.50
2011 Proof Gold Eagle 4 Coin Set $3,400.50 $ 3,493.00
2011-W Unc Gold Eagle $1,828.00 $ 1,878.00
2010 Proof Gold Buffalo $1,860.00 $ 1,910.00
Proof First Sposue Gold Coins $954.00 $ 979.00
Unc First Spouse Gold Coins $941.00 $ 966.00

As I mentioned last week, as the price of silver also rises, the chance of sales suspensions becomes increasingly likely. Silver numismatic products are not covered by the flexible pricing policy, instead sales must be suspended until new prices can be established through publication in the Federal Register.

The last time silver broke above the $40 per ounce level, the US Mint suspended two of the lower priced products. Silver is currently trading close to $41 per ounce.
Coin Update News: US Mint Sales Report


Monday, July 25, 2011

US Mint Changes Direct Ship Program

Effective July 22, 2011, the United States Mint made a major change to the Circulating $1 Coin Direct Ship Program. The coins may no longer be ordered with a credit card, but instead must be paid for by check, money order, or bank wire.

The Direct Ship Program allows individuals and small businesses to order quantities of $1 coins directly from the United States Mint at face value with no charge for delivery. The program was created in order to make the coins more readily available to the public for the purpose of introducing them into circulation.

Some individuals abused the program by ordering massive quantities of the coins with their credit card and then immediately depositing the coins ordered at their bank. This allowed credit card miles, cash back, or other rewards to be accrued at zero actual cost.

The abuses were first widely reported in late 2009. At that point, the US Mint tried to deal with the issue by indicating that rewards could not be earned through such a purchase. One article even included a quote from a Mint representative, stating that the purchases would be charged as a cash advance. Apparently, the US Mint was unable to do this, and the purchases continued to be charged as normal purchases which accrued rewards.

Other steps taken by the US Mint were to disallow purchases from some of the biggest abusers of the program and call individuals who placed large orders. Eventually, the Mint introduced ordering limits and included statements on the relevant product pages indicating that by placing an order, the customer would agree to adhere to the intention of the program. Although these steps likely cut down on some abuses, they could not prevent it completely.

Earlier this month, an article from NPR told about individuals who continued to abuse the program. This was followed by other similar articles in other mainstream publications. To make matters worse, a report was recently issued by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, estimating that 60% of the coins ordered through Direct Ship were eventually sent back to the Federal Reserve Banks.

The US Mint's statement explaining the reason for the change to Direct Ship seems to acknowledge the recent articles and the report.
The Mint has determined that this policy change is prudent due to ongoing activity by individuals purchasing $1 coins with credit cards, accumulating frequent flyer miles, and then returning coins to local banks. Local banks, in turn, returned coins to the Federal Reserve. While not illegal, this activity was a clear abuse and misuse of the program.
During the 2009 fiscal year, the US Mint reported distributing 85.2 million coins through the Direct Ship Program. The total number distributed for the 2010 fiscal year was 90.7 million. Figures are not known for the 2011 fiscal year, which will end September 30, 2011.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Quick US Mint News Updates

Update on $1 Coin Situation

As reported on Coin Update News, two bills have been introduced which seek to terminate the Presidential Dollar Coin Program. Basically, each of the bills would eliminate the section of the United States Code that provides for the design and issuance of the series.

It seems that the First Spouse Gold Coins Program would also be forced to conclude, by extension. The section of the code authorizing the 24 karat gold coin series states that the coins will be issued on the same schedule as the Presidential Dollars. Although it is not completely clear, it seems that without the issuance of further Presidential Dollars, no further First Spouse coins could be issued either,

The Native American Dollars series would be allowed to continue, although most likely in limited fashion. One of the bills provides specific restrictions on the production of $1 coins.

Each of the bills H.R. 2593 and S. 1385 have one cosponsor and have been referred to committee. In order to become law, one of the bills must be passed in the House of Representatives and Senate, and then signed by the President.

Yosemite National Park Quarter Bags and Rolls

Sales of the Yosemite Quarter numismatic bags and rolls should conclude at the US Mint next week. The products originally went on sale July 27, 2010. According to the product page, the bags and rolls are intended to remain available for one year from the initial release date.

The last reported sales figures are 7,171 of the 100-coin bags from Philadelphia, 7,219 of the 100-coin bags from Denver, and 37,174 of the two roll sets.

Final mintages for the Yosemite National Park Quarters are 34,800,000 (D) and 35,200,000 (P).

Sales of the bags and rolls for the previous Hot Springs and Yellowstone Quarters ended roughly when expected, one year after the respective release date for each product.

Disappearing America the Beautiful Quarters Album

About a week ago, the US Mint added a listing to its upcoming products section for the America the Beautiful Quarters Coin Album. It was to be released on July 20, 2011.
The product was a US Mint branded album for the new quarter series that included facts and information about each site. The price was $9.95.

At some point, the product page was deleted. (It used to be here.) Will this album be released at another later date, or has the product been abandoned?

The US Mint currently offers albums for the Presidential Dollars. The album which hold 2007-2008 coins sold 28,637 units. The album for 2009-2010 coins fared much worse, selling 7,087 units to date. I believe the album product has been discontinued for subsequent years, although the initial two remain available for sale.

A Word on Comments

Mint News Blog was launched on October 15, 2007 to provide coverage of the United States Mint, their numismatic products, circulating coins, and bullion coins. I have written more than 800 articles, trying to provide the most accurate and timely information possible, along with relevant commentary. Readers have contributed an astounding 21,000 comments, which have greatly enriched the site and the experience for all visitors.

The site is hosted on the Blogger platform, a free publishing service from Google. Although it makes starting and writing a blog simple, it lacks the robust features offered by other platforms such as Wordpress. In particular, the features for comment moderation are sorely lacking.

Recently one or more individuals started posting a high volume of vulgar and obscene comments. To make it clear, these were not dissenting numismatic opinions, but the deranged ramblings of a highly disturbed individual. Blogger lacks the capabilities to block or disallow specific individuals from posting comments, so I was forced to turn off all comments.

My plan is to convert the blog to wordpress, where I will have the necessary tools to deal with such situations. Since I don't want to lose any of the existing content or comments, this will be a slow process. Please bear with me while I work on making the switch. New articles will continue to be posted, comments will be reinstated as soon as possible.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Yosemite Five Ounce Silver Coins on Waiting List (Again)

A waiting list notice has once again been posted on the US Mint's online product page for the 2010-P Yosemite National Park Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coins. The notice had been posted nearly one month earlier, but it turned out to have been posted in error.

This coin represents the third numismatic release for the America the Beautiful Five Ounce silver Uncirculated Coins. Sales began at the US Mint on June 9, 2011. By June 12, sales had reached 20,511 units, followed by a report of total sales of 23,104 by June 19.

On June 23, 2011, a waiting list notice was posted, indicating that orders had been received to meet the entire 27,000 mintage. The notice remained in place for nearly two weeks, likely deterring some collectors from placing additional orders.

On July 8, the US Mint removed the one per household ordering limit that had previously been in place. A few days later on July 11, the Mint removed the waiting list notice. An inquiry to the Mint revealed that the waiting list notice had been posted in error and removed as soon as the issue was discovered.

Without the notice or the household ordering limits, the remaining quantity of coins was ordered by collectors in a little over a week.

At this time, the fourth release featuring Grand Canyon remains available for sale, although it is still subject to the one per household ordering limit. Sales have reached 22,026 units as of the most recent sales report.

The fifth release featuring Mount Hood is scheduled to go on sale next week July 28 at 12:00 Noon ET. The price will be the same as previous releases at $279.95 and the one per household ordering limit will be in place for the start of sales.

In related news, a new variety has been identified for the Grand Canyon Five Ounce Uncirculated Coins. Louis Golino has a discussion of the news and other series developments at Coin Update News.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gold and Platinum Product Price Increase Likely, Other Suspensions Loom

Despite the decline in precious metals prices late in the day, price increases still seem likely to occur tomorrow for the gold and platinum numismatic products covered under the US Mint's flexible pricing policy. Other products not covered by the policy face the increasing prospect of a sales suspension and eventual price increase.

In January 2009, the US Mint adopted a pricing policy for numismatic gold and platinum product which would allow changes to be implemented as frequently as weekly based on changes in the prices of the underlying precious metals. The policy specifically covered the American Gold Eagle, American Gold Buffalo, First Spouse Gold Coin, and American Platinum Eagle numismatic products.

Under the policy, the average price of gold and platinum is calculated each week based on the London Fix prices from the prior Thursday AM to the present Wednesday AM. If the price falls into a higher or lower tier (established at $50 increments for gold and $100 increments for platinum), then a pricing change would generally take place. The final requirement is for the Wednesday PM Fix price to fall within the same range directionally as the potential change.

Gold products are currently priced for within the $1,500 to $1,549.99 tier and the single platinum product is priced within the $1,650 to $1,749.99 tier. The average prices for each metal fall well within the next higher tier. The only thing that could prevent a price increase would be if the Wednesday PM gold price is below $1,550 or the the Wednesday PM platinum price is below $1,750.

Otherwise the prices would be increased as follows:

Old Price New Price
2011 1 oz Proof Gold Eagle $ 1,785.00 $ 1,835.00
2011 1/2 oz Proof Gold Eagle $ 906.00 $ 931.00
2011 1/4 oz Proof Gold Eagle $ 465.50 $ 478.00
2011 1/10 oz Proof Gold Eagle $ 200.50 $ 205.50
2011 Proof Gold Eagle 4 Coin Set $ 3,308.00 $ 3,400.50
2011-W Unc Gold Eagle $ 1,778.00 $ 1,828.00
2010 Proof Gold Buffalo $ 1,810.00 $ 1,860.00
Proof First Sposue Gold Coins $ 929.00 $ 954.00
Unc First Spouse Gold Coins $ 916.00 $ 941.00

2011 Proof Platinum Eagle $ 1,992.00 $ 2,092.00

Pricing changes under the policy are typically implemented around mid-morning on Wednesday. If the increases take place, the prices for the gold products would represent new highs. The price of the 2011 Proof Platinum Eagle would return to its initial price in effect when the coins went on sale in late May 2011.

Products which are not covered by the US Mint's flexible pricing policy must be adjusted through a more lengthy process of publication within the Federal Register. This generally involves suspending product sales for several weeks until the new prices can be published.

With the recent rise in precious metals prices, the $5 gold commemorative coins and many products with silver content face the increasing prospect of a sales suspension and repricing.

Both the Army and Medal of Honor Commemorative Coin Programs include $5 gold coins priced at $454.95 for the proof and $444.95 for the uncirculated version. These prices reflect a surcharge of $35 per coin, payable to the beneficiary organization, reducing the net proceeds for the Mint. Each coin contains roughly 0.242 troy ounces of gold, with a value of $384.30 based on the current price of gold. If the price of gold were to approach $1,700 per ounce, then the net proceeds to the mint would be less than the melt value of the gold content.

Numismatic products available from the US Mint which include silver content include the America the Beautiful Quarter Silver Proof Sets, annual Silver Proof Sets, commemorative silver dollars, September 11 silver medals, and the 2011 Proof Silver Eagle.

The silver content of each product in troy ounces is shown below.

Silver Content
ATB Quarter Silver Proof Set 0.9042
Annual Silver Proof Set 1.33823
Commem Silver Dollar 0.77344
Proof Silver Eagle 1
September 11 Silver Medal 1

The following table shows the silver value for each product, the face value of any non-silver coins included, the total of the silver and other fave value, and the US Mint's current price. Also bear in mind that the commemorative silver dollars and September 11 silver medal prices each include a $10 surcharge payable to the beneficiary organization.

Silver other FV Total Price
2010 ATBQ Silver Proof Set 35.26 0 35.26 39.95
2011 ATBQ Silver Proof Set 35.26 0 35.26 41.95
2010 Silver Proof Set 52.19 5.06 57.25 64.95
2011 Silver Proof Set 52.19 5.06 57.25 67.95
Proof Commem Silver Dollar 30.16 0 30.16 59.95
Unc Commem Silver Dollar 30.16 0 30.16 54.95
Proof Silver Eagle 39.00 0 39.00 59.95
September 11 Silver Medal 39.00 0 39.00 56.95

During silver's last run, the US Mint had halted sales of the 2010 Silver Proof Set and 2010 America the Beautiful Silver Quarters Proof Set when the price of silver had broken above the $40 per ounce level. Sales of the 2011 versions of the sets were suspended less than two weeks later as silver rose above $43 per ounce. Ultimately sales for the products resumed without any price change, after silver fell back to $35 per ounce.

Coin Update News: US Mint Sales: Numismatic Gold Coin Sales Surge


Monday, July 18, 2011

Ordering Limit Removed for 2011 Proof Silver Eagles

Effective Friday, July 15, 2011, the United States Mint removed the ordering limits for the 2011 Proof American Silver Eagle.

When the product first went on sale June 30, 2011, an ordering limit of 100 coins per household was in place. The Mint indicated that after the first week of sales, the limit would be re-evaluated and either extended, adjusted, or removed. The removal of the limit comes after the second week.

Through July 3, the US Mint had reported sales of 367,623 of the 2011 Proof Silver Eagles. In the next full week of availability, the pace of sales had declined. Another 40,368 coins were sold to bring total sales to 407,991. The next report of sales should be available tomorrow.

Last year, the ordering limit for the 2010 Proof Silver Eagle had also been removed after two weeks. Initial sales figures came in at a suspiciously low 273,212. No sales report was issued the following week. For the third week, total sales of 707,704 were reported.

Barring any unforeseen developments, the 2011 Proof Silver Eagles should remain available until very late in the current year, if not into the following year. The coins are priced at $59.95 based on a market silver price of $37.50 per ounce.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Changes Ahead for Presidential and Native American Dollars?

A report recently issued by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System suggests that changes might be ahead for Presidential Dollars and Native American Dollars. If suggested legislative actions are taken, the production levels for each of the series would likely be drastically reduced.

The report (summarized on Coin Update or available here in pdf) describes the growing stockpile of $1 coins held by Federal Reserve Banks, which has now reached more than 1.25 billion and will require the construction of a new storage facility.

The coin hoard continues to grow due to specific requirements of the authorizing legislation for each series.

Federal Reserve Banks are required to make each design of the Presidential Dollar series available to financial institutions in unmixed quantities during an introductory period. At the end of each ordering period, a residual amount of coins remains, adding to the hoard. Financial institutions who actually ordered the coins end up redepositing roughly 40% of them, again adding to the hoard.

The separate Native American Dollar series carries a legislative requirement that the coins represent at least 20% of dollar coin production for each year. Since Federal Reserve Banks are not required to order this series, the coins have been primarily distributed through the US Mint's Direct Ship Program. Unfortunately, an estimated 60% of these coins are eventually redeposited at Reserve Banks, once again adding to the hoard.

According to the report, the United States Mint has suggested legislative action to remove the 20% requirement from the Native American Dollars series. In the recent past, we have seen that when the US Mint suggests legislative action related to coins, it has taken place. Last year, the Mint requested a change to the law related to Silver Eagle production to allow collector versions to be struck even if full demand for bullion coins was not being met. They also requested changes to the specifications for the America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins. Both of these changes were provided under the Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010.

The US Mint has not struck any 2011 Native American Dollars in several months, perhaps in anticipation of legislative action to remove the 20% requirement. According to the most recent production figures, for the year to date Native American Dollars account for about 12% of total dollar coin production.

With regards to Presidential Dollars, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System has suggested removal of the requirement for a mandatory introductory period for each design. Rather than being forced to order each new design, the Reserve Banks could instead use existing inventories of dollar coins to fulfill demand from financial institutions.

If both of these legislative changes are made, it would likely have a dramatic impact on the number of Presidential and Native American Dollars produced each year. With so many coins already stockpiled, production might fall to the minimal levels needed to fulfill demand from coin collectors. This may become similar to the 2002-2008 Sacagawea Dollars, which had mintages of just a few million per year. The coins were not issued to the channels of circulation at all, but rather sold at a premium in US Mint numismatic bags and rolls.

The line up of circulating coinage denominations in the United States would grow even stranger. Of the six denominations, two would cost more than their face value to produce (cent and nickel) and two would only be produced in minimal quantities for collectors (half dollars and dollars).

Update: According to NPR, a California Congresswoman is planning to introduce a bill to immediately halt production of dollar coins. I have not seen the exact language of the bill, but this would seem to immediately end the Presidential and Native American Dollars series, and by extension the First Spouse Gold Coin series.

I am not sure how much support the bill would get. The complete elimination of the programs seems to go too far, especially when only small adjustments would solve the main issue of the growing $1 coin hoard.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

US Mint Circulating Coin Production June 2011

For the month of June 2011, the United States Mint's circulating coin production reached 903.06 million. This is the highest monthly level since one year ago in June 2010.

Cents, nickels, and dimes accounted for the majority of production for the prior month, at 94.5% of the total. The balance of production consisted entirely of Presidential Dollars, with quarters and half dollars not struck during the month.

The table below displays the breakdown of production by denomination and mint facility. The first number column represents the production for June 2011, while the second column represents the latest year to date production figures.

2011 US Mint Coin Production Figures

June 2011 YTD 2011
Lincoln Cent - Denver 269.20 M 1,252.94 M
Lincoln Cent - Phil. 240.00 M 1,151.20 M
Jefferson Nickel - Denver 78.48 M 276.96 M
Jefferson Nickel - Phil. 52.32 211.20 M
Roosevelt Dime - Denver 103.50 M 393.00 M
Roosevelt Dime - Phil. 110.00 M 425.50 M
Quarters - Denver 0 92.20 M
Quarters - Phil. 0 91.60 M
Kennedy Half - Denver 0 1.70 M
Kennedy Half - Phil. 0 1.75 M
Native Am Dollar - Denver 0 18.06 M
Native Am Dollar - Phil. 0 9.66 M
Pres Dollar - Denver 22.54 M 97.58 M
Pres Dollar - Phil. 27.02 M 100.66 M

Total 903.06 M 4,124.01 M

At the mid-year mark, circulating coin production is ahead of the levels of last year by about 15%. From January through June 2010, production had reached 3,597.43 million. For all of 2010, circulating coin production had reached 6,373.11 million.

For 2011, the mid year figures show that cents accounted for more than 58% of production. This was followed by dimes, which accounted for nearly 20% of production. From a personal perspective, cents and dimes have been the only 2011-dated coins that I have encountered in circulation.

The United States Mint has provided the preliminary production figures for the Olympic National Park Quarter. With 61 million produced across both facilities, the total is almost exactly in line with the previous two designs for the year. The US Mint does reserve the right to restart production of any design for the America the Beautiful Quarters Program within the year of release, so these numbers should not be considered final.

Shown below are all of the production levels by design that have been released by the US Mint so far. The figures for the listed Presidential Dollars can be considered final.

2011 US Mint Coin Production by Design

Denver Phil. Total
Gettysburg Quarter 30.80 M 30.40 M 61.20 M
Glacier Quarter 31.20 M 30.40 M 61.60 M
Olympic Quarter 30.60 M 30.40 M 61.00 M

Andrew Johnson Dollar 37.10 M 35.56 M 72.66 M
Ulysses S. Grant Dollar 37.94 M 38.08 M 76.02 M


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

2011 Gold Commemorative Coins

There has been some recent discussion about which currently available US Mint products have the best potential for future price appreciation. At this time, I like the 2011 Army and Medal of Honor $5 gold coins, with a preference towards the uncirculated versions.

These coins are available during somewhat of a unique year, which may be contributing to slower sales and eventually lower mintages. As I have mentioned in another post, any previously issued $5 gold commemorative coin with a mintage of less than 10,000 has experienced a significant increase in secondary market prices once sales have concluded at the US Mint.

The most recent figures show sales of the 2011 Army $5 gold coins at 5,974 uncirculated and 15,735 proof coins. In the past week, the number of coins sold was 30 uncirculated and 13 proofs.

The 2011 Medal of Honor $5 gold coins are slightly lower at 5,604 uncirculated and 14,564 proof coins. In the past week sales were 55 uncirculated and 24 proof coins.

The slower sales are likely due to a combination of factors. The price of each coin is much higher than previous years, possibly putting the coins out of reach of some collectors. The 2008 Bald Eagle $5 gold coins (the last available gold commemoratives) were priced at $309.95 and $319.95 for uncirculated and proof versions, respectively. This year's $5 gold coins are priced at $444.95 and $454.95 for uncirculated and proof versions, respectively.

This year features two different $5 gold coins, which is an unusual occurrence in recent years. Under current law, only two United States Mint commemorative coin programs may be approved per year. Each of these programs may include one or more coins, most commonly $5 gold coins, silver dollars, or clad composition half dollars. The last time two commemorative gold coins were issued in the same year was 1997 (which happens to be the year of the low mintage uncirculated Jackie Robinson $5 Gold Coin). Having multiple expensive commemorative coins available in the same year may serve to divide collector interest and result in lower sales and mintages for each.

Besides the expanded number of commemorative coins available this year, there has also been an expansion in the number of other numismatic precious metals products available, especially for silver coins. This expanded number of options and the constant barrage of releases serves to divert collector attention and absorb collector budgets, which may have otherwise been spent on commemorative coins.

At minimum the second two factors will subside in coming years. Commemorative coin programs approved for 2012 and 2013 each include only one gold coin per year. The number of numismatic ATB silver coins should also decline, assuming all 2010 and 2011-dated issues are released in the current year.

Under the authorizing legislation, sales of the Army and Medal of Honor Commemorative Coins are required to conclude before the end of the year. The US Mint has typically ended sales at a pre-announced date in mid-December. Based on current sales trends, it seems likely that the uncirculated $5 gold coins for each of this year's programs will have sales of less than 10,000. It's also worth mentioning that the proof versions of the coins will have a historically low and possibly the lowest mintage for a $5 gold commemorative proof coin. The lowest mintage is currently held by the proof 1996 Smithsonian $5 Gold Coin at 21,840.

The counterargument to all of this is that low mintages may be the "new normal" in the current environment of escalating precious metals prices. In recent years, we have seen multiple First Spouse Gold Coins with final sales of less than 5,000. These issues have generally appreciated on the secondary market, but they have not experienced the five-fold price increases seen for some of the mid-1990's low mintage coins. I think the lower percentage appreciation is a result of the higher initial price and the prospect of future issues having even lower mintages. It is certainly possible that precious metals prices continue to rise and mintages for subsequent issues continue to decline. Of course in this scenario, the values of the gold coins would appreciate on the basis of the intrinsic value, if not for the low mitnage.

The final thing I wanted to discuss was the pricing for the 2011 gold commemorative coins. The prices were established by publication in the Federal Register dated December 29, 2010. At that time the market price of gold was $1,412 per ounce. Since then, gold has risen by nearly 12%, while the prices for the coins has not been adjusted (except at the end of the introductory period). The US Mint's flexible pricing policy, which allows for weekly changes when the average price of gold crosses $50 increments does not apply to commemorative coins.

Each $5 gold coin contains 0.2418 troy ounces of gold content. This represents an intrinsic value of around $382 for each coin. The issue price for the uncirculated version is $444.95, of which $35 represents a surcharge payable to the beneficiary organization. If the price of gold continues to rise, it seems likely that at some point the US Mint will adjust prices. The adjustment would take place under the standard method for establishing prices which involves suspending sales until new amounts can be published in the Federal Register.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Yosemite Five Ounce Coins at 25,338

The United States Mint has confirmed that the waiting list notice which previously appeared on the online product page for the Yosemite National Park Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coin was "inadvertently posted." Based on the new report available today, sales have reached 25,338 out of the 27,000 maximum mintage.

The following statement has been provided by the Mint:
The 2010 America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coins — Yosemite National Park are not sold out. Unfortunately, however, a message saying that a waitlist for the coins had been put into place was inadvertently posted to the United States Mint’s online catalog on June 23. As soon as we learned the message had been posted, we removed it. We also lifted the household order limits for these coins the week of July 4. We regret the error on our part and the inconvenience the posting of the waitlist language caused our customers.
It seems rather unusual that a notice incorrectly posted on the website would not be realized for more than two weeks. The appearance of the waiting list notice and the presumed sell out was reported at various online and print publications such as, Mint News Blog, and Numismaster/Numismatic News. The presence of the notice also likely had an impact on the pace of sales over the past few weeks. Many potential customers viewing the notice may have chosen not to order since it indicates a reduced chance of the order actually being fulfilled.

With the waiting list notice and ordering limits removed, we may now see some indication of the level of demand for multiple coin orders.

The Grand Canyon Five Ounce Silver Coins continue to track slower than the Yosemite release. Sales have now reached 20,834, which compares to sales of 23,104 Yosemite coins over a comparable sales period.
Coin Update News: New US Mint Sales Report


Monday, July 11, 2011

Yosemite Five Ounce Coins - Order Limit and Waiting List Notice Removed

The product page on the US Mint's website for the 2010-P Yosemite Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coin now indicates that there are no ordering limits and the waiting list has been removed.

These changes seem to have occurred separately over the past few days. The first reader reported that the ordering limit had been removed on Friday. At that time, the waiting list notice remained in place on the product page. Earlier this morning, another reader reported that the waiting list notice had been removed.

The Yosemite Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coins went on sale at the US Mint on June 9, 2011 with an ordering limit of one per household. The first report of sales came on June 12, by which time customers had ordered 20,511 out of the 27,000 maximum mintage. By the following week on June 19, sales had risen to 23,104. The US Mint placed a waiting list notice on the product page on June 23, 2011.

The waiting list notice had stated:
"The number of orders we have taken meets the maximum limit for the 2010 America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coin™ – Yosemite National Park Coin. You may still place an order for this product, which will go on a waiting list. If a product becomes available due to an order cancellation, we will fulfill orders from the waiting list on a first-in, first-served basis. We cannot provide information about your position on the waiting list."
At this time, I do not have any information on what occurred to cause the waiting list notice to be posted and then removed two weeks later. There seem to be two possibilities: 1.) the waiting list notice was posted prematurely and when the mistake was realized, it was removed; or 2.) order cancellations occurred to reduce the number of acceptable orders below the 27,000 limit. These cancellations could have been initiated by customers or the Mint.

Whatever the cause, this is the first of the numismatic America the Beautiful Five Ounce Silver Uncirculated Coins that is available for ordering in unrestricted quantities.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ulysses and Julia Grant Presidential $1 Coin & First Spouse Medal Set

Today, July 7, 2011 at 12:00 Noon ET, the US Mint will begin sales of the Presidential $1 Coin and First Spouse Medal Set featuring Ulysses S. Grant and Julia Grant.

The product includes one uncirculated Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Dollar and one Julia Grant Bronze Medal mounted on an illustrated plastic card. The back of the card contains issuance information.

Each set is priced at $14.95 plus applicable shipping and handling. This price is up by $3 from the $11.95 charged for last year's releases and up by $7 from the price of $7.95 charged in 2007 when the product line was introduced.

All of the 2010 releases featuring Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln still remain available for sale at the US Mint, priced at $11.95 each. The first release of 2011 featuring Andrew Johnson is also for sale at $14.95.

After today's product release, there is nothing else on the US Mint's product schedule until the July 27 release of the Gettysburg National Park Quarter 3-Coin Set. This slower month might be a welcome break following two very busy months, which have included the release of the uncirculated Gold Eagle, proof Platinum Eagle, proof Gold Buffalo, proof Silver Eagle, September 11 National Medals, and three different ATB 5 oz. Uncirculated Silver Coins.

Coin Update News: How to Buy from the U.S. Mint in Person


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Proof Silver Eagle Opening Sales Figures

The opening sales figures are now available for the 2011 Proof Silver Eagle. The popular product makes a strong debut with sales of 367,623.

This amount represents the highest initial unit sales for any US Mint product released this year. The next highest opening was the 2011 Proof Set at 253,144 units.

The amount exceeds the opening numbers reported for the 2010 Proof Silver Eagle by almost 100,000. However, it should be noted that there was some speculation (by me) that the initial sales of 273,212 for last year's Proof Silver Eagle were under-reported. A few days later, the US Mint confirmed that some customer orders had been deleted in error. The next sales report issued two weeks later showed that sales had more than doubled to reach 707,704.

On a longer term perspective, the mintage of the 2011 Proof Silver Eagle will almost certainly fall at the higher end of the spectrum for the series. The lowest mintage for a regular issue Proof Silver Eagle is 372,168 (1994). There are seven different dates with a mintage above 800,000, and of those two different dates with a mintage above 1 million. Last year's 2010 Proof Silver Eagle had last reported sales of 860,000.

Not included on the latest US Mint sales report were the initial figures for the Grand Canyon National Park Five Ounce Silver Coins. I am currently confirming the figures, but it seems that sales might be 24,896 out of the 27,000 maximum mintage. This figure was included on what looked like an incorrectly labeled line of the report. Please treat this figure as preliminary until I confirm here.

If correct, this would be the strongest start for a numismatic version of the ATB 5 ounce silver coins since Hot Springs. It would exceed the initial sales of the previous Yosemite release by more than 4,000 units. Many collectors may have chosen to order the ATB coin along with 2011 Proof Silver Eagle to save on shipping costs, accelerating the pace of sales.

Update: The confirmed initial sales figures for the Grand Canyon National Park Five Ounce Silver Coins is 19,300. This is lower than the previous release featuring Yosemite National Park, which debuted at 20,511.
Coin Update: Full US Mint Sales Report


US Mint Direct Ship $1 Coin Roll Selection

In recent months, the selection of dollar coins available through the United States Mint's Direct Ship Program had been dwindling. As recently as this morning, there had only been two options available for ordering. Just now, the US Mint has resumed offering four designs that had been previously available.

The Circulating $1 Coin Direct Ship Program was created by the US Mint as a means to comply with the legislative requirement to remove barriers and improve circulation of the $1 coin. Under the program, individuals and small businesses could order $250 quantities of dollar coins directly from the US Mint at face value with no charge for shipping. Typically, the dollar coins are distributed to banks and financial institutions through the Federal Reserve Banks in $1,000 quantities.

The program has been a substantial distribution outlet for dollar coins. In the last fiscal year, the US Mint distributed $90.7 million worth of coins, accounting for 21.9% of all $1 coin shipments.

The program also seems to be the primary distribution method for the Native American Dollars. By law, the number of Native American Dollars produced each year must account for at least 20% of all dollar coin production. However, unlike with Presidential Dollars, the Federal Reserve Banks are not required to order the coins.

This morning the two designs that had been available were 2007 James Madison Presidential Dollars and 2011 Native American Dollars.

The designs added to the Direct Ship Product Page this afternoon are the 2001 Sacagawea Dollars, 2007 George Washington Presidential Dollars, 2007 John Adams Presidential Dollars, and 2010 Franklin Pierce Presidential Dollars.