Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corp.
have programs for coins delivered by the U.S. Mint in the 30-day
period following the initial sales date of a new product.
PCGS calls the coins “First Strike” while NGC calls them “Early Releases.”
Some of the popular series included in the program are American
Eagle gold, silver and platinum bullion coins and American Buffalo
.9999 fine gold coins, modern commems and America the Beautiful
5-ounce silver bullion coins.
By virtue of population numbers alone, early release coins
generally are not scarcer than their later-issued brethren. Take for
example the Proof 2006-W American Eagle silver dollar. As of mid-June,
PCGS graded 7,285 examples under its normal program and 7,716 pieces
under its First Strike program.
The early release programs take into account only when a coin was
shipped from the U.S. Mint, not when it was minted.
The programs were first developed by the grading services in 2005.
The “First Strikes” are visually imperceptible from their
Grading services are in the business of creating products that
collectors want — and if a collector wants two examples of a given
issue to represent both the “First Strikes” and the “non-First
Strikes,” that creates demand, especially among registry set collectors.
Yet, telemarketers can use the designation to justify heavy
premiums that may not actually exist, saying that the coins are among
the “first struck from the dies” or that quality deteriorates over the
year as the Mint struggles to meet demand. Neither of these statements
The U.S. Mint issued a consumer advisory on July 11, 2006, to
clarify concerns on “First Strike” coins.
NGC, which had been using the term “First Strikes,” announced it
was using the term “Early Releases” on Dec. 14, 2006. NGC was sued on
Nov. 7, 2006, by a consumer that alleged that he and other purchasers
of “First Strikes” were under the impression that the bullion coins
labeled “First Strikes” were among the first coins struck by the U.S.
Mint and were worth more.
The case went to mediation and NGC established a $650,000
settlement fund to be used to educate the public about coins and
terminology. A similar lawsuit was filed against PCGS, which settled
the matter and continues to use “First Strike” terminology.
Ultimately, collectors should use caution when paying large
premiums for this kind of coin.
Steven Roach is associate editor of Coin World. Email him