Mint risks killing a golden goose with Proof Eagle abuses

Published : 08/01/12
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Collectors are used to paying a premium for an object that is a limited edition. When purchasing a limited edition, collectors are placing their trust in the manufacturer to be truthful and open about the limited nature of the edition.

Unless otherwise stated, it’s generally assumed that a limited edition is just that — limited — and once the sales or production period ends, the edition closes and no more will be produced and sold.

One would have thought that was the case with the U.S. Mint’s recent 2012 American Eagle San Francisco Two-Coin Silver Proof set. Collectors eagerly responded to the Mint’s offering and ordered more than 251,000 sets in the four-week ordering window. The sets were struck to order and the Mint certainly gave the impression to the collecting community that the two coins — Proof and Reverse Proof versions of the 2012-S American Eagle silver dollar — would only be made available in that set.

The promise of two otherwise unobtainable coins was certainly a draw that led collectors to purchase the San Francisco Mint coins at a premium of around $15 more than “normal” Proof 2012-W American Eagle silver dollars.

Coin World published — and the Mint did not take exception to — articles characterizing the two coins as being only available as part of the 75th Anniversary sets.

Now, the Mint announces that it will release the “Making American History Coin & Currency Set” Aug. 7. That set will include one of the coins that, until recently, collectors thought was unique to the two-coin set: a Proof 2012-S silver American Eagle.

Adding insult to injury, when offered in the Making American History set, the coin costs less than it did when available as part of the 75th Anniversary set. The per-coin cost of the two-coin Anniversary set was around $75. The net cost of the coin in the new Making American History set is just $68, assuming one spends the $5 note included with the set.

Collectors had some advance warning that the two-coin Anniversary set may not be the only special American Eagle silver coin set to be released in 2012. In January, the Mint described the results of a collector survey and hinted that they were exploring several different special American Eagle sets.

In a July 26 statement, Tom Jurkowsky, director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Public Affairs, noted that, “In retrospect, it may have been appropriate to announce our intentions to produce the Coin & Currency Set earlier in the year or perhaps simultaneously with the Two-Coin Set.” Indeed.

Promises that the Mint will not offer any more of the Proof 2012-S silver American Eagle and 2012-S Reverse Proof coins in 2012 seem unnecessary at this point. The damage is done.

While the Mint has to rely on Congress to increase maximum authorized mintages of modern commemorative coins beyond what’s provided for in legislation, it has much more flexibility and freedom with its bullion coin program mintages.

With the release of the Making American History set, the Mint is on a slippery slope where collectors increasingly may be suspect of paying premiums for sets containing coins thought to be of limited issue. Another set may be just around the corner.

The Proof American Eagle program has served the Mint well for more than 25 years; with continued actions like this the Mint risks killing the goose that has laid it golden eggs for nearly a generation.


Steve Roach

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