Let’s say you own a business that sells many products to a group of
loyal buyers, yet you are always striving to get those existing buyers
to branch out to new things.
Each product you sell is a luxury, something nobody really needs.
Would you choose to put a sold-out product on your cover?
The U.S. Mint did just that when it placed its Proof 2012-W
American Eagle silver dollar on the cover of its holiday sales
catalog. Nov. 13, by the time the marketing piece arrived in many of
the Mint’s customers’ mailboxes, the Mint reported that its inventory
of individually packaged coins was sold out and that no more would be produced.
It remains available for ordering as part of the Making American
History Coin and Currency set and as part of a new limited-edition
Silver Proof set that is scheduled to be made available Nov. 27.
Isn’t the function of a holiday catalog to sell items that are
available for sale?
Why would the United States Mint select a coin for its cover that
did not have guaranteed ordering availability during the holiday
season? With the many other products produced this year, it’s not like
the Mint was faced with a dearth of items to choose from.
The 2012-W Proof silver American Eagles went on sale April 12
priced at $59.95 each. A reduction to $54.95 followed on July 25 and
on Oct. 10 the price went up again to the $59.95 level.
In the catalog the coin is at the $54.95 price although it’s noted
directly below the image, “Due to the volatility of the precious metal
markets, prices for products containing silver are subject to change.”
A potential collector who received this catalog would likely have
no indication that the coin itself was subject to limited availability.
Doubtless there will be many disappointed collectors who now will
have to purchase an example on the secondary market, if they purchase
one at all. For reference, the lowest price available online for an
example in the secondary market on Nov. 20 was $69.95.
If the Mint is hoping to entice new people to buy coins with its
catalog, spotlighting a sold-out coin on the cover while not clearly
alerting people to the possibility of a sellout is certainly not the
way to do it. ■