Editor's note: The Top 10 Stories of 2014 have been judged by
Coin World staff to be the most impactful and memorable
numismatic stories of the past year. They are not ranked in any
See all of the Top 10 Stories of 2014
New product releases by the U.S. Mint generally don’t trigger
literal customer stampedes, but 2014 witnessed a Mint marketing effort
that did just that, an effort that almost everyone agrees went awry.
The Mint celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1964
Kennedy half dollar’s release with three different products in 2014: a
two-coin set of Uncirculated copper-nickel clad Kennedy half dollars;
a four-coin set of silver half dollars (each with a different finish
and struck at a different Mint); and a .999 fine gold version in Proof, this latter coin
from the West Point Mint with a dual anniversary date of 1964 – 2014.
The release of the gold version was meant to be special but proved
fraught with problems.
Mint officials decided to launch sales of the gold version — the
first U.S. half dollar struck in that metal — concurrent with the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of
Money in Rosemont, Ill.
Sales began simultaneously at the Mint’s traditional sales venues
(its website and telephone order line), and at the Mint booth at the
ANA convention and three of its physical Mint facilities in Denver,
Philadelphia and the District of Columbia. Sales opened at noon
Eastern Time Aug. 5 at all venues.
The Mint offered limited quantities of the gold coins at the four
physical venues, and further, restricted sales to one per person per day.
Demand for the coin paired with those restrictions led some
prominent dealers to pay people, many of them noncollectors, to stand
in line (some for hours) to purchase a coin. These dealers funded the
purchase price of the coin, and these buyers agreed to turn over their
purchase to the dealers.
The dealers then quickly had the coins slabbed with special grading
service labels, and immediately offered the specially labeled gold
half dollars at prices well above the Mint’s issue prices.
At the Rosemont ANA show site, the line of potential buyers aiming at the Mint
booth began forming in the night before the first day of sales,
with the first four people in line traveling all the way from California just to buy
The first Proof 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollar the U.S. Mint sold
at the ANA convention, bought by one of the four Californians, rose in
price from its issue price of $1,240 to $100,000 in just a few days.
The first person in line at the show sold his coin Aug. 5 to dealers
Kevin Lipton from Kevin Lipton Rare Coins in Beverly Hills, Calif.,
and David Hendrickson, president of SilverTowne in Winchester, Ind.,
for $5,000 and a replacement coin.
In turn, the two dealers reported on Aug. 7 that they had sold the
coin, slabbed with a Professional Coin Grading Service label
identifying it as the first sold, to an unnamed collector for $100,000.
Ending sales early
Mint officials initially planned to sell the coins at the ANA show
every day from Aug. 5 to 9, and at the Mint facilities through Aug. 8.
However, an ugly incident outside the Denver Mint on Aug. 7, captured
on tape by local news media, led Mint officials to cancel all remaining in-person sales, citing
safety concerns. A large crowd standing across the street from the
Denver Mint stampeded when released by police officers as that
day’s sales began. Video showed people rushing to the Mint
entrance, with a number of individuals falling or being pushed to the ground.
The Mint’s initial efforts at in-person sales received a fair amount
of criticism beyond the safety concerns. Some dealers at the ANA show
not involved in the purchases said the crowds waiting to buy the coins
disrupted their sales. Some collectors found as disturbing the tactics
of the dealers paying others to buy the coins so as to circumvent Mint
Prices rise, then fall
It is clear that much of the initial interest in the coins was from
buyers who hoped to have the coins placed into special grading service
holders and quickly flipped for a sizeable profit above the initial
issue price of $1,240. Some buyers at the ANA convention on the first
day did just that, selling their coins for more than $3,000.
However, the glitter quickly fell from the coin as,
before long, prices dropping to below issue price. Late in the year,
when the Mint was selling the coins at $1,165, a piece graded Proof 70 Deep Cameo sold for
$1,101.10 at auction.
Most purchases of the gold coins occurred right after dales began.
During the first month of sales, 63,927 of the coins were sold. With the maximum mintage limited to 75,000
pieces, 69,299 had been sold as of Dec. 21; clearly, sales fell
off sharply after the initial rush of the first few weeks.
The experiences of in-person sales for the gold coin may have been a
factor in a decision by U.S. Mint officials to not conduct
in-person sales of the four-coin 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy
Half Dollar Silver Coin Collection, which went on sale Oct. 28. The
fall Whitman Baltimore Expo, which opened Oct. 30, could otherwise
have been a likely venue for such in-person sales.
More from CoinWorld.com:
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Mint making Proof 2015-W silver American Eagles available for more
customers during FUN Show
are they going to open the Boston time capsule and see what's inside?
50th Anniversary 2014 Kennedy half dollars draw crowds: Top 10
Stories of 2014
U.S. coin market overall near $5 billion say PNG officials (not
counting Mint sales)
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