William T. Gibbs

Bill’s Corner

William T. Gibbs

William was appointed the managing editor effective May 1, 2015. He joined the Coin World editorial staff in 1976 as an assistant editor for "Collectors' Clearinghouse" and later became a senior staff writer before being appointed news editor. As managing editor, he manages the day-to-day editorial operations for Coin World, both print and online, and leads the editorial staff. He also serves as chief copy editor for all Coin World publications, including for all books published by Coin World since 1985. He has been project editor of mulitple editions of the Coin World Almanac. Bill began collecting coins at the age of 10 and soon discovered Coin World. As a teen interested in numismatics and journalism, he identified a writing position on the staff of Coin World as a dream job, which was realized shortly after he graduated from Bowling Green State University with a major in journalism. He collects store cards and medals depicting Adm. George Dewey of Spanish-American War fame.

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Mint needs new approaches for selling limited-edition products

In recent weeks we have commented on the botched — a harsh term, but accurate — marketing decisions behind the sales of the 2015 Truman and Eisenhower Coin and Currency sets. We won’t further belabor those points. Instead, let us look at the future. What steps can the Mint sales and marketing team take in the future to avoid angering their most loyal customers (collectors)?

Many readers been have asking why the Mint didn’t make the sets to order. The Mint has done this previously; it struck the Matte Finish 1998-S Kennedy half dollar to order, and today the coin sells at a significant premium. This approach would give collectors and dealers equal opportunity to buy the products.

If the Mint would prefer not taking that approach, then it needs to make informed decisions on the products it offers. The Mint sales and marketing team needs to talk with hobbyists at all levels before making final marketing decisions; had it done this prior to limiting the Truman and Eisenhower sets to editions of 17,000 each, officials would have likely understood that those numbers were woefully inadequate to meet consumer demand. 

One resource the Mint could access pretty quickly is the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, which already advises the Mint on collector products. The CCAC has among its membership a number of knowledgeable collectors and professionals, so expand reliance on these experts and let them help. 

In addition, the Mint needs to balance the twin needs of collectors and dealers. Mint staff must recognize that some dealers will circumvent household ordering limits by enlisting surrogate buyers. The Mint will likely never be able to stop this from happening, so it should offer products in a different way. It could, for example, offer a percentage of a particular product to bulk purchasers — maybe even without the elaborate packaging, for those resellers who plan to slab the products — while at the same time ensuring that the majority of the product is offered to collectors. For a product limited to 50,000 units, it could for the first week offer 20,000 sets in bulk quantities (say, units of 1,000) and the remainder in smaller numbers. Then, if the set remains available after a week of sales, lift all ordering restrictions (by that time, collectors will have had ample time to place their orders).

The Mint makes a lot of products that a lot of collectors want. But to keep that collector base, it has to sell those products smarter. 
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Minting the set to order makes sense to me. Collectors of modern coins want "one of each" most of the time, and putting such a low mintage figure on a coin many collectors want creates an unnecessarily rare coin for them to have to buy, and given the huge diversity and number of coins they need to buy "all the coins for the year", coins like this only strain their budgets further.
It seems to be a well thought out marketing scheme. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame coins. They were gone in a day or two. Being a huge Baseball fan; I really wanted a set of at least a couple of them. Now I've had to pay 4 to 6X issue price in just a year to buy the silver proof coins. It's just turning into a money making opportunity for the big players. Also, if they aren't graded by NGC or PCGS the coin becomes an "iffy" buy. As I'm sure you know the difference in value between A PF69 and PF70 coin can be very significant. If I get a coin returned to me graded at "only" PF69 or MS69; then I feel like I just lost the Lotto again. Anything less than a 70 feels like a huge disappointment.