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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There’s no going back: U.S. Mint website is a permanent feature

I took a call from a reader a week ago who had some suggestions on improving how the United States Mint sells its limited edition products to ensure a fairer distribution.

That’s a subject that has been on a lot of minds lately, in the wake of superfast sellouts of the 2015 Truman and Eisenhower Coin and Chronicles sets, and complaints by some collectors that certain retailers were finding ways to circumvent the Mint’s household limits.

The caller was recommending a return to a time when the Mint sold all of its products through the mail, with the customer sending in an order form and a check. I have been a collector for a bit more than 50 years and remember the days when I would write my check for the annual Proof set and send it in with the Mint order form, and then wait six months or longer for delivery. A lot of our readers probably did the same in their youth in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

The caller, however, was recommending a twist on this old practice. He suggested that the Mint set a purchase deadline for limited edition sets, hold all orders received until the deadline, then randomly draw “winners” until all of the sets are awarded to the lucky customers.

The collector was no Luddite. He described his background as scientific, with experience in working for the Department of Defense. I suspect that other collectors of a certain age (my 60th birthday is already past, so I am in that age group) would embrace this idea.

Abandoning the Mint website for mail sales will never happen. There’s no going back.

Online sales are not a wave of the future. They are how business is done today. The U.S. Mint can’t go back to the sales practices of a half century ago, any more than Amazon could suddenly announce it was closing down its website and was instead opening up brick and mortar stores nationwide. 

Yes, online transactions are not perfect. We all face the possibility of identity theft. Buying a single product from a website can result in a flurry of junk email filling your inbox. But buying products and services online, including bidding in rare coin auctions and buying sets of coins from the U.S. Mint, is a permanent fixture of the marketplace. At least until the next technological achievement renders online buying obsolete (Star Trek “matter replicators,” maybe; we seem to be headed that way with 3-D printers).

The real solution to fast sellouts and “unfair” distribution of limited edition sets is not a technological one, it’s a marketing one, as we have said in the past.
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