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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A possible solution (or not) to the Mint’s fast sellouts of limited products

Our Letters to the Editor page recently has often featured submissions from readers on the same topic — fast sellouts of high-demand limited-edition U.S. Mint products. Readers continue to be angry about the difficulties many experience in ordering products like the 2016 Winged Liberty Head gold dime and 2016 American Liberty silver medals, especially when dealers seem to be able to acquire large numbers.

Letter writers often offer potential solutions that Mint officials should consider. We also have offered various solutions and here is a another one: The United States Mint should consider emulating the Royal Canadian Mint by introducing a Masters Club — a program that rewards regular customers with advance access to new products, among other benefits.

Here’s how the RCM describes the program: “Designed by and for the Mint’s most dedicated clientele, our Masters Club program delivers features and benefits providing recognition and rewards that offer innovation, value, and exclusivity.

Essentially, the RCM tracks a customer’s purchases of qualifying products and enrolls the customer at a Silver, Gold, or Platinum level. The biggest benefit is early access to new products; for example, a customer at the Silver level gains access to a product two days before the rest of the public, while Gold and Platinum customers gain three- and four-day advance access, respectively.

And how do you qualify? Simply purchase a certain amount of product — coins, sets, medals — during a year. As a customer buys more products, he or she advances from Silver to Gold to Platinum member status.

This program rewards customer loyalty; if you routinely spend X amount with the Mint every year, you gain recognition for your loyalty, and better access.

The RCM’s purchase limits are moderately high, with $1,000 in purchases necessary to qualify a customer for Silver member access, $1,500 in purchases for Gold member access, and $2,000 for the Platinum level. The United States Mint would not have to follow these levels since a number of customers might find those bars set too high; the U.S. Mint could set the lowest level much lower if it chose. Still, even at the $1,000 level, many collectors could easily spend that much on annual sets, special sets, and the year’s commemorative coins.

With such a program at the U.S. Mint, what might the practical effect for collectors be?

Better luck in snagging a limited-edition product, for one. It is no secret that some retailers and wholesalers commission individuals to purchase high-demand products on their behalf to circumvent household limits. Since it is likely that some if not many of these customers are noncollectors and are infrequent or even first-time Mint customers, they would not gain access to these products until days after qualified longtime customers would have already been able to purchase the coins under a Masters Club program. Of course, wholesalers could still stack the deck in their favor by enlisting clients to buy products at sufficient levels to reach Masters Class levels.

Nonetheless, early access could also lessen the severity of Mint website crashes and delays, and the inability of customers to connect with customer service representatives by phone, effects that are typically experienced when hot coins go on sale, like the 2016 Standing Liberty gold quarter dollar that went on sale Sept. 8.

A solution exists. It might not be following the RCM’s approach. Still, Mint officials and collectors should work together on finding a solution that benefits collectors.
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That plan would not make coins more available to the little guy.
Quite the opposite, it would reward the big dealers and their stooges who would easily make the quotas set.
Reducing order limits on limited edition items should be one, at least initially.
The Masters Club program is a terrible idea and should never be adopted under any circumstance.

This absurd program rewards only the wealthiest coin buyers who can afford to buy more coins than the rest and coin dealers at the expense of the average coin buyer or newbie. How anyone can even suggest such a program is truly troubling.

Coin collecting should never be a hobby that pits the wealthy or long time buyer against the average buyer or new collector.

I myself would probably qualify for the Gold level membership but in spite of that, I completely disagree with the implementation of such a regressive, anti spirit-of-numismatics idea.

Making the situation worse by implementing a ridiculously unfair program is not a solution but rather part of the problem.
The Mint invariably schedules limited edition releases for midday weekdays. Why don't they have them on weekends, with dedicated staff for taking phone orders in case the web site is slow or crashes? This would make it easier for those of us who work for a living to actually have a shot at getting our orders in.