Louis Golino

Modern Numismatics

Louis Golino

Louis Golino has been a collector of American and world coins since childhood and has written about coins since 2009. In addition to writing about modern coins and other numismatic issues for Coin World, he also has written a regular column for CoinWeek.com since 2011, writes a monthy column for The Numismatist magazine and has written for other coin publications. In 2015, for his CoinWeek column “The Coin Analyst,” he was presented with the Numismatic Literary Guild's award for best online column. He is also a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum. 

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Where Did the Proof Jackie Kennedy Coins Go?

A Tale of Two Coin Releases

Today (June 30) at 12:00 pm EST the U.S. Mint began accepting orders for the Harry S. Truman coin and chronicles set, which includes the first reverse proof presidential dollar ever minted.  The sets have a fixed mintage of 17,000 units, and buyers could place orders for five sets per household,though large numbers of buyers got around the limits and secured larger numbers of sets. 

Within 15 minutes the sets were unavailable and likely sold out, which appears to be a record for the time a product took to sell out. With most buyers ordering either a couple sets or five, it only took a couple thousand orders to make the product disappear.

Fortunately,there were no computer glitches this time, and people who were on the ball secured their sets and they are already bringing $150-160 per set on eBay.  I would not be surprised if they reach the $200 level by next week.  Many average buyers who could not get away from work will be forced to pay a huge premium, which is why I previously suggested a lower household limit.

Orders for these sets are shipping out quickly, according to buyers.

Last week on Thursday the Mint began accepting orders for the Jacqueline Kennedy $10 First Spouse gold coin, but only orders for the uncirculated coin began to be processed after being placed.  The proof version was on backorder from the time sales began.  Orders could be placed, but the web site said no stock would be available until September 1.

Many buyers found this frustrating, especially since the proof spouse coins are always more popular and bigger sellers than their uncirculated counterparts.

In the numismatic blogosphere rumors began to swirl that the proof coins were all snatched up by the big boys, major coin dealers, or in the colorful description of one poster, “the big pig dealers.”

I was skeptical about such claims, and yet now I see that several companies not only have the proof coins in stock already, but they even have coins that have been graded with “first day of issue” labels.

I contacted the sales kiosk at the Mint’s Washington, DC headquarters on the first day and was told they had no proofs, but when I called back a couple days later I was told they did get some proofs, and they sold out quickly.  This facility does not typically have a large supply of such coins with the exception of last year’s gold JFK half dollars and the baseball issues.

So where did these dealers get all those proof coins, and how did they manage to get them delivered to the Sarasota, Florida offices in time for first day release grading?

And since the Mint clearly knew these coins would be in high demand given their decision to up the mintage to a maximum of 30,000 coins if necessary, why were no coins available for people who are not dealers?

I’ve always said our Mint is the world’s only mint that tries to give collectors and coin sellers a mostly even playing field, but I am troubled by how the Kennedy proof coin release was handled.  I believe the Mint owes its individual customers an explanation.

Is it fair to give dealers all the available supply of a coin at release time so that they can maximize profits and make everyone else wait until Labor Day? If that is not what happened, I would love to know how those dealers got coins on the first day when there was no first day sales announcement.

In response to my inquiry the Mint's Office of Public Affairs provided the following statement: "The Mint underestimated the initial demand for the 2015 First Spouse Series One-Half Ounce Gold Coins - Jacqueline Kennedy and, unfortunately, the products went on back order very quickly after sales started.  As of June 30, additional product arrived at our distribution center in Memphis that will clear a majority of the backorders.  The Mint has resumed production and we expect to fulfill all customer demand in the coming days and weeks. We apologize to our customers for the delay."

On July 1 the Mint's Adam Stump, who is Deputy Director of Public Affairs, told me that the Jackie Kennedy gold coins, including proofs, were sold at all three of the Mint's retail locations at its mints in Philadelphia and Denver as well as its Washington, DC headquarters.  

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Where did the Proof Jackie Kennedy coins go?

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I had the pleasure of being at the actual Mint Sales Kiosk in DC last Thursday. I (and the family) had visited there while were vacationing (we live in Sarasota FL). I had called the kind gentleman (his name escapes me) at the kiosk from the hotel that morning, inquiring on the whether or not they would have Jackie O's in. He affirmed that there 'should' be some available (unc and proof). So, I had arrived at 11.45 AM there. I told him that I called and that I was checking to see if both Jackie O's would be available, to which he replied "the truck is in the back unloading now, should be about another 2 hours." I took a quick visual of the small kiosk area and noticed some other distinguished folks about that were obviously eagerly awaiting some JO's as well. I asked the clerk if there were a lot of folks coming in for the JO and he said that there a "few", but nothing like the baseball and Gold JFK crowd he saw last year. To make a long story short, I left and came back about 30 mins later and he did have JO unc'c available (no proofs were available yet) and so I picked up 2. I left again and eagerly came back another 30 mins later (this time with the family) and sure enough he had the proofs available! Glad I didn't wait a full 2 hours!! I snatched up 2 of those (tight budget with vacation and all). NOW, HERE'S what I DID NOTICE -- there were 2 guys, a woman and a baby next to the counter. The one guy had bought both unc and proof, some 50+ of EACH!!!! YES at least 100!!! He and (presumably his wife) along with a helper, were pulling the JO's out of the case, labeling them and stuffing them into a FedEx envelope!! No doubt, they were sending out those ASAP to get graded. The clerk and I were talking as we were witnessing this activity and we discussed the ins/outs of grading. I asked the clerk, tongue-in-cheek -- "What's really the difference between a 69 and a 70 anyway?" To which he replied "It's all about this -" as he rubbed his forefinger and thumb together. I then disclosed that we live in NGC territory (Sarasota FL) and we had a good chuckle. I told him that I figured, based on my neophyte experience (I've been collecting for some 18 months) that of my modern coin submittals to PCGS, I average about 40% on 70's (MS and PR), 60% at 69. The other guy (the one stuffing the JO's into the FedEx bags) was now honed in on our conversation and was nodding his head in agreement. I might add that the clerk was very knowledgeable, kind and great with our kids.
The takeaway:
1. Boy, the wife and I were glad to be there as we have had the nail-biting, sweat-filled experience of the 'countdown' to noon on various releases, with laptops at the ready to lock-in an order. Sheer luck to be in DC for vacation for the JO release!
2. I recognized the folks that were stuffing FedEx bags from a MAJOR online dealer, not just average collectors.
3. Just sent my 4 JO's off to PCGS after I swore off grading!! Why does the mint make those presentation cases so darn nice anyway?!? Which, I do admit, the JO cases are gorgeous - what to do with them when I get my slabs, presumably two 70's and two 69's?!? Aaaarrrgghhhh
Just thought I'd share my 2 cents (no pun intended) with y'all.
Also, managed to take the family to the BEP as well -- AWESOME!!!
I have been doing this for a long time and the trends are the perfect storm.. First, it's a branch of the U.S. Government. My guess is that if you look at the owners of the big boy dealers, you'll find sizable donations being made to political campaigns - most likely current ones - maybe the chair in the senate of the committee overseeing the mint operations.. After all, these are political appointees. Amazing how with certain household limits imposed on many products, some dealers manage to have 100 of this or that ? Faithful employees, dirty accounts, or just a friend in the right place... Almost like looking at banknotes that are stars, solid numbers etc... No way with an even playing field some dealers just manage to have the bulk of these items... BEP political appointees.... Coincidence or dirt ?
After all, you can't fight city hall so just get used to it... It should all be a lottery if they want a level playing field... But as long as people kiss asses for jobs instead of earning them, this stuff will continue to happen.