Numismatic hobby awaits full disclosure on 2015 silver American Eagle output

Release of notice of erroneous information creates confusion
By , Coin World
Published : 06/02/17
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Some of the 500-coin boxes of 2015 American Eagle silver bullion coins bearing tracking numbers attributed to Philadelphia Mint production may actually have contained coins struck at the West Point Mint.

Determining the origin of production can mean the difference of a coin retailing for under $25 or certified examples graded by a third-party grading service selling for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Legitimate gold coin resistance from the U.S. MintGold coin resistance at U.S. Mint and a deceptive but detectable counterfeit Indian Head cent: Another column in the June 12 Coin World details the discovery of what seemed to be a rare 1917 French Indo-China 10-cent piece.

While the U.S. Mint reaffirmed May 25 that the mintages released for 2015 American Eagle silver bullion coin production at the Philadelphia Mint and West Point Mint were correct, officials acknowledge there are discrepancies concerning the numbers appearing on the outside of the boxes.

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Some of the tracking number patterns or sequence ranges used for boxes containing Philadelphia Mint coins may also have been used in tracking West Point Mint output, although no duplicate numbers are believed to have been used.

In their May 25 announcement, U.S. Mint officials said to expect more details from the Mint by the end of June.

In March 20 responses to Freedom of Information Act requests (filed in February by Coin World and Numismatic Guaranty Corp., independent of one another), U.S. Mint officials indicated that more than 47 million 2015 American Eagle silver bullion coins were struck at the West Point facility, but only 79,640 were struck at the Philadelphia Mint.

The Philadelphia mintage is the lowest bullion coin output for an individual facility since the U.S. Mint introduced the American Eagle silver bullion coin in November 1986.

The coins are intended to be identical, no matter which facility struck them, so identifying them absent some other supporting documentation should be impossible. However, the information released by the Mint about the tracking numbers on their initial packaging has been used by grading services in identifying the coins and by dealers in marketing them.

The Philadelphia Mint’s low production along with the even lower combined number of examples certified by NGC, Professional Coin Grading Service and ANACS as being Philadelphia Mint strikes have driven secondary market prices for the coins to levels higher by several factors than the year’s bullion coins that are unidentifiable or specifically identified to be not Philadelphia Mint strikes. 

Mint State 69 examples of what were identified as Philadelphia Mint strikes have sold on eBay for nearly $600 each, while examples earning the lofty MS-70 label have been offered in a range from under $8,000 to nearly $20,000.

At least one 500-coin box offered as Philadelphia Mint-struck coins at a price of $229,500 was sold for an undisclosed “Best Offer” price.

Confident certification

Despite the Mint’s May 25 announcement suggesting some confusion about the tracking numbers, NGC officials say they are confident they were correct in their determination of which examples of the 2015 American Eagle silver bullion coins should be certified as of Philadelphia Mint origin, and they stand by their determinations.

NGC is awaiting responses from the Mint to a follow-up FOIA request filed based on information supplied or not supplied pursuant to its first FOIA inquiry in February.

“The US Mint statement says that ‘some of the information that was released on March 20 was erroneous’ but it does not specify the information that was erroneous,” Max Spiegel, senior vice president of sales and marketing for NGC’s parent company, Certified Collectibles Group, said via email May 30.

“Although your article and question implies that the U.S. Mint statement affects attributions of 2015(P) American Silver Eagle bullion coins, these coins were not specifically mentioned in the official U.S. Mint statement. 

“We had previously determined that some U.S. Mint ‘monster’ boxes did not appear to conform to the numbering system released by the US Mint in response to our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and we therefore excluded these boxes from the criteria that we had set for Mint facility attributions. We had also paused our attribution of 2015(P) American Silver Eagle bullion coins while we waited for the response to a second FOIA request that we filed. 

“The U.S. Mint’s May 25th statement has not changed any of our attribution policies and we await the further clarification that is expected by the end of June. We believe that we have accurately attributed the Mint facilities on all American Silver Eagle bullion coins that we have certified based on both the numbering system provided by the US Mint as well as our own criteria developed through our research.”

“We consider the specific criteria that we developed to evaluate and attribute these boxes and coins to be proprietary.”

Officials from PCGS and ANACS did not respond to follow-up questions on their certification of 2015 (P) American Eagle silver bullion coins. 

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