US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Nov. 18, 2019: Anger over fast sellout

The ordering process for collectors trying to purchase the 2019-S Enhanced Reverse Proof American Eagle silver dollar proved to be daunting to many hobbyists.

Images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.

Well, that was fast. I am referring, of course, to the fast sellout of the Enhanced Reverse Proof 2019-S American Eagle silver dollar, which went on sale at noon ET Nov. 14 and was apparently sold out in about 18 minutes.

The coin was limited to a maximum mintage of 30,000 pieces — a tiny mintage by American Eagle silver dollar standards — and a household limit of one. 

Everyone anticipated strong demand for the coin and that became clear almost instantly when interaction at the Mint online shop slowed to a crawl (a lot customers were directed to an Oops! page and a request to refresh). Several Coin World staff members tested the system to see what happened and got the same message. By the time I got to the order page, at about 18 minutes after the hour, the coin was “Currently unavailable” — Mint speak for “we’ve received enough orders to deplete the entire mintage” (full disclosure: I did not plan to buy the coin myself).

Within a few minutes of the apparent sellout, I wrote a post for our Facebook page asking for your experiences, and you delivered. Most of those posting were unable to buy one of the coins; a few were successful. Most experienced difficulties getting to the order page or putting one in their shopping cart or successfully checking out.

One caller asked me whether the Mint caters to dealers rather than collectors when offering a coin with such a low mintage. As far as we can tell, everyone faced the same one-per-household limit, which meant that, on an individual basis, a dealer and a collector had an equal shot at obtaining one of the coins. However, some firms openly circumvented the limit by publicly offering individuals a profit of $150 for any coin they might purchase. That is not illegal, and it is how capitalism works, but it is understandable that many collectors find this practice objectionable, particularly when a firm then starts selling multiples of the coin at huge profits.

So, while the Mint is not to blame (probably) for dealers being able to buy multiples of the coin through second parties, it is responsible for the low mintage of 30,000 coins. An ideal mintage for a particular coin — the “sweet spot” — low enough to offer possible future price appreciation and large enough to provide most who want the coin a reasonable chance to buy it, can be a challenge to determine. I suspect that many collectors will say 30,000 was too low. 

So where does the coin go from here? Read Paul Gilkes’ coverage starting on Page 44 of the print and digital edition for a look at some of the comments and early trends in the secondary market. Expect prices for the coin to jump immensely during the next few days and weeks. Do not be surprised if this coin becomes one of the key dates in the series.

And let us know your experiences in trying to buy one of the coins.

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