US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Nov. 23, 2020: Message welcome, but

Mint Director David Ryder in a Nov. 18 message to Mint customers acknowledged problems with recent offerings celebrating the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Original images courtesy of United States Mint.

Mint Director David J. Ryder’s Nov. 18 message to United States Mint customers about recent offerings was welcome. Especially welcome was Ryder’s acknowledgement of some recent missteps that alienated a significant portion of the Mint’s customer base.

You will find Ryder’s comments in their entirety here, but I want to highlight and comment on several specific passages.

(1) “As we look to provide the market with innovative and interesting products, we engage in market research and solicit feedback from the numismatic community. Our forecasting team examines historical performance and gleans insights on current customer interests and also assesses any new product’s overall potential. When we develop mintage limits for our numismatic products, we use our best efforts to come up with what we think are mintages that will satisfy customer demand and ultimately sell out. ... Most of the time I think we’re successful, but in the case of the World War II 75th Anniversary products we clearly underestimated demand.”

It is great that Ryder acknowledges that the Mint made mistakes in its forecast of demand for November’s 75th Anniversary of the End of World War II programs. To prevent that from happening in the future, continued and increased consultation with the hobby is essential to ensure that future programs feature mintages that hit the Goldilocks zone between too high and too low. In a perfect program, everyone who wants a coin can purchase one, with few pieces left unsold at the end of the offering.

(2) “As many of you are aware, a slowdown of the Mint’s online sales website caused frustration for many of our loyal customers, who were unable to purchase their desired product. ... I have asked my team to do a thorough analysis of what went wrong, and, by balancing capacity versus cost, come up with long-term, lasting solutions that will provide our customers with a vastly improved buying experience.”

Fixes need to be identified and implemented before the next big product launch that is projected to draw huge interest. The Mint website needs to be more robust, certainly, but the problems go far deeper than simply being incapable of handling the traffic. The feature that enables a coin to be added to one’s “bag” and then stripped from the bag because of a sellout, before the customer can complete the transaction, needs to be rethought. Few things are as frustrating as thinking that you are successful in buying a coin only to see it removed from your bag and denied to you.

(3) “We do not provide preferential treatment to any of our customers, be they individual collectors or professional coin dealers, and we have measures in place, both automated and manual, to ensure that household order limits are adhered to. We have seen an increase of activity by another sector of customers — buying groups who offer to pay a premium to individuals who purchase our high-demand products.”

Collector customers of the Mint often accuse the Mint of deliberately letting dealers buy the bulk of a limited edition product. Coin World has never seen evidence that this happens. And while regular Mint customers might see as desirable a denial of service to that other “sector of customers” Ryder identified, the buying groups (whose sole purpose is profit and not the joys of ownership), likely little can be done to block them. 

Let us hope that Ryder and his team can implement changes that will make problematic releases like the two World War II programs in November impossible in 2021.

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