US Coins

U.S. Mint officials put restrictions on bulk buyers

New conditions were imposed July 15 by the U.S. Mint on participants in its Authorized Bulk Purchase Program, designed to prevent their circumventing the Mint’s order limits through use of automated web robots or other methods.

“The Mint is introducing new Terms and Conditions for all bulk purchase program members,” according to the July 15 announcement. “Continued membership in the bulk program will be conditional upon agreement to the new terms and conditions, which explicitly restrict, among other things, bulk members’ use of BOTS to purchase Mint inventory reserved for online ordering.”

ABPP participation conditions

The Mint July 15 imposed the following Authorized Bulk Purchase Program participation conditions:
➤ Circumvention of any applicable Mint product order limit is strictly prohibited.
➤ Bulk purchase program members must not make any effort, either using technological solutions or otherwise, to circumvent the Mint’s product order limits.
➤ This prohibition includes orders placed via the Mint’s e-commerce platform, including pre-orders and enrollments; telephone orders; and transactions at Mint retail sites, including any temporary sales sites.
➤ Examples of circumventing an order limit include, but are not limited to, using BOTS or other method(s) to place multiple orders cumulatively in excess of the product order limit.
➤ Acting on behalf of a company, any subsidiary of a company or any related commercial entity, or the employees or agents of the company, a subsidiary, or any related commercial entity, for purposes of circumventing a product order limit is prohibited.

“The Mint reserves the right to review all orders and to cancel orders that violate a product order limit,” according to U.S. Mint officials. “If a company violates this strict prohibition against circumvention of any Mint product order limit, the Mint reserves the right to suspend or terminate that company’s Authorized Bulk Purchase Program status. Further, if a company with Numismatic Bulk Purchaser Program status violates this strict prohibition against circumvention of any Mint product order limit, the Mint reserves the right to disregard the company’s annual purchase levels for the relevant two consecutive years for purposes of entry into the Authorized Bulk Purchase Program.”

Fighting back against bots

Increased bot traffic for limited-edition numismatic products online forced the Mint to delay sales of certain programs until remedies could be implemented.

“To address the extraordinarily high volume of automated web robot (BOT) traffic targeted at the Mint’s online sales site (www.catalog.usmint.gov) and to prevent the type of disruptions that Mint customers experienced during the initial pre-order window for the Morgan and Peace dollars, the Mint has now identified and implemented a solution that we expect will mitigate most of the issues caused by BOT traffic,” according to U.S. Mint officials.

Bots were used to disrupt the May 24 sales online of the 2021 Morgan dollars with CC and O privy marks.

According to the Mint, an expected 30,000 potential customers quickly grew ten-fold when the bots began calculated attacks on the Mint’s e-commerce venue, effectively shutting out thousands of customers.

As a result, sales of 2021, 2021-D and 2021-S Morgan dollars and 2021 Peace dollars were rescheduled from their original release dates in July to Aug. 3 and Aug. 10, respectively, while Mint officials worked on methods to deter the use of bots.

ABBP details

The U.S. Mint introduced its Authorized Bulk Purchase Program in February with sales for the Proof 2021-W American Eagle, Reverse of 1986 silver dollars. Online sales began Feb. 11.

Qualified ABPP participants are required to have made $500,000 in cumulative numismatic product sales for each of the last two calendar years.

Under the program, the Mint has reserved up to 10 percent of the mintage of designated limited-edition programs for participants. ABPP members are then permitted to place orders in advance of online sales to the general public and also pick up those orders from the Mint’s contracted order fulfillment warehouse in Memphis, Tennessee operated by PSFWeb.

There are 18 dealer members participating in the ABPP.

Coin World requested the identification from the Mint of the numismatic firms participating in the program, but that request was denied by U.S. Mint officials.

Since then, Coin World filed a Freedom of Information Act request, which has been acknowledged by the bureau’s FOIA disclosure officer, but as of July 16, no explanatory response has been provided.

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