Low-mintage modern coins and medals produced by the U.S. Mint sometimes can be difficult to spot because current sales data either is not posted or is difficult to find at the U.S. Mint’s website.
In response to collector requests and suggestions, Coin World is launching in its issue dated March 19 (on Page 18 of our print and digital versions) a comprehensive report, which we plan to publish and update on a monthly basis. The information is presented in chart form by product and sales option.
The charts will provide cumulative data from the time the Mint places a product (and its various packaging options) on sale until the product is no longer available. Coin World has elected to report the sales numbers on a monthly basis in order to avoid confusion. The Mint reports some information on a weekly basis and other information on a less frequent basis.
It is important to understand that the numbers refer to the cumulative totals of coins or packaging units the U.S. Mint reports as sold as of the date listed. Sales are not final mintages.
Beginning in the early 1980s the U.S. Mint changed its reporting methodology. It no longer reports the number of coins or medals of a given denomination that have been struck or the number of coins destroyed or melted due to manufacturing defects or inventory unsold.
Modern mintage figures are derived by the results of a Treasury audit confirming the total number of coins or medals sold of a particular issue. Thus, “final mintages” as reported by the U.S. Mint often lag the sales cutoff period a year or more.
It is our observation — based on our staff’s experience with reporting final mintages of modern coins — that the final sales reported at the end of a program are usually very close to what is reported as the final mintage. Most often the variance is attributable to coins returned to the Mint as defective and not replaced or canceled orders near the end of the sales period. Thus, often the number that is reported as an audited final mintage is slightly modified downward from the reported final sales number.
We offer a bit of caution and insight, especially to those who may be relatively new to the world of modern issues: Low mintages do not always immediately produce high premiums in the secondary market for collector coins. An important factor is the degree of demand or popularity of a series. For example, in 2007 when the U.S. Mint first offered the First Spouse half-ounce .9999 gold $10 bullion coins, it placed a sales limit of 40,000 for each design. Sales of both the Martha Washington and Abigail Adams coins were almost equally divided between the single Proof and Uncirculated options, or about 20,000 pieces per option. Both the Washington and Adams coins sold out within hours of the offering. Many collectors, who had hoped to be able to collect the entire series, felt shut out, refusing to pay exorbitant premiums in the secondary market. Subsequent issues have seen demand plummet, to the point that in recent years total mintages (including Proof and Uncirculated versions) struggle to reach sales of 10,000.
However, astute collectors realize that in the future, the low-mintage issues may be the more valuable. Thus they watch the sales figures of each design to gauge interest and potential for long-term value of individual designs or a complete set.
Publication of the monthly charts will provide interested collectors with a reliable and handy tool to observe purchasing patterns and better understand the demand factor and all of its ramifications for value of coins they may have an interest in acquiring. ■