It might surprise many of our readers at Coin World to learn that gathering mintages for many of the U.S. Mint’s products is a challenging and time-consuming task.
As part of the U.S. Mint’s gradual reshaping of its website, it has started to post weekly updates of coin production figures and numismatic sales. It’s a great start toward solving a problem in the hobby.
The U.S. Mint’s products have three distinct audiences: circulating coins for commerce, numismatic coins for collectors, and bullion coins for investors. Quantities are measured in terms of “production” figures when referring to circulating coins, “sales” figures for numismatic products and “mintage” figures for bullion.
This improvement to the Mint’s website should help consumers make more informed decisions when purchasing coins.
Yet, more needs to be done to help provide standard mintage figures for many popular modern collector coins being produced by the Mint.
A few examples may help clarify the point.
For years, Coin World’s Bill Gibbs has tracked individual mintages for Proof coins, which appear in multiple products and multiple compositions. For example, for each 2012 America the Beautiful quarter dollar, he first identified the products that each appeared in. Consider the Proof 2012 El Yunque copper-nickel clad coin, which is found in the standard Proof set, the America the Beautiful Quarters Proof set, the 2012 Birth set and the El Yunque three-coin set.
Or, take the Proof 2012-S American Eagle silver dollar, appearing in that year’s two-coin set marking the 75th anniversary of the San Francisco Mint, and in the Making American History Coin and Currency Set.
Bill cited one example that made my head spin, writing, “When we tracked the Satin Finish coins (the last of which were struck in 2010), we had to identify which products for those years contained circulation quality coins and which sets contained Satin Finish coins. For example, the three-coin sets of America the Beautiful quarters for 2010 contain Satin Finish coins from the Philadelphia and Denver Mints, along with the Proof coin from the San Francisco Mint; and the three-coin sets from 2011 to 2013 contain two Uncirculated quality coins (the same as used in Uncirculated Mint sets) and the Proof coin.”
Of course, adding to the issue is the fact that the last known sales figure is generally not the final mintage figure. A program has to be audited and returns have to be accounted for along with other factors that can impact a coin’s final mintage. This is part of the reason mintages figures for coins in the First Spouse gold $10 coin program may differ depending on the source.
The end result is confusing for collectors, and it is frustrating for publishers, because different publications end up posting different mintage levels for the same coin.
Requests from Coin World to the Mint to provide individual mintage figures for each individual coin in its production line have been met with understanding nods from Mint officials, but action has not yet been taken to fully resolve this problem. Mint officials have not yet indicated whether final, audited figures will be posted for all coins and sets as they become available. In absence of these, calculating mintages for many coins will remain, at least in part, a complicated process.