New collectors are often puzzled by the fact that the U.S. Mint did
not produce Uncirculated Mint sets for the years 1982 and 1983.
The gap in Uncirculated set production occurred ostensibly because
of across-the-board budget cuts ordered by President Reagan soon after
he was sworn into office in January of 1981. Reagan had won election
on a platform of holding down federal hiring and government expenditures.
In April of 1981, Treasurer Angela “Bay” Buchanan told members of
Congress that in order to meet the President’s mandates the Mint would
request funding for 179 fewer full-time positions in the 1982 budget
and that because of the reduction in the workforce something else had
Mint officials admitted they deliberately chose to drop one of the
Mint’s most popular products — annual Mint sets containing
Uncirculated examples of each coin struck for circulation — from its
product line and they fully anticipated that 1981 would be the last
production year for Mint sets.
Collectors immediately questioned the decision. Sales of
Uncirculated Mint sets had steadily increased, with sales of the 1977
Mint sets breaking for the first time the 2 million threshold, and
1981 sales were at the 2.9 million level.
But Mint managers identified the Uncirculated Mint set program as
the most “expendable” because collectors could obtain Uncirculated
coins from bags and rolls in order to build their sets.
The Reagan manifesto to reduce government spending incorporated the
theory that the private sector could do many things more efficiently
and cheaper than government agencies. Mint officials were not naive.
They knew private sector companies would step in to package and market
Acting Mint Director Dr. Alan J. Goldman (Donna Pope had not yet
been confirmed as director), referring to the private-sector theory,
observed: “I think it’s worthwhile just letting nature take its course
and see whether that in fact is true or not.”
Entrepreneurs did take on the challenge. Hence, today, 1982 and 1983
Uncirculated sets can be found in a variety of packaging. But all
lacked the quality of Mint packaged sets, and prices were not lower.
Congressional action restored Uncirculated Mint sets in 1984.
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