US Coins

Mint accidentally sells 2019-W cents individually

A total of 91 lucky United States Mint customers on March 3 and 4 were able to successfully order 921 individual Proof 2019-W Lincoln cents at face value, which were then shipped to them before officials realized that an internal system used for tracking Mint products was made public and became a live catalog order page.

Another 270 orders for 41,509 cents were canceled, according to the Mint

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Mint customers reportedly found at the Mint online catalog a link for the cent on the order page for the Uncirculated 2018-W America the Beautiful 5-ounce silver coin for the Voyageurs National Park. The cents, supposed to be available only with the standard 2019 Proof set as a premium, were assigned an individual bar code as a routine inventory tracking device, as was the envelope for the cent. Such barcodes are scanned when Proof set orders are being filled, to ensure that all purchased elements are included with a shipment. Those counts are tracked internally.

However, on March 4, for about a day, customers clicking the link were taken to the internal page, which was not intended to be public. Customers were able to order the individual cent, with some customers reporting that they had been able to place orders for as many as 100 cents.

T.V. Johnson, chief of Corporate Communications for the Mint, and J. Marc Landry, the Mint’s acting associate director for the Numismatic and Bullion Directorate, confirmed the mix-up in a telephone conversation with Coin World on March 7.

They said that orders were processed and coins shipped until officials realized that something was amiss and closed the ordering link.

Coin World subscriber Larry Roth described his experiences in an email on March 4. “Some sharp eyed person gave all of us that follow the usmint blog website a heads up. If you clicked on the Lowell quarters bags and rolls, and looked at the ‘also purchased with,’ there it was! The W penny for a penny! I bought 100 and got a real confirmation from the mint! Within about 1½ hours, it was gone.”

Fulfilling the orders for the coin at face value would mean that every cent sold would represent a loss of revenue to the Mint, since even circulating cents cost more than face value to strike.

A number of customers reported in discussions at the online forums that, after they completed their transactions, they received email confirmation of their orders. 

The U.S. Mint is producing three special 2019-W Lincoln cents for use as premiums for three annual sets: the Proof 2019-W Lincoln cent, which is included with the purchase of the standard Proof set, one with a Reverse Proof finish, to be used as a premium with the 2019 Silver Proof set, and one with an Uncirculated finish, to go with the 2019 Uncirculated Coin set.

The inclusion of a special cent with the traditional Proof set has had only a modest impact on orders for the 2019 edition. The set went on sale March 1 and as of the March 3 sales report, had sold 196,034 sets. In contrast, sales for the standard 2018 Proof set during its first few days of availability totaled 182,940 sets. 

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