US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Aug. 25, 2023: Not a sellout

United States Mint officials traveled the globe to seek partners in buying and selling 1994 commemorative coins for that year's World Cup. The coins did not come close to selling out, which Coin World predicted.

Original images courtesy of FIFA.

Recently, with the knowledge that my service as managing editor is nearing its end with my planned retirement, I have been looking at past issues to explore the news coverage and opinion page contents considered important at various times in the past, as seen in the pages of Coin World.

Thirty years ago, the Sept. 20, 1993, issue of Coin World featured a lot of coverage of current and upcoming commemorative coin programs. In 2023, we caught a break from commemorative coin programs; none is authorized this year, though several long-shot pieces of legislation await review in Congress. In 1993, two programs were in progress: the Bill of Rights coins, marking a 1789 anniversary; and the 50th Anniversary of the End of World War II, whose coins lacked a 1993 date of issue but instead bore the anniversary years of 1991–1995. (The Thomas Jefferson 250th Anniversary of Birth coin program, celebrating his 1743 birth, was actually delayed until 1994.)

Inside, on the Editorial-Opinion page, editor Beth Deisher was skeptical that a worldwide tour by Mint Director David Ryder and an international marketing team was worth the effort for another 1994 coin program.

Ryder was promoting the 1994 World Cup Soccer coin program, which would celebrate the first time the cup was held in the United States. Ryder and team were seeking partners to buy and sell the planned 1994 coins; in short, Ryder was working to secure a sellout of the nearly 11 million coins authorized to raise $66 million in surcharges to fund the games.

Beth was realistic, ticking off point by point why the global tour was a waste of time and money: (1) Only the 1986 Statue of Liberty program had sold more than 11 million commemorative coins. (2) Soccer was not a widely followed sport in the United States, with most of the players and fans being children and not the 50-years-and-older collector community. (3) Historically, most U.S. commemorative coins were purchased by collectors in the United States; overseas sales were historically light.

Beth was spot-on in her analysis of the program’s prospects. After 1994 sales of the World Cup Soccer coins were tallied, final totals were well below the 11 million coins available. Rather than turning over $66 million in surcharges, the Mint paid out $9,309,995, more than was raised with the 1992 Olympic Games program ($9,202,226)  and with the 1993 World War II program ($7,797,614), but well below the 1986 Statue of Liberty totals ($83,149,316).

The 1994 World Cup Soccer program, like the brand new U.S. team that year, was not a huge winner.

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