US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Aug. 9, 2021: The stress of success

Even successful efforts to purchase a limited-edition product from the U.S. Mint like the 2021-S Morgan dollar can prove stressful for the buyer.

Original images courtesy of the United States Mint.

We have seen that Hollywood and television trope of the terrorist bomb with counter counting down to detonation, the hero hesitating, deciding between cutting the blue wire or the red wire to stop the BOOM. For some collectors, counting down to noon Eastern Time when a new Mint product’s sales will begin brings the same level of tension.

As the clock ticks to 11:59:55 on product launch day, collectors across the United States wonder: Will they be able to place an order for the latest new American Eagle or Morgan dollar reproduction, or will the Mint doubt their humanity and, suspecting a bot, ask them, perhaps several times, to click on all the traffic lights or perform some other task presumably beyond the capacity of a computer program designed to order coins? Will they be able to complete the ordering process once a coin is in their shopping cart, before the maximum product limit is reached?

The U.S. Mint’s Aug. 3 offering of the 2021-D and 2021-S Morgan dollars had the expected outcome. Website problems arose. Collectors were wrongly identified as bots. Screens locked up. It took forever to get through to a customer service representative on the telephone.

Some collectors were unsuccessful in placing orders. Some of them called or emailed me to vent, to find a sympathetic ear to voice their opinion about how the Mint handled the sales of the dollars (you can guess the gist of what they said).

Others were successful. A few of them, too, contacted me to let us know about their luck.

In recent Mint product launches, even collectors who successfully complete their purchase find the entire process nerve-wracking and suspenseful. The line dividing success from failure is a thin one. A coin is available one second and unavailable the next.

We will not debate the wisdom or ethics of the Mint’s marketing plans. We have done that in the past and almost certainly will continue to do so as long as the Mint offers insufficient numbers of its product relative to demand. However, while improvements have been made, we impress upon Mint officials the need to continue working on the website to ensure that collectors do not go BOOM.
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