US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Feb. 15, 2021: A not-so-great start?

Two U.S. Mint products featuring the Proof 2021-W American Eagle silver dollar went on sale Feb. 11 and became “currently unavailable” within minutes. And within minutes, Mint customers began complaining about what they perceived more of the same from the Mint.

Original images courtesy of the United States Mint

Well, it is only Feb. 11 as I write this and collectors are already upset with the United States Mint for its 2021 numismatic product offerings.

The Proof 2021-W American Eagle silver dollar went on sale at noon ET on Feb. 11, both as a single coin and in the 2021 Congratulations set. The coin is to be the last of its kind with the original reverse design, introduced in 1986; a new design will be introduced later in the year.

Both products went to “currently unavailable” status within a few minutes of the start of sales and a “remind me” button was added to both product pages in case more examples of the items become available later.

The product limit for the single coin was 327,440 coins, with a household purchase limit of 99 coins. The Congratulations set has no product or household limits. The mintage limit for the coin itself is unlimited, meaning that more could be offered to Mint customers in other products later in the year.

Within a few minutes of the coins going on sale and then becoming unavailable, readers began contacting Coin World with complaints about the fast “sellout,” if the products are truly sold out at this time. Customer dissatisfaction is understandable; the American Eagle silver dollar, in all of its finishes and forms, is one of the most popular coins the Mint has ever offered to its customers.

Some Mint customers are already upset with the Mint for its production of small quantities of 2021 American Eagle silver bullion coins at the San Francisco Mint and Philadelphia Mint, to supplement West Point Mint production. Mint officials made it easy for its authorized purchasers — the only entities authorized to buy the coins from the Mint — to identify the origins of the monster boxes in which the coins are shipped to their purchasers. Even though the bullion coins are indistinguishable since none have a Mint mark, most if not all of the Philadelphia and San Francisco Mint coins were likely shipped to grading services for certification as being the products of a specific facility. For the authorized purchasers and the grading services, the low-mintage coins translate into fast profits, since the grading services make money through their certification fees and the sellers can tack on premiums not found on the more abundant West Point Mint strikes.

Many collectors are completists; they want one of every version of the coin they specialize in. For the American Eagle silver dollar, that used to mean no more than two coins a year: a bullion strike and a Proof strike. But then the Mint began introducing limited edition pieces like the Proof 1995-W American Eagle silver dollar, new finishes like Reverse Proof, regular Proofs from more than one Mint, and the privy-marked coin of 2020. With low mintages, high demand and huge profits for dealers, what was once a manageable collection mutated into something many collectors, especially those with limited budgets, eventually could not afford.

We have long held that the Mint should not be producing and selling manufactured rarities that ultimately benefit a few to the detriment of the many. Many collectors, I suspect, would agree with that position.

It is too soon to tell when, or if, additional quantities of the Proof 2021-W American Eagle silver dollar might become available again. Until then, collectors unable to acquire one or more of the coins will continue to feel betrayed by the United States Mint once again. Let us hope that the coin will be made available in quantities sufficient to meet the demand from all Mint customers.

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