US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Jan. 7, 2019

The 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary commemorative coin program could be successful, but only if the coins are sold fairly.

Original images courtesy of U.S. Mint.

Nearly every year, the U.S. Mint offers a program or limited edition coin that enjoys broad interest and, if the Mint handles sales in an unfair manner, is virtually guaranteed to anger a lot of its customers. In 2019, the Apollo 11 50th Anniversary coin program will be that program.

The program offers many of the attributes necessary for a successful coin program: the event being commemorated is truly monumental; the coins are distinctive, with their concave-convex shapes; it offers novelty in the form of two silver dollars, both of which will be the first of their kind in any U.S. commemorative coin program — the first .999 fine silver dollar and the first 5-ounce silver coin; and the mintages for two of the pieces are small, 50,000 pieces for the gold coin and 100,000 pieces for the larger silver dollar.

The U.S. Mint has not had a truly successful commemorative coin program in years, though much of the blame lies with Congress for the recent trend toward authorizing coins to honor service organizations.

Success can be measured in several ways, of course. A sellout of any of the options is deemed a success, as is a healthy contribution to the recipient organizations through surcharges raised from the sales.

However, to me and to a lot of our readers, the most important indicator of success is a fair and equitable distribution of the coins; one in which big dealers do not snap up the majority of the coins and in which collectors get ample opportunity to buy the coins they want.

The Mint has to ensure the following: one-coin-per-household limits for the coins; that its website operates smoothly with no outages; and plenty of phone lines for customers with no computer access.

Of course, in the past, dealers have gotten around household limits by having employees and others buy the maximum number of coins on their accounts on behalf of their employers. Collectors shut out of a popular program while big dealers buy lots of coins and profit handsomely are justified in calling out a system that, in their views, favors greed over fairness.

If collectors are shut out in the Apollo 11 program, then it is not a success, no matter how many coins are sold.

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