US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for May 6, 2019

The U.S. Mint has been receiving returns of its Proof 2019-W Lincoln cents because of damage, and now similar problems are reported with the Reverse Proof 2019-W cents.

Images courtesy of Steven Haynes.

While the United States Mint under the leadership of Mint Director David J. Ryder has taken important and welcome steps to promote coin collecting and maybe even expand its customer base, execution of some the new initiatives is not meeting customer expectations.

As we have reported in several recent issues, including this one, the quality of a number of the 2019-W Lincoln cents being sent as bonuses for three 2019 annual sets has been sub par, and collectors are unhappy.

We have received numerous reports of defective Proof 2019-W Lincoln cents with discolorations in the same general regions. This suggests some sort of systematic problems with the coin, something not seen on Proof 2019-S Lincoln cents.

The San Francisco Mint has more than a half century of experience in striking Proof versions of the nation’s circulating coinage, while the 2019-W cents are the first Proof versions of that denomination to be struck at the West Point Mint. Differences in employee experience and the equipment used to strike the coins at the two different facilities could explain the differences in quality.

The U.S. Mint overall has done an excellent job of improving the quality of the numismatic coins it strikes. However, collectors who have become used to that level of workmanship now expect perfection or near perfection for every coin they receive. Today, receiving a grade of Mint State 67 or Proof 67 — grade levels that would have been rarely seen years ago — is a disappointment. The Mint’s customers expect coins that grade 69 or 70.

Collectors that I have spoken with over the last few weeks are also unhappy with their experiences with Mint customer service while attempting to return the defective coins for replacement. A number of collectors have told me that customer service representatives told them flat out that the defective coins cannot be replaced, which is inaccurate. Some collectors talking with a customer service rep familiar with the Mint’s replacement policy are running into another barrier — the Mint’s seven-day return policy.

We hope that the Mint will continue to offer exciting new products, as long as they learn from the disappointments of the current programs. 

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