US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for November 5, 2018

Limited-edition programs like the gold 2016-W Winged Liberty Head dime, which sold out quickly, have led to collector distrust of the U.S. Mint, including over the possibility of issuing a 2019 circulating rarity.

Original images courtesy of U.S. Mint.

Collectors have voiced a lot of opinions on the?announcement by the director of the U.S. Mint that he is considering authorizing an intentional circulating rarity for 2019. Some like the idea and others do not.

Some of the opposition to the idea is based on a simple fact: A lot of collectors do not trust the Mint and believe that the distribution of limited-edition coins and sets is rigged against regular collectors and designed to benefit certain dealers. I routinely receive calls from readers, following a quick sellout of a limited Mint product, accusing the Mint of playing favorites. 

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from a reader who had been watching one of the television shopping programs, in which the host was promoting the 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary 5-ounce silver dollar. This coin is likely to be one of the hottest offerings of the Mint next year. The coin will be limited to 100,000 pieces and will be the first 5-ounce commemorative coin ever issued by the U.S. Mint. Expect a quick sellout next year.

What upset the caller was the pitch being made by the TV host, in which he was already touting graded examples of the coins, even though the coins have not gone on sale yet. Now, this is typical TV shopping program hyperbole. These programs often feature exaggerated claims by the seller, who offers the coins at a sizeable premium over the issue price. When sellers make claims like these, it is easy to see why collectors view the system as rigged.

The system is rigged, somewhat, in that big firms get around household limits by employing large numbers of people to buy individual maximum amounts of limited offers online, using fast internet connections, while some collectors wait for a customer service representative to take their orders. If most of the Apollo 11 5-ounce coins go to a few dealers, collector distrust will only deepen.

For the Mint’s 2019 circulating rarity, finding a fair distribution channel that dealers cannot exploit will be crucial. If the coin is released and the vast number of them are “found” by dealers with deep pockets, who then offer the coins at high prices, expect collectors to shout “Unfair!” 

The results of a 2013 U.S. Postal Service promotion that created an intentional rarity (see my article on Page 5) makes me  uneasy about the entire concept of an intentional Mint rarity. Should the Mint be in the business of making coins only a few collectors will ever own? I am leaning toward saying no to the idea. 

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