Monday Morning Brief for Sept. 12, 2022: True first strikes (and last)
- Published: Sep 12, 2022, 7 AM
Finally, we have an answer as to what true “first strikes” of a popular United States Mint product would bring at auction if certified by the Mint as being the first of their kind.
For years, private grading services have identified U.S. Mint products as “first strikes” or “early releases.” While some collectors and dealers embrace those terms, others have derided such descriptions, particularly “first strikes.” To a traditional, a first strike is exactly that — the first piece struck of a particular coin or medal. For example, the very first 1878 Morgan dollar struck resides, with documentation, at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums in Fremont, Ohio. Original correspondence preserved since 1878 identifies the coin as truly being a first strike.
At PCGS, however, “The PCGS First Strike program designates coins issued in the first 30* days of the Mint’s release. This designation not only adds value to modern coins, but takes modern coin collecting to another level with multiple Mint releases each year” (the asterisk found in the original quote denotes that some coins can qualify after the 30-day point).
PCGS can define the term as it sees fit, but there is no guarantee that the coins issued during the first 30 days were among the first struck. Production of coins can be started well before release and accumulated; there is no way of “ballparking,” for example, when the 2022 Negro Baseball Leagues commemorative coins were struck, even if they were shipped in the first 30 days of sales. The first coins shipped could have been among the most recent pieces struck.
For many, my quibbles over the use of “first strike” are overly restrictive. I admit that I prefer restricting the use of the term to the real thing and not to a marketing effort.
That said, the Mint did a smart thing when identifying the last and first strikes in the 2021 American Eagle program. They documented the production of these coins and thus created the real things.
One can certainly disagree whether a bullion coin identical to many other examples is worth $100,000. One bidder thought so and competing bidders helped drive the price to that level. The question remains, will the Mint do something similar in the future, and should it?
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