US Coins

US Mint changes return policy

Because of a rash of returned numismatic products, the U.S. Mint has modified its return policy in an effort that seems directed at certain customers who buy its coins and sets. 

The Mint posted a notice March 13 on the Federal Register to address the issue of excessive returns.

“Effective immediately, the United States Mint reserves the right to limit or refuse a return or to charge a fee for excessive returns. In addition, the United States Mint reserves the right to suspend accounts of customers with a pattern of excessive returns.”

For decades, Mint customers enjoyed the bureau’s liberal 30-day return policy, which permitted customer returns with no questions asked. With the advent of the Internet in the late 1990s, the return privilege was reduced to a seven-day window to stifle market speculation. 

However, online marketing permits buyers of the Mint’s numismatic products, especially limited-editions, to promote their resale in just a few days and determine whether the product will sell for a profit. If such Mint customers fail to resell the product for a profit, the Mint is then inundated with returns.

Unable to flip, then return

Two products offered by the Mint over the past two years illustrate the bureau’s dilemma.

Defining symbols and figures on paper moneyWendell Wolka concludes his series of columns on allegorical figures depicted on obsolete notes with tips on identifying several figures by their accessories. Also in this issue, we take a look at a few of the dozens of abbreviations in numismatics.

In 2016, the Mint offered the 2016-W Winged Liberty Head Centennial gold dime with a maximum release of 125,000 coins. The issue sold out quickly, with orders restricted to 10 coins per household at $205 each. Within a month of the product’s release, however, the Mint accepted the return of nearly 9,000 of those coins. The coins were eventually resold when the Mint offered them a second time.

The U.S. Mint opened sales Aug. 1, 2017, for the 10-coin 225th Anniversary Enhanced Uncirculated Coin set at $29.95 per set. The total issue was restricted to 225,000 sets. 

The Mint imposed no order limits on online customers, and the set went to “currently unavailable” status at the Mint website within minutes after it went on sale at noon ET. Mint officials did not disclose how many sets were reserved for online sales (there were also other outlets).

That “currently unavailable” status would change, however. Coin World was told by a Mint employee at the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money on Aug. 3 that an online order by a dealer for 20,000 sets was canceled (the cost would have been $599,000). Those 20,000 sets and additional one that were canceled because of payment or processing problems then became available to others. 

Two days after sales abruptly ended online, on the morning of Aug. 3 the set reappeared for sale at the Mint website. Sets remained available well into Aug. 4 during this second round, with some Mint customers probably unaware that the sales had resumed.

In-person sales

The set was also offered for in-person purchase at several physical venues, including at the ANA show in Denver, where buyers could purchase a maximum of 500 sets per trip through the line. That initial supply was exhausted in about five hours on Aug. 1. 

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The sets were also offered without restrictions at the Mint’s sales center at Mint headquarters in Washington, D.C., and contracted sales outlets at the Denver and Philadelphia Mints. The Denver outlet sold 20 sets per pass through the lines with multiple trips through the line permitted until the inventory there was exhausted.

The Mint did not make a public announcement at the show about the resumption of sales when additional sets became available. Sets were sold only if customers asked about them, and at that point, orders were restricted to five per person. 

The sales totals fluctuated wildly in ensuing weeks, often dropping as sets were returned to the Mint’s inventory through product cancellations.

Sales of the set ended with the issue still not a complete sellout. The Mint’s March 11, 2018, sales report indicates total sales at 210,425. The set is no longer available for ordering from the Mint. 

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