30th Anniversary Deserves Much More
I have always been turned off by the rampant bashing of the U.S. Mint that takes place regularly in letters to the editors of numismatic publications and parts of the blogosphere. Often collectors venting their frustration about some issue of another simply do not have all the facts, or they allege some kind conspiracy between the Mint and the “big boy” dealers to prevent regular collectors from buying their coins at issue price.
But there are times when constructive criticism is warranted, when collectors or commentators have useful ideas for the Mint, and this is one of them. The Mint delayed releasing the 2016-W proof and uncirculated versions of the American Silver Eagle for most of the year while they re-tooled their dies to enable them to add incuse edge lettering to the coins noting that this year is the 30th anniversary of the world’s best-selling and most widely traded silver coin.
These coins are usually one of the first products released by the Mint early in the year, and this year buyers had to wait until September 16 to purchase them. But having seen the coins in hand, I and every other collector I know who has also seen them is underwhelmed by the edge lettering with many using that very same word to describe their reaction.
For one thing, it is hard to see inside the capsule because the lettering is not very distinctive and appears rather faint. It is also hard to understand why it took most of the year for the Mint to produce these pieces, whose edge lettering requirements were part of last December’s FAST Act.
Moreover, if this is all the Mint is planning to do to mark the 30th anniversary of the Silver Eagle, that will be an enormous source of disappointment for most collectors, who are expecting some kind of special coin or set for this important occasion.
Collectors have been quite clear about this in the years leading up to this one with most saying they wanted to see the first high or ultra-high relief coin of the series. With the decision not to issue the recent American Liberty silver medals in high relief, those coins would be the first silver issues produced by the Mint with greater than normal relief since the 1921 Peace Dollar.
I know the Mint regularly surveys its customers and also know that many collectors have specifically requested the high relief eagles in those surveys. With this year also being the 30th birthday for the American Gold Eagle, a two-coin set with a high relief version of each coin would be a huge success.
Even if the high reliefs fail to materialize, some kind of special coin set or sets with at least one unique coin is an absolute minimum. Different finishes and mintmarks have been done, which is why something more different like a high relief would be such a hit.
Another exciting option would be a set of fractional Silver Eagles in proof, similar to the sets other world mints issue. For example, the Perth Mint recently released a 4-coin set of silver Kangaroo proof coins, the Mexican Mint has been issuing its popular 5-coin Libertad proof sets for year, and the Royal Canadian Mint has issued numerous factional Maple Leaf sets.
There is still hope when you consider that the 25th anniversary set was issued in late October of 2011, but time is running out. Plus the 25th anniversary set was planned well in advance, and the Mint had telegraphed its plan for some time before the actual release, and the same was true of other special sets from recent years.
Perhaps the Mint will reveal something at the upcoming forum it is holding at the Philadelphia Mint next month.