Congress should confirm Ryder ASAP
The 2017 Fiscal Year, which ran from September 2016 through September 2017, was a tough one for the U.S. Mint.
Sales and revenue from bullion and numismatic coin sales were down sharply, and seigniorage income was also down, according to the FY2017 Annual Report.
Specifically, bullion sales revenue was down 33.9% and net income from those sales was down a whopping 80.3%. These results were driven primarily by a 98.3% drop in net income from sales of American Eagle silver dollars, which were down by 41.5.
It is also worth noting that the America the Beautiful 5-ounce quarter dollars, the American Eagle palladium coin program, and American Eagle platinum bullion programs all ended the year at a loss.
On the numismatic side, revenue was down 6.2%, while net income from those sales was down by 44.3%, which is attributed mainly to the end of the presidential dollar and First Spouse coin and medal programs.
It is certainly the case that there were bright spots for the year such as the various products issued to mark the 225th anniversary of the Mint, but overall these results are troubling, especially the steady downward decline in numismatic sales since 2013.
A key factor is the end of several longstanding coin programs. The Mint is currently in a transition period in which its future direction in terms of numismatic programs other than regular annual offerings largely remains to be determined.
The American Innovation $1 coin program that passed the House recently is an example of the wrong kind of program, since I do not detect much enthusiasm for it from collectors.
In my view, another important factor is that buyers have become weary of paying several hundred dollars in premiums for gold and platinum products, especially since, apart from key date pieces, aftermarket values for those coins typically decline to close to melt value.
Mint officials said during last November’s numismatic forum that they were not focused on aftermarket values of their products, but they should be. And a way must be found to bring down prices for higher-end coins, in part by offering them in capsules for those who plan to have the coins graded.
Mint Director-nominee David J. Ryder, whose nomination expired at the end of last year without a vote, has been re-nominated and awaits Senate confirmation.
Let’s hope that politics does not get in the way of getting Ryder to the Mint as soon as possible.
While acting officials are certainly capable of running the Mint, as they have since 2011, at this important juncture in the Mint’s future it is essential to have a congressionally-approved director.
The Mint faces a daunting array of challenges from reversing the slide in bullion and numismatic sales to implementing effective anti-counterfeiting measures, figuring out how to appeal to younger collectors, and many others.
Ryder is very well placed to take on this agenda given his background as a former Mint Director and private sector specialist in anti-counterfeiting technology, not to mention that he is also a coin collector, as he told me last year.