Mint needs new approaches for selling limited-edition products

The U.S. Mint sales and marketing team needs to rethink how it sells future limited-edition products like the 2015 Dwight D. Eisenhower Coin and Chronicles set.

Image courtesy of U.S. Mint.

?In recent weeks we have commented on the botched — a harsh term, but accurate — marketing decisions behind the sales of the 2015 Truman and Eisenhower Coin and Currency sets. We won’t further belabor those points. Instead, let us look at the future. What steps can the Mint sales and marketing team take in the future to avoid angering their most loyal customers (collectors)?

Many readers been have asking why the Mint didn’t make the sets to order. The Mint has done this previously; it struck the Matte Finish 1998-S Kennedy half dollar to order, and today the coin sells at a significant premium. This approach would give collectors and dealers equal opportunity to buy the products.

If the Mint would prefer not taking that approach, then it needs to make informed decisions on the products it offers. The Mint sales and marketing team needs to talk with hobbyists at all levels before making final marketing decisions; had it done this prior to limiting the Truman and Eisenhower sets to editions of 17,000 each, officials would have likely understood that those numbers were woefully inadequate to meet consumer demand. 

One resource the Mint could access pretty quickly is the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, which already advises the Mint on collector products. The CCAC has among its membership a number of knowledgeable collectors and professionals, so expand reliance on these experts and let them help. 

In addition, the Mint needs to balance the twin needs of collectors and dealers. Mint staff must recognize that some dealers will circumvent household ordering limits by enlisting surrogate buyers. The Mint will likely never be able to stop this from happening, so it should offer products in a different way. It could, for example, offer a percentage of a particular product to bulk purchasers — maybe even without the elaborate packaging, for those resellers who plan to slab the products — while at the same time ensuring that the majority of the product is offered to collectors. For a product limited to 50,000 units, it could for the first week offer 20,000 sets in bulk quantities (say, units of 1,000) and the remainder in smaller numbers. Then, if the set remains available after a week of sales, lift all ordering restrictions (by that time, collectors will have had ample time to place their orders).

The Mint makes a lot of products that a lot of collectors want. But to keep that collector base, it has to sell those products smarter.