Part 2: U.S. Mint Practices Not So Bewildering
*This is the second part of my response to complaints about the U.S. Mint from Coin World readers
Regarding the popular 2015 Coin and Chronicle sets, I realize a lot of customers encountered problems ordering the sets, which was mainly due to problems with the Mint’s website that in some cases were worse than anything most people have encountered since the 2011 release of the 25th anniversary American Silver Eagle sets.
But in my experience, by logging on a couple minutes before the release of each Coin and Chronicle set, having my credit card handy, and being persistent, the only one I was not able to order from the Mint was the Eisenhower set. In fact, with the JFK and LBJ sets, almost everyone I know was able to place their order in about a minute.
The Truman set was the other one that was challenging to order before it sold out. I do agree with those who say the Mint should have established a higher mintage level for the Truman and Eisenhower sets. The 17,000 mintage was based on sales of earlier sets that did not have the only reverse proof versions of the respective dollar coins.
But I also disagree with those who maintain that demand for these sets is only driven by the low mintages of reverse proof coins. I know many collectors who simply like these sets partly because of their interest in American history and because they like the unique silver medals and overall presentation.
Moreover, interest in these sets among collectors and not just speculators is reflected in the sharp increase in value of the FDR sets recently, which does not include a reverse proof coin. Collectors are clearly building sets of each of these products.
And going back a dozen years as a regular Mint customer, the Ike set was the only time I was not able to order a high-demand, limited item I was interested in. Perhaps I have been lucky, but to me that is pretty impressive overall track record.
And it compares very favorably with other world mints, where high-demand coins and sets are sometimes virtually impossible to order partly because those mints have policies that give preferential treatment to dealers (such as by allowing dealers to order before the release).
As for Mr. Hepler’s concerns about that fact that dealers profit from the coins the mint issues, which he believes clashes with the fact that the Mint belongs to the taxpayer, let’s be clear. The Mint may be nominally part of the government, but it does not receive taxpayer funding and is a self-sustaining entity.
It can only sustain itself by though a combination of seigniorage from some circulation coins, sales of bullion coins to large coin companies, and sales of numismatic issues to collectors and dealers. The main discount it offers is the bulk sales program, which does not apply to all products, whereas other world mints routinely sell all their coins at a major discount to dealers.
Our Mint’s mission in the numismatic realm is to distribute its coins and sets as widely as possible and to do so at no cost to the taxpayer by earning a profit from their sale, which first goes towards covering all their costs. Anything left over is returned to the Treasury to pay down the debt.
Finally, I have heard many complaints over the years from collectors and numismatists about the Mint’s practice of creating so-called artificial rarities through limited mintages, which is something all mints use as a marketing and sales tool.
But the bottom line is people who spend a lot of money on numismatic issues are almost always drawn to coins with low mintages because they prefer items that are less common and that have a better chance of increasing in value. And it is simply not true, as Mr. Hepler maintains, that all Mint issues eventually are cheaper than when issued.
The Mint is certainly not perfect, and everyone has had frustrating experiences at one point or another, but things are not as bad as many collectors say they are.