What’s going on with the U.S. Mint and its many packaging problems?

?The United States Mint’s packaging woes keep getting worse and they need to stop.

As Paul Gilkes reports this week, the Mint had to postpone sales of three 2016 annual sets featuring the year’s America the Beautiful quarter dollars because the sales and marketing team messed up, again, in approving the production of packaging with a serious problem. In this case, the error was an “incorrect image of the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park,” according to a Jan. 20 press release from the Mint.

This problem is the latest in a continuing series of packaging problems for the Mint.

The Mint canceled the Jan. 14 launch of sales for the 2016-P Mark Twain silver dollar when it discovered that the certificate of authenticity cited the wrong novel for the small scene on the reverse of the coin showing Huck and Jim on a raft traveling along the Mississippi River. As anyone who has studied American literature could tell you, that life-changing voyage for the two occurred in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, not in the pages of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as the COA and earlier Mint promotional materials stated.

On Nov. 4, Mint officials announced that the Nov. 23 launch of sales for the 2015 Limited Edition Silver Proof set had to be postponed because of “issues with the packaging.” While a delay in sales of that annual product ordinarily would not have been catastrophic — the 2014 edition did not go sale until March 2015 — it contributed to the Mint’s later decision to cancel the set altogether. The cancellation was ordered after Congress passed legislation in December requiring that numismatic versions of American Eagle silver dollars sold in 2016 should sport distinctive edges. The 2015 set would have contained a Proof 2015-W American Eagle silver dollar with a standard reeded edge.

On Sept. 3, the Mint acknowledged that it was “looking into the packaging issues for the 2015 American $1 Coin and Currency sets.” Some customers buying the sets complained that the $1 Federal Reserve note slipped out of position and became stuck to the adhesive intended to keep the packaging together.

Do you see a really ugly trend here?

I’ll be the first to admit to being guilty of making errors in the news articles, features, and opinion pieces I have written during the past 39 years. All of us make mistakes. I try to learn from my errors and not repeat them.

The seemingly never-ending problems the Mint is experiencing suggests two serious problems: a leadership problem at the Mint, especially in the sales and marketing area, and to a lesser degree, a problem with testing packaging before releasing a product to Mint customers.
Moreover, such errors affect the Mint’s bottom line. Destroying old packaging and replacing it with new costs money. Continued problems threaten to drive away Mint customers. The four agencies that stand to benefit from sales of the Mark Twain silver dollar could end up with lower surcharge payouts because of a shorter sales period and higher costs associated with the program, which have to be recouped before payments to those agencies can begin.

Most importantly, these kinds of problems make the Mint look stupid. The mistake with the name of Twain’s novel should never have occurred. Huckleberry Finn is one of the greatest works in American literature; how could the Mint sales and marketing staff not catch that error?

Every time the Mint suspends or postpones sales for a product, Coin World’s editorial and advertising staffs get calls and emails from customer wondering what is going on. Mint customers are clearly upset.

United States Mint management needs to take immediate steps to stop these kinds of problems from occurring in the future. Otherwise, the Mint could stand to lose future revenue as customers stop purchasing the Mint’s products.