‘Unavailable’ does not mean ‘sold out’!
Sometimes when an item is marked as “unavailable” on the
Mint’s website on the first day of sales, the product turns out to indeed be
sold out, but in some of these cases additional product becomes available after
the order reconciliation process is completed, which can take months. As
certain orders are cancelled because of expired credit cards or because buyers
were caught trying to get around order or household limits, some product is
freed up once the reconciliation process is complete.
Other times “unavailable” changes to “in stock.” This can
happen for a variety of reasons such as the fact that many coins are made in
batches based on anticipated demand or because of returns and other
When the Mint announces how many of a particular coin or set
were sold on the first day or days, buyers are given some idea of what to
expect. If the Mint announces that all but a small number were sold on day 1,
then buyers know the product is likely gone.
But when the Mint does not immediately provide early sales
data, such as with the 2017 Enhanced Uncirculated coin set released on Aug. 1,
it is hard to know whether it is really sold out.
The problem is that not just retailers and flippers but also
some in the numismatic media have reported items as being sold out when they
are only “unavailable.” For example, in 2015 the American Liberty $100 gold
coin sold a large portion of its mintage on the first day (as the Mint
announced) but did not “sell out” until the end of the year, yet one reputable
news source initially referred to the coin as being gone the first day. And it
happened with the 2017 Enhanced Uncirculated set, which was reported as sold
out by another publication. By now most people know the 2017 Enhanced
Uncirculated set became available again on Wednesday morning.
I urge all parties to be more careful in how they report
this information, since it has an impact on buyers' decisions.
And the Mint could assist by reporting first day sales on a
consistent basis for all products. Order reconciliation is always an issue, so
it is hard to explain why some products have their sales reported after the
first day or two, while others are not reported until the following week’s
Buyers, especially those who are newer collectors, should be
skeptical of claims an item is sold out unless it is marked as such on the
Mint’s web site. Caveat emptor!
In addition, why does the Mint continue to sell products,
like the Enhanced Uncirculated Coin set, that have very wide appeal, with no
limits, virtually guaranteeing the result of unhappy buyers unable to buy from
the Mint? The outcome in this case, that by serendipity many who waited were enabled
to buy the sets soon after, doesn’t change the overall problem. All products
should have an initial limit of some kind to create a more level playing
No approach will be perfect or satisfy everyone, but having
no limit for something like the Enhanced Uncirculated Coin set does end up
favoring large buyers, whether or not that was the intention.