Mint Can’t Issue More 2015 Platinum Eagles
I would like to respond to the letter by Cornell Scanlon in the Feb. 8 issue of Coin World. Mr. Scanlon suggests that he was unable to purchase a 2015-W American Platinum Eagle proof coin due to “the professional speculators’ computer-controlled entries” and that the Mint should reissue the coin this year when sufficient platinum planchets are available. He also suggested that buyers of the 2014 issue should have been given first crack at purchasing the 2015 issue.
First, it was certainly not easy to place an order before sales ended somewhere around 4-7 minutes after they began. But there is no proof that speculators grabbed the lion’s share of these coins, whereas there is considerable evidence that individual collectors purchased many of them.
Most dealers, even major ones, were only able to secure a handful of coins based on the small number of coins available for sale from those companies as far as I have seen. Second, if speculators had indeed purchased a majority of the coins, the secondary market value would have by now either crashed or at least declined substantially by now. Instead, values have held steady at around $2,000 for raw coins and $3,000 and up for 70-graded pieces. This typically means the coins are in “strong hands,” meaning held by buyers who plan to keep them at least for now.
I was able to purchase a coin and encountered none of the website issues I have seen in the past, and I have many friends who also got their orders in. From what I have heard most people were so impressed with these coins in terms of the design and high quality that they decided to keep them despite the prospect of an easy payday. I noticed the same trend in online coin forums.
Second, the key point is the Mint by law cannot strike coins from one year in the following year. They can sell them provided they were struck during the year that appears on them except for commemoratives, and whatever rules apply to stamps have no bearing here. Besides, even if they could, this would be a dangerous precedent and would upset the market for these coins and of course the buyers too, who would see the value of their purchase decline after the mintage was increased.
In fact, this is something the Perth Mint in Australia has done in the past, and it did not go over well with collectors.
The U.S. Mint does try to focus on collectors and maintain an even playing field, but it also has other clients too, namely dealers, and it is not so easy catering to such a wide customer base. As I have argued previously, there are certain areas in which it gives dealers the ability to buy in bulk at a discount, but that does not apply to all products and did not apply to this coin. Moreover, most of the allegations one hears from Mint buyers about how they got locked out by the “big boys” turn out not to have any solid evidence. They are based on issues such as how fast some dealers had their coins graded, which is often a function of how close they are located to the grading companies.
And keep in mind that virtually every other major world mint gives dealers huge advantages such as the ability to order coins before they are released to the public, which in the case of the Royal Canadian Mint often results in coins being sold out before the public can even order with the exception of members of their Master’s Club, which was revamped last year.
Finally, as far as giving priority to buyers of the previous issue, this is something some foreign dealers do, and perhaps the Mint could look into such an approach. A first step would be to ask its customers if they would favor this, and to see if the Mint thinks it would be feasible to do it.
However, this approach would not have worked with the 2015 platinum coin since the 2014 had sales of over 700 coins more than the 2015 issue. How would the Mint decide which of the buyers of the previous issues could purchase the coin?