Steve's Week at the ANA show: Day 4

The following blog post is pulled from Steve Roach's editorial in the Aug. 25, 2014, issue

?As I’ve spent the week at the American Numismatic Association’s annual summer convention in suburban Chicago, I’ve had a first row seat to see the U.S. Mint’s launch of the 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollar. It’s exciting to see the interest that the launch of this coin has created. However, at the same time it’s troubling. 

The majority of people who have been waiting outside of the Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont are not collectors looking to add a coin to their collection. Instead, they are either being paid by someone to wait in line or are looking to flip their coin at the show for a fast profit. 

In conversations I’ve had with people while they were waiting in line, many weren’t even clear what they were buying. They were simply bodies that would receive money to purchase something for someone else, make $400 to $600 for waiting in line, and then after lunch go back in line again.

An ABC station in Denver broadcast an interview with a man named Demarko Anderson who said he was paid $600 to purchase a coin at the Mint’s retail space in Denver. He said, “Basically, they’re giving away … basically … free money.”

While it brings bodies in the door of a coin show, are these people going to become coin collectors? Are they going to look at coins as any more than a way to make a fast buck?

It’s not a good look for coin dealers and the rare coin industry. 

The first six coins were quickly certified by Professional Coin Grading Service with special labels indicating that they were among the first coins sold at the ANA show. Of course, these coins are physically indistinguishable from other 2014-W Kennedy gold half dollars and the Mint has made clear that the quality of coins will not differ throughout the production run. The Mint also has the capacity to strike more than 100,000 of these coins and plans to have 75,000 available by Oct. 1, 2014. 

The first four coins were sold at effectively the $6,240 level per coin (since each of the first four people in line who purchased the coins from the Mint were given $5,000 and a replacement gold Kennedy half dollar with a sale price of $1,240). Other coins from the first day of the ANA show have sold at more than the $3,000 level in transactions on the ANA’s bourse floor. 

The Mint expects to launch more products at the ANA’s summer show in the coming years and will learn from this launch. As Tom Jurkowsky, the Mint’s director of Corporate Communications, told Coin World on Aug. 7, “we’re a victim of our own success.” 

By 10 p.m. on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 6, there were already more than 500 people waiting in line for the next day’s sales. On Aug. 7, the Mint and the ANA jointly announced that sales of the gold Kennedy half dollars in Rosemont were suspended for the last two days of the show, Aug. 8 and 9. 

Of course, with the Mint’s allocation of 500 coins per day at the ANA show now cut short by 1,000 coins as the Mint won’t be distributing them on Friday or Saturday, this now only puts increased demand on the first 1,500 that were sold at the show. 

One hopes that going forward the U.S. Mint works with the ANA, dealers, collectors and grading services to orchestrate new releases at major coin shows that will put positive attention on our hobby and avoid the uncontrolled speculation that marred this release. A successful release of a popular new issue could introduce new people to our hobby and allow collectors a chance to add an example to their collection without giving up a day at the coin show (and a night’s sleep), or paying steep premiums in the secondary market.

Read the rest of Steve's blog posts from the ANA: