By Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………
Although there are not as many new releases being issued by the U.S. Mint (www.usmint.gov) as there were earlier in the year, there are plenty of other developments of interest to collectors of modern U.S. coins.
Here are three of the more noteworthy ones:
First Spouse gold coins coming soon
Each successive year seems to bring more trouble for the first spouse series. For the second year in a row production problems have delayed the release of new issues. The Mint has explained that the latest problem is related to what is called “finning,” which has to do with excess metal building up around the edges when the coins are made. But since the coins have been issued since 2007, and Buffalo gold coins of the same .9999 fineness have been made since 2006, it remains unclear why these problems surfaced during the production of this year’s coins.
This year’s coins were also delayed by the difficulty reaching consensus on the designs, with the Commission on Fine Arts and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Commissions recommending different designs for some of the coins. The 2013 releases will include five instead of the usual four coins because President Woodrow Wilson had two different wives while in office, Edith and Ellen.
The Mint has finally posted release dates for the first three of the 2013 coins, which are: November 14 (Ida McKinley); November 21 (Edith Roosevelt); and December 2 (Helen Taft). That is an even faster pace of releases than we saw with the 2012 coins.
Many people continue to argue that releasing all the coins in such a compressed time period imposes severe financial pressure on the remaining buyers of this series, who already have to deal with high gold prices and relatively high premiums.
But the coins are normally for sale for a year or more, and there is no need to rush out and buy them when they are issued, yet many people feel compelled to do that. Some worry they will get someone else’s returns if they wait, or they want first strike/early release-eligible coins, but they could always buy them later on e-Bay or from a retailer later with whatever labels they want. Buyers of the 2012 coins who did not want to wait ended up paying more for their coins than they would have if they had waited. That is something to keep in mind, though there is no guarantee gold prices will be lower later than they are now.
It is also noteworthy that the maximum mintage level has been reduced from 13,000 last year to 10,000 this year, which includes both proof and uncirculated coins. In recent years about 3,000 uncirculated and 4,000 proofs have been sold of each issue, with some issues having even lower numbers. So far the compressed schedule of last year’s coins has not resulted in lower sales for the most part. The Garfield and Hayes coins from 2011 remain the uncirculated keys for now.
America the Beautiful 5-ounce silver coin update
The final 2013 ATB 5-ounce silver coins, which honor Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, are coming soon. The collector versions have a November 7 release date, and orders for the bullion coins have just started at a major bullion company that is also a U.S. Mint Authorized Purchaser with an expected availability of November 13.
This coin should have very solid demand because it is perhaps the most well-known national park, and because the design is an unusual, post-modern view of a familiar scene. Instead of showing the row of presidents we are all familiar with, it zeroes in on Jefferson’s nose, shows a side profile of Washington, and also depicts artists working on the monument.
The Mint recently announced sell-outs for both versions of the White Mountain coin, with the bullion coins selling 35,000, and the collector versions 20,523 units. The bullion coin reached the maximum sales level, but sales of the numismatic coin were ended early, as they were for all of last year’s issues.
With prices for both versions quite close (about $140 for the bullion, and $155 for the numismatic coins), the coins sold by the Mint have good potential, especially given the faster pace of sales this year, and the fact that the Mint is not producing the full run of 25,000 coins (the maximum level for the collector coins) at once. 20,000 is not the lowest coin for the collector series, but it is low enough to help drive future demand for the coins, especially given a design that has widespread appeal.
2014 baseball designs unveiled without ceremony
The winning design for the obverse of the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins was announced last week by the Mint. The designer of the winning design, which depicts the inside of a baseball glove, is Cassie McFarland, who is from San Luis Obispo, California. For designing the coin she will receive compensation of $5,000, and her initials will appear on the coin. Her design works very well with the curved or dome-like shape of the coins and can be seen at this page.
The unveiling of the winning design had been scheduled for October 8, but that was during the recent government shutdown. Although the Mint does not receive federal funding, the design ceremony was going to be held at a federally-funded building, so it could not take place during the shutdown.
The coins will be released early next year, and the reverse design that depicts a baseball was prepared by a Mint artist and was approved earlier in the year.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.