by Louis Golino for CoinWeek.....
Coins from the Perth Mint in Western Australia are eagerly collected all over the world and are renowned for their high quality and innovative designs and themes. More than most other world mints, Perth has pushed the envelope of modern world coins into all kinds of interesting areas that involve the use of color and other techniques. And their bullion coins have a strong global collector base and impressive price track record.
American customers are believed to make up a major, possibly the largest, segment of buyers of Perth numismatic products. Over the past year when several limited edition Perth releases were made available on the mint’s web site (www.perthmint.com.au), it was virtually impossible to successfully place an order because so many people were on the site trying to order at the same time, and Perth’s ordering system was overloaded. The U.S. Mint regularly faces the same problem.
The Perth Mint made several changes over the past year to improve this situation such as using a queue system that staggers orders. That was used to good effect for the release of the high relief dragon earlier this year.
But Perth has also been using another technique, namely, preventing American customers from being allowed to order certain high demand, limited edition releases. Instead those buyers are directed to an American company to order the item.
This approach was used recently for the 2012 high relief Kookaburra coins, which American buyers had to purchase from Paradise Mint. When they first heard about it, many people were concerned that prices would be higher than Perth’s issue price, which does tend to be quite substantial, probably because there is such strong demand for their products. Buyers were also worried that coins would only be sold already graded, or that raw coins would be cherry picked.
As it turned out, the high relief coin sales went smoothly at Paradise because plenty of coins in their original packaging were available at about the same price as at Perth. Paradise also sold graded examples.
American collectors were also not allowed to order the 2012 five-ounce proof Koala coin, which was released to U.S. customers through Asset Marketing Services, Inc., which owns New York Mint.com and Gov Mint.com.
From the time it was announced dragon collectors were excited about the five-ounce proof coin. Relatively few dragon coins in Perth’s Lunar II series have been issued in proof without color.
When the five-ounce coins were listed for sale on June 5, American buyers found that once again they had to purchase the item from a U.S. company instead of from Perth.
It turns out that the five-ounce dragon project was actually the New York Mint’s idea. The coins will available there beginning July 16, and the coins will be sold graded, including first strikes.
I suspect a lot of American collectors will be disappointed by the plans to release graded examples of the 5-ounce proof dragon through New York Mint. This will almost surely increase prices. The coins are also only available through direct telephone sales at 800-642-9160.
Perth officials also told CoinWeek that “Although the New York Mint did suggest that the Perth Mint produce a 5 ounce size of our popular Australian Lunar Year of the Dragon coin, the release was part of the Perth Mint’s ongoing program. A significant portion of its mintage, however, was consumed by the New York Mint for customers in the US. With regards to it release, the Mint has suggested that customers call them on their sales number and they will capture names and orders for when they arrive.”
On the issue of why Perth is releasing more coins through exclusive distribution arrangements, “The Perth Mint’s distribution arrangements are purely commercial decisions that we believe overall best satisfy our markets.”
U.S. buyers can obtain the dragon sooner by ordering on e-Bay, particularly if they want one in original government packaging. There are several European and Asian sellers who have the coin in stock.
Some American collectors feel that having some advance notice would have been helpful, but these are business decisions by Perth. Nevertheless, the lack of notice compounded the sense of disappointment for American dragon collectors.
If the Perth Mint continues to release high-demand, low-mintage coins this way, there is a danger of eroding its American customer base. For more on how the lockout of American customers may affect Perth’s business and some alternative suggestions for the release of such coins, see this blog post.
In 2010 Perth used a similar arrangement to distribute the high relief Kangaroo.
In addition to issuing the five-ounce proof Dragon on June 5, Perth also issued a number of other coins including an Australian map-shaped proof Kookaburra coin, that sold out quickly, a series of one-tenth-ounce colored platinum coins for the Discover Australia series, and others.
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.