by Louis Golino for CoinWeek
Collectors who ordered 25th anniversary silver eagle sets from the Mint on October 27 are eagerly awaiting shipment of their sets.
A waiting list for the sets was posted about 4 ½ hours after the start of sales on October 27, which was one of the fastest sells-outs in U.S. Mint history.
The official sold out notice was posted the following day.
As of now, those whose orders have been received and confirmed have been told their sets will ship in about two weeks, but I would not expect that to be a firm time frame.
From the day the sets sold out pre-orders on e-Bay generated major premiums over the Mint’s price of $299.95. Within days the sets were averaging $600 each, and last week prices reached about $1,000 per set, and lots of five unopened sets sold for as much as $7,500.
Graded sets have been selling for many multiples of these prices, with sets graded MS/PF-70 averaging $4,000 each and reaching a high of close to $5,400.
Of course, no sets have yet been actually graded since no one yet has physical possession of any sets. But larger coin sellers and retailers purchased enough sets that they seem to be certain they will receive some 70 sets.
I would caution buyers of the graded sets to wait before buying.
The market for these coins will not really begin to be established until sets have been received and graded by the grading companies and sold by major coin retailers at fixed prices. You will almost certainly lose money if you pay $4,000 or more for a 70 set now.
On the other hand, if you bought a raw set that you plan to have graded, you could do very well if your only cost is the raw set plus the grading fees.
Remember that PCGS and NGC require that these sets be sent in unopened U.S. Mint boxes in order to be eligible for 25th anniversary labels. This means the outer shipping box must be sealed and never have been opened.
Last week e-Bay halted pre-order sales of these sets and cancelled auctions for them.
Initially, some sets were still slipping through, but as of late last week, it became almost impossible to find a set for sale on e-Bay. Prior to writing this column, I checked and could only find one.
E-Bay argues that because of high demand for the sets, it is important that sellers have physical possession of sets of which they can provide a unique photo.
The high demand argument is not persuasive since many other coins are in high demand, but are still sold on a pre-order basis.
It appears that e-Bay made this move in response to numerous complaints that e-Bay sellers had flooded the Mint’s web and phone ordering systems, crowding out collectors looking to acquire a set for their collection rather than to sell.
The new policy is a departure from past e-Bay practice since pre-orders for modern U.S. coins, especially limited edition sets, have been a staple of e-Bay coin sales.
It also seems inconsistent since as far as I know, pre-orders are still accepted for other coins such as rolls of bullion-grade silver eagles, or even other collectible Mint products.
Sellers generally state that if they are unable to provide the coins within 30 days, the buyer has the option of cancelling the sale.
It is unclear what is different about the anniversary sets apart from the high number of complaints, which e-Bay must have received about pre-orders of these sets.
It is also unclear how e-Bay’s move will impact the market for the sets.
Meanwhile, most retailers, such as John Maben’s Modern Coin Mart (MCM), have not yet determined their selling prices, but MCM is accepting non-binding pre-orders with no price indicated. MCM calls itself the largest online retailer of modern U.S. coins.
Typically, major retailers and smaller dealers use e-Bay completed sales to help determine the market price for modern coins. This is a rapidly changing segment of the U.S. coin market, and even the weekly Coin Dealer Newsletter, or greysheet, can lag behind what coins are trading at on a given day.
Even before Mint sales for these coins began, Chattanooga Coins of TN, was offering pre-sales for $800 for raw sets, $900 for MS/PF-69 sets, and $3,975 for 70 sets.
Chattanooga has indicated it has sold out of the raw sets.
In my view, a price in the neighborhood of $1,000 is where I expect values for these sets to settle in the coming months.
But again, it is important to understand that the modern Mint segment of the coin market evolves all the time, and prices will ebb and flow in response to a variety of factors.
These factors include especially dealer promotions and the extent to which these sets are in what I like to call “strong hands,” meaning owners who plan to keep their sets at least for a few years, rather than sell them.
As was evident from the response to my last column on these coins, and other discussions on the anniversary sets, the quick sell out of these sets really struck a chord with a lot of people. Even some dealers were unable to place orders for sets, as I learned at my local coin shop.
The controversy surrounding the sale of these coins continues to swirl, as collectors and other buyers debate the pros and cons of the household limit of five sets and the Mint’s lagging ordering systems.
Many suggestions have been made from a lottery system to a mail-in process and others, but there is nothing close to a consensus on what would work best at this point.
Last week the Mint e-mailed customers and posted on its web site (http://www.usmint.gov) a notice indicating that it is aware of the concerns of people who were unable to obtain a set, and the frustrations involved in trying to obtain a set.
The statement reiterated the Mint’s plans to implement a major overhaul of its ordering infrastructure next year and also said it is conducting a review of its policies regarding the sale of limited edition coin sets to ensure they are consistent with the Mint’s objectives, which include promoting a wide distribution of its products to interested buyers.
Late in the day on November 7, the Mint changed the order status for many customers' orders to "in stock and reserved" and began charging buyers' credit cards, which is generally not done until orders are ready to ship, or will ship within a couple days.
Probably as a result of this development, e-Bay has reinstated some pre-order auctions for the sets. I found 10 auctions with buyers stating their orders were "in stock and reserved," but last week before the policy change there were hundreds of auctions.
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.