by Louis Golino for CoinWeek
1.) Julia Grant Coin Now Lowest Mintage Proof First Spouse
The proof version of the Julia Grant First Spouse $10 gold coin unexpectedly sold out on March 30. Normally the U.S. Mint (www.usmint.gov) keeps these coins on sale for one year unless they sell out of their maximum mintage before then.
These coins are produced in batches that are tailored to expected demand levels. It appears that the Mint produced 4,000 proof coins based on those projections. The Grant proof coin sold a total of 3,969 pieces, which makes it the lowest mintage proof coin in the series.
Demand for these coins seems to be limited mainly to a relatively small core of dedicated collectors. The Grant proof coin is now selling for a premium, but I would be surprised if its key date status is not overtaken by another coin later this year. There seems to be relatively little trade of these coins outside of e-Bay and a couple of modern coin dealers, which makes it hard to gauge values and secondary market demand.
Views on the long-term future of these coins are divided between those who think they may all eventually be worth not much over their bullion content, and those who think their very low mintages will continue to support high secondary market values for many issues.
The Citizens Coinage Advisory Commission (www.ccac.gov) will hold a meeting on April 26 at the U.S. Mint’s Washington, DC headquarters building that is open to the public. The agenda includes a review of the design candidates for the 2013 spouse coins. That appears to suggest that there are no plans afoot to end the series, which would require a new law, or amendment of the existing law that created these coins.
Two new members were appointed to the CCAC. They are Robert Hoge, who is curator for North American coins and currency at the American Numismatic Society, and Jeanne Stevens-Stollman, a medallic sculpture expert whose work is exhibited at museums in Europe and the U.S.
2.) Marshall Service Commemoratives for 2015
On April 2nd President Obama signed Public Law 102-104, which authorizes the minting of commemorative coins to mark the 225th anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Marshall Service, the nation’s oldest law enforcement agency.
The Marshall Service’s 225th anniversary is in 2014, but the coins are to be issued in 2015.
Up to 500,000 silver dollars, 100,000 $5 gold coins, and 750,000 clad half dollars will be issued in 2015 in proof and uncirculated qualities.
Although those are maximum authorized levels, and there is no requirement for the Mint to actually make that many coins, it is hard to understand why the levels were set so high.
At one point a proposal was floated to issue a special ultra high relief coin for this issue, similar to the 2009 Ultra High Relief double eagle. However, while the text of the enacted legislation has numerous specific requirements for the coins, there is no mention of issuing a high relief, or ultra high relief coin.
Interestingly, the law says that the art work should be based on realism and historical accuracy and that it should be emblematic of the “Golden Age of Coinage,” a reference to the period at the beginning of the 20th century when some of the most beautiful U.S. coins were issued including the Saint Gaudens double eagle.
Former Mint Director Edmund Moy attempted to revive the golden age concept when he ran the Mint between 2006 and 2011. The 2009 Ultra High Relief coin is the best example of that effort.
3.) Demand Very Strong for Arthur Dollar Coins
At the end of 2011 Treasury Secretary Geithner and Vice President Biden announced that the U.S. Mint would stop issuing circulation quality dollar coins except in limited number for collectors.
After a two-month delay, the first presidential dollar coins that are only available from the U.S. Mint were released on April 5. The new coin honors President Chester A. Arthur.
The Mint appears to have seriously underestimated collector demand for these coins as they are flying off the Mint’s shelves. A sales associate I spoke to at one of the Mint’s sales counters in Washington, DC told me that his phone was ringing off the hook with calls about the coins and that sales were very brisk.
In the first four days of sales half of the projected initial mintage of 5,740,000 coins was sold in online and kiosk sales, and the 100 coin bags have not even been offered yet.
According to the Mint’s weekly sales report, 60,824 rolls of 25 coins were sold during the first few days of sales as well as 2,470 boxes of 250 coins and 1,457 boxes of 500 coins, or a total of 2,866,600.
On April 9 the Mint started selling Arthur coin covers, which include one dollar from the Philadelphia Mint and one from Denver that are from the first day of production. These covers have a limited run of 22,000 units and cost $19.95 each.
The Mint has indicated that it may produce more coins if demand warrants, and that certainly appears to be the case at least with the Arthur coin release. I suspect that future projected mintages will be higher.
All product options for these coins are currently on backorder at the Mint’s web site.
The fact that prices have been lowered substantially on these items must have been a factor driving sales, and coin collectors always flock to coins they believe will be hard to obtain in the future because of relatively low numbers.
While the coins are not scarce by any means, there appears to be a core of dollar coin collectors, and the limited release probably also attracted some speculative interest.
Individual coins can only be purchased from retailers. In the past coin dealers and e-Bay sellers charged about $2.00 per coin for
earlier releases that were in theory available at banks but in practice were difficult to obtain in the last couple years.
April 18 Update: According to the Mint's weekly sales numbers that were released today, a total of 6,190,200 Arthur dollar coins have already been sold. That is more than the projected initial mintage as discussed above. Mint officials have stated that the Mint has the capacity to make more coins and will do so if demand warrants.
4.) $5 Proof Gold Eagle Sells Out
On April 12 the Mint sold out of the $5 1/10th ounce American Gold Eagle proof coin.
Only the four-coin set of proof eagles is still available for sale.
The weekly sales reports coming out during the next couple weeks will indicate the expected final mintage for the $5 coin. As of April 9, 23,926 coins were sold out of a maximum mintage of 30,000 pieces.
The Mint recently announced that maximum mintages for all denominations of proof gold eagles except the one ounce coin are being reduced for the 2012 issues that go on sale on April 19.
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.