by Louis Golino for CoinWeek
1.) First 2012 America the Beautiful Five-Ounce Coins Released
The U.S. Mint has finally provided information on the 2012 America the Beautiful five-ounce silver coin series that collectors have been eager to learn of all year.
On May 21 the Mint’s network of Authorized Purchasers began accepting orders for the bullion version of the El Yunque coin, the first release of the year. The bullion examples will be made to demand, and the release dates for the next four 2012 issues have not been established, according to U.S. Mint spokesman, Michael White.
Bullion dealers have indicated they expect to have the coins available by the beginning of June.
And on May 29 the Mint will start selling the numismatic version of the ElYunque coin. The mintage for the 2012 collector versions will be 25,000, the lowest so far since the program started in 2010. This is the Mint’s press release: http://www.usmint.gov/pressroom/?action=press_release&id=1361
On May 24 the Mint published a notice in the Federal Register indicating that the collector versions will be sold for $204.95 each, despite the recent decline in silver prices. Although this price is in line with what the Mint charges for other bullion-related numismatic offerings like the 2011-W burnished American silver eagle, many collectors were disappointed that the price was not reduced, especially given the very slow pace of sales of the 2011 coins, all of which are still available for sale.
The bullion El Yunque coins are currently selling at bullion dealerships for approximately $155-165. Although they have substantially higher mintages, some collectors may switch from the collector to bullion series if silver prices remain low. An additional attraction of the bullion versions is that there are three finishes: regular uncirculated, prooflike, and deep mirror prooflike.
But the limited mintage of the collector version, and the vapor-blased finish that produces an almost blemish-free surface, attracts others to the numismatic versions.
2.) San Francisco Circulation Quality Quarters to Be Issued For First Time Since 1953
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the opening of the current facility the U.S. Mint uses in San Francisco. In addition to offering a special two-coin American silver eagle proof set beginning June 7, the Mint has decided to issue circulation-quality America the Beautiful quarters struck at the San Francisco mint that will be sold in 100 coin bags, 40 coin rolls, and other numismatic products to be announced later.
The coins will only be available from the Mint at a premium. The rolls will cost $18.95, or almost twice face value, and the bags will run $34.95, or about 35 cents per quarter. The rolled coins are generally of higher quality, but not to the extent of coins made for mint sets.
The move was unexpected since the San Francisco facility has traditionally been used to make proof coins. Initial reports indicated the Mint planned to produce a maximum of 1.4 million coins for each of the five coin designs issued this year, or a total of 7 million coins.
But on May 25 Mint officials clarified that more coins would be made if demand warrants, which is very likely to be the case.
Collectors will undoubtedly be excited by this offering since the last circulation quality coins made with San Francisco mintmarks date back to Lincoln pennies produced between 1968 and 1974.
“We were looking for a new numismatic product with an "S" mark," United States Mint Deputy Director Richard A. Peterson said. “Feedback we had received from customers was that there was always great anticipation with products bearing the ‘S’ mint mark. We also felt that an ‘S’ mint mark on America the Beautiful Quarters coins would bring some additional visibility to the program.”
Since the coins are not intended for circulation, but are sold at a premium, the coins are what the Mint calls “circulation quality” coins. Some collectors are expected to put some of the coins they buy into circulation to increase interest in the series. Let's hope that the recipients notice.
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.