by Louis Golino for CoinWeek
It used to be the case that summer was a slower period for coin collecting. Numismatists would take a break from their obsession with coins and go to the beach, though they undoubtedly brought some coin books to read. But in recent years that has changed. Summer coin shows are often just as busy as those during the rest of the year, or not as slow as summer shows used to be.
This summer there is plenty going on in the numismatic world with lots of new releases from the U.S. and foreign mints, a number of major coin auctions, and the biggest coin show of the year coming up in early August at the Philadelphia ANA World’s Fair of Money.
To keep collectors of modern U.S. coins updated, here are some significant recent developments.
1.) San Francisco silver eagle set
The 2012 San Francisco American silver eagle sets are already bringing stronger secondary market prices than many people expected. At first buyers were paying a relatively small premium for the sets on e-Bay where initial prices after the end of sales were in the range of $175-200 per set. But now prices are averaging about $230, which is more than a 50% premium over the issue price for a set that was easily obtainable from the Mint for an entire month through July 5.
The U.S. Mint has so far not updated the final sales number for the sets, which as of July 6, was 251,302. Michael White of the U.S. Mint, in response to a request from me about whether the weekly sales reports would include updated figures that reflect things like order cancellations and mail order sales that were not included in the July 6 tally, provided the following statement.
“We didn’t include them on the report because they were updated on the odometer. The adjusted net sales for the American Eagle Two-Coin Set is 251,302. Remember, this number will likely change before all units have been shipped as customers can cancel orders at any time prior to processing, there may be credit card declines or we may have returns. Also, the number is unaudited, so it is an approximation.”
The Mint has just announced a new product that will be available beginning August 7. It is the Making American History coin and currency set that honors the Mint's 220th year and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's 150th year. The set will include a $5 bill with a serial number that starts with 150 as well as proof American silver eagle bearing the "S" mint mark. The product description does not specify the mint mark, but Mint official confirmed that to me.
Buyers of the San Francisco two-coin eagle proof sets are concerned that the sale of a new product with the same "S"-mint marked proof eagle will drive down values for the San Francisco sets. But a lot depends on how many units of the new product are sold. If it only sells say 25,000 units, that may not have much impact on secondary market prices for the San Francisco sets. And the reverse proof coin, unless also sold separately later, would still be unique to the San Francisco set and the only one with an "S" mint mark.
Nevertheless, many collectors and buyers have indicated they have or are considering cancelling their orders for the San Francisco sets because of the plan to release the "S" proof separately.
2.) 2012-W American gold eagle
Sales of the 2012-W American gold eagle reached 2,909 as of July 9. The coins first went on sale June 28. This year’s coin is selling at a substantially faster pace than the 2011-W coin, possibly because last year’s coin sold a record low number of about 8,800 units and collectors may be hoping for another low mintage coin. Opening sales for the first week the coin was available were almost twice what they were for last year’s coins.
A number of people I know are predicting this year’s coin will set a new record low mintage, but I am not so sure. A lot obviously depends on gold prices since the price of the coin fluctuates weekly based on the spot price of gold and is adjusted every Wednesday about 12:00 noon. It is not clear whether higher prices will depress sales, or whether they will drive buyers to get the coin before gold goes even higher, as often happens with gold rises.
An interesting side note is that last year many collectors reported receiving coins that had quality problems. I looked through about 15 of the 2011-W coins at two of the U.S. Mint’s sales counters last year and was amazed by how many had significant problems. That may have played a role in last year’s low mintage. Some collectors are also reporting problems with this year’s coin, but I looked at what appeared to be a perfect example yesterday at a Mint sales counter. Unfortunately I could not afford to buy the coin.
3.) No 2012-S uncirculated American silver eagle
Earlier this year the Mint indicated it planned to issue a second “S” mint-marked burnished uncirculated American silver eagle after last year’s 2011-S burnished coin that was part of the 25th anniversary silver eagle set. The Mint’s 2011 annual report stated the Mint was looking forward to issuing such a coin this year.
But after issuing the two-coin “S” mint-marked San Francisco silver eagle proof set, the Mint has decided not to issue a burnished “S” silver eagle this year.
In response to an inquiry made by Michael Zielinski of Coin Update (www.coinupdate.com), the Mint provided a statement indicating that it decided to issue the proof silver eagle set instead of the burnished “S” eagle .
4.) Mint halts ordering system upgrade
Both Coin World and Numismatic News recently reported that the U.S. Mint has decided to put its major overhaul of the Mint’s Order Management System (OMS) on hold. The decision to pause this effort is due to concerns about integrating the new system being developed with the Mint’s existing IT systems and infrastructure.
Acting Mint Director Richard Peterson said when he came on board in early 2011 that updating the Mint’s ordering system was a top goal. But apparently the positive feedback from the launch of the San Francisco sets coupled with the integration issues mentioned above have led Mint officials to decide that it makes more sense to wait before deciding what to do next.
But unless the Mint plans to issue every high-demand product with a “to demand” model and a long ordering period, it is a virtual certainty that the Mint’s existing system will once again be put to the test when it is overloaded with more orders than the system can handle.
I certainly understand the Mint’s desire to get this right, but I am concerned about pausing the effort after spending several years and millions of dollars to develop a new system and repeatedly promising to bring a new system on board. Perhaps the Mint could consult with their colleagues at some of the foreign mints that have grappled with the same problems such the Perth Mint in Australia, which made major improvements to their own ordering system this year after problems were discovered when too many orders were coming in too quickly. U.S. Mint customers have been waiting a long time for this upgrade, and I wonder how much this pause will further delay implementation of the new system.
This development reminds me in some ways of the American Numismatic Association’s efforts to upgrade and address problems with its web site (www.money.org). ANA members, including myself, have had trouble recently accessing the members section of the site. So the ANA got to work on correcting the problems. Then it announced that an upgraded site would be launched during the evening of July 16. But at the last minute it discovered some problems which have required it to postpone the launch of the new site. Two steps forward, one step back!
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.