by Louis Golino for CoinWeek ……
As I have argued before, the U.S. Mint can learn from other countries’ mints. That does mean we should emulate all their practices, and I am well aware of the differences in the laws that our Mint has to follow, which tend to be more restrictive than those in other countries. That is why many foreign mints issue such a diverse variety of coins using innovative techniques. **
But the U.S. Mint’s legal regime clearly does not require the Mint to be static in the way it goes about minting circulating, bullion, and collectible coins. The Mint may have less latitude than foreign mints have, but it still has some room for maneuver. And recent mint surveys show the Mint is interested in exploring new approaches to coinage, such as by issuing high relief versions of some of its coins.
One approach the Mint has followed since 2006 is to mint reverse proof coins, in which the devices are mirrored and the fields are polished, the opposite of the way proof coins are made. That has been used to good effect on the 2006 reverse proof gold eagle and the 2006, 2011, and 2012 reverse proof silver eagles, which are all quite popular with collectors. Now there is talk of a possible 2013 reverse proof gold Buffalo.
But whether it was because the 2012 silver eagle sets were minted to demand, which dampened interest among speculators, or for some other reason, some collectors seem to be getting tired of the reverse proof concept and crave something different. For example, there are collectors who feel the silver eagle design has been used long enough, and that perhaps it is time to change it, either temporarily or permanently.
I do not think there is a groundswell calling for things like gilded silver eagles, or colorized commemoratives, which are widely issue by foreign mints. But I do believe there is a substantial segment of the coin buying community that wants to see something else, specifically, more classic U.S. coin designs. Such coins could either reproduce the original designs, or they could use the originals as templates, and then modernize the original in a tasteful fashion, as the obverse of the American silver and gold eagles do.
Reissuing the classics is another approach that many foreign mints have been following in recent years.
Examples include the 2012 Latvia folk girl silver coin that is a proof version of a classic Latvian coin issued from 1929 to 1932 , or the various modernized Sower and Hercules coins France has issued in recent years, which were sold at face value and distributed through post offices and the French Mint.
The Royal Canadian Mint has also issued many proof sets that reproduce classic Canadian coins, and recently they issued a set of 5 silver pennies that reproduce each design that has been used on the Canadian penny since its inception.
Also, the Mexican Mint has just started a new Numismatic Heritage series with a set of six bi-metal half ounce coins coming out every year for the next four years. The coins reissue classic Mexican coins like the Cap and Rays silver coin in a half-ounce silver coin with a bimetal ring around them. For more information on this new series, check out the Mexican Mint’s web site section on the heritage program:
The U.S. Mint has done something similar with the Liberty sub-set of the First Spouse $10 gold coins, and of course the obverse of the American gold and silver eagle coins. In addition, the planned American palladium eagle will use the Mercury dime as the obverse and a medal designed by Walking Liberty creator, Adolph Weinman for the reverse.
But my sense is that collectors are hungry for more such coins, especially when they can be tied to an anniversary, and issuing them would help inspire more people to buy and collect U.S. Mint coins.
2014 will mark the 50th anniversary of the beloved Kennedy half dollar, and many collectors seem interested in a special version of that coin. This would be a little different from reissuing the classics since the coin has been issued continuously since 1964, although it is now only issued for collectors and sold in rolls. Some people have called for making the 2014 coin a circulating piece, or doing something else to mark the anniversary.
Classic American gold and silver coins minted before 1933 are widely collected in large part for their timeless beauty, and reissuing more of them besides the obverse of the St. Gaudens double eagle on the American gold eagle would seem to be a winning move for the Mint. Of course legislation would be required, but the Mint could consult with the Congress and explain why such programs would be very popular with collectors and buyers.
A second approach the Mint may wish to consider, if the proper legislation is enacted, would be to mint circulating precious metal coins, as countries like France have done.
Of course the coins would not actually circulate. They would be eagerly saved for their metal content. Perhaps most importantly the coins should be given much higher face values than the America gold eagles, or the 5-ounce America the Beautiful silver coins, and they would be legal tender.
With many states moving to make precious metal coins non-taxable and legal tender, there will be a growing demand for such coins over time.
And the coins could be issued with classic American coin designs, but the higher denomination would make them easy to distinguish from the classic predecessors.
What do you think? Should the Mint reissue the classics, and mint precious metal coins that could be used as legal tender with denominations that corresponded to their approximate precious metal content at the time of minting?
** The recent announcement by the U.S. Mint of a limited edition silver proof set that includes the 2012 silver quarters, dime, and half dollar plus the 2012-W proof silver eagle, which will be released on November 27 , is an example of learning the wrong lessons from foreign mints. This product has no unique coins, and costs about $22 more than the price of the previously available coins.
Repackaging coins and saying they have a limited mintage in the new format is the type of practice followed by foreign mints that tends to turn off collectors because it increases the total mintage of the coins in the set.
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.