The Coin Analyst: July Proves Eventful for United States Mint

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With over half the year gone and some great coins on the way, July has nevertheless been a busy month for the Mint

By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ....
 

With 2017 fast approaching, the United States Mint has a surprising number of headliner products yet to be released. While the 2016-W Mercury Dime Centennial Gold Coin came out barely three months ago (and very quickly became "Unavailable" from the Mint--see below), release dates for the 2016-W Standing Liberty Quarter Centennial and 2016-W Walking Liberty Half Dollar Centennial Gold Coins have yet to be determined (though certainly both coins would see release in time for Christmas).

Additionally, the 2016 Ronald W. Reagan Coin & Chronicles Set is still off the calendar, as is the 2016 American Silver Eagle Proof Coin, the 2016 American Silver Eagle Uncirculated Coin and the limited-edition 2016 Silver Proof Set, among others.

And let's not forget about releases already on the schedule that haven't come out yet, such as the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (October) and Fort Moultrie National Monument (December) five-ounce silver Uncirculated coins.

For specific dates as they're updated, check out the Mint's 2016 product release schedule online.

Yet, with so much left to do and so much already done, the last month has been surprisingly active for the U.S. Mint. Here's a recap of the most important news.

Palladium Coins Discussed at CCAC Meeting

Design of US Palladium Coin

The design of the American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin, as mandated by law, calls for a rendition of Adolph A. Weinman's Winged Liberty effigy on the obverse and a high-relief rendering of Weinman's design for the 1907 American Institute of Architects gold medal on the reverse.

At the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee's (CCAC) public meeting on June 27 in Colorado Springs, the 11 members of the committee spoke with Robert Harrigal, Senior Advisor to the U.S. Mint, about the Mint's progress concerning the development and manufacturing of the upcoming palladium bullion coin program. Harrigal started as an engineer at the Mint in 1985 and has worked in a variety of capacities since, including a nine-year stint in manufacturing research and development and over two years as the acting chief engraver after John Mercanti retired in 2010.

The American Eagle Palladium Bullion Coin Act of 2010 authorizes the production of a one-troy-ounce, 99.95% pure palladium bullion coin with a face value of US$25. It also allows the Secretary of the Treasury to mint Proof and Uncirculated versions each year of the program as he or she deems fit - provided that the finish of each year's Proof and Uncirculated coins is different than the finish used for the previous numismatic palladium issue. The bullion coin could be struck at any of the appropriate Mint facilities except West Point, the branch mint that would be responsible for any Proof or Uncirculated version.

The law also mandates the completion of a market study by a "reputable, independent third party" to ensure that sufficient demand for palladium bullion products from the U.S. Mint exists for the program to be worth pursuing. Commodities market research and consulting firm CPM Group conducted that study in 2012, and after some review the Mint released their findings in March of 2013. As noted in a previous edition of this column written by Louis Golino, the report was somewhat pessimistic about the precious metal palladium market in the United States.

Still, the Mint continues to investigate the feasibility of the program, as was discussed by Harrigal. Planchet suppliers have been approached, with the goal of obtaining commitments from at least two. The Mint has also struck test planchets in high relief.

The Royal Canadian Mint, which has experience minting such series as the Palladium Maple Leaf (2005-2007, 2009, 2015) and the low-mintage 2006 Big and Little Bear Constellation palladium coin, has shared its valuable expertise with the U.S. Mint as well.

Platinum Eagle Proof "Currently Unavailable"

On July 1, the United States Mint's Office of Corporate Communications issued a statement that the 2016 American Eagle 1oz Platinum Proof coin--the second and final issue in a two-coin series--was now "Currently Unavailable" as of 12:56 pm Eastern Time (ET) on June 30, not quite one hour after going on sale.

This is not the same as being officially "sold out", however, as more stock may become available for purchase at a later date (the same can be said for the 2016 Gold Centennial Mercury Dime mentioned above, with 116,111 units sold out of a total authorized mintage of 125,000). Interested parties are encouraged to visit the Mint's website and sign up for an email reminder when the availability status changes.

At the time of this article's writing on July 22, Mint sales figures for July 17 (the third week with 2016 Platinum Eagle sales data) show 9,452 units sold - a downward adjustment of 358 coins from the Platinum Proof's debut sales figure (dated July 4) of 9,810. The issue has a total mintage limit of 10,000.

Rosie Rios Steps Down as U.S. Treasurer

Rosie Rios, the 43rd Treasurer of the United States of America, stepped down from her post on July 8 after serving six years and 337 days in office. Rios assumed the mantle on August 6, 2009 after being nominated by President Barack Obama in May of that year and confirmed unanimously by the Senate in July.

Rosie Rios, 43rd Treasurer of the United StatesIntuitively, the U.S. Treasurer is part of the Treasury Department. The Treasurer has had different responsibilities over time but currently oversees the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), the Mint and the Savings Bond Marketing Office within the Bureau of the Fiscal Service. He or she advises the mint director, the director of the BEP and the deputy secretary and secretary of the Treasury regarding coinage, currency and related instruments.

During her tenure, Rios used her position to advocate for not just the hobby of coin and currency collection but also for women within the Treasury Department and the broader culture-at-large. In 2009, she gave a presentation to then-Secretary Timothy Geithner regarding the representation of women on Federal Reserve Notes, which, along with the grassroots Women on 20s movement, ultimately resulted in Secretary Jacob "Jack" Lew's decision to replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman.

Rosie Rios was also the Treasury Department's choice to oversee the White House Council on Women and Girls. Created by an executive order in May of 2009, the Council on Women and Girls seeks to ensure that the needs of women of all ages are considered when Cabinet-level actions are taken or policy is implemented.

The role comes naturally to the now-former Treasurer. The daughter of a single mother of Mexican descent, Rios eventually graduated from Harvard University and worked in the fields of Real Estate Finance and Economic Development. Before her appointment in 2009 she was Managing Director of Investments at real estate managing firm MacFarlane Partners based out of San Francisco. Her work garnering the Latino vote in the State of Virginia for Obama's campaign earned her a spot on the Treasury-Federal Reserve transition team. This job not only led to her promotion to United States Treasurer but, she says, directly inspired her to get women on American currency.

Among coin and paper money collectors, she is well-known for her attendance at shows and her willingness to meet and greet with the collecting public.

Of course, this means currency collectors will now be on the lookout for new suffixes and, eventually, a new Treasurer's signature on upcoming Federal Reserve Notes.

Mint Drops Silver Eagle Allocations

Early last week, Tom Jurkowsky of the Mint's Office of Corporate Communications sent the following email:

We are pleased to announce after 28 weeks of allocation in 2016, effective Monday, July 18, 2016, we have lifted allocation of American Eagle Silver Bullion Coins. Authorized Purchasers may purchase as many American Eagle Silver Bullion Coins they desire [sic]. The United States Mint will continue to monitor its American Eagle Silver Bullion Coin demand and adjust its bullion coin production accordingly.”

The Mint's decision came after a mere 445,000 ounces (coins) out of an allocation of 3,649,500 were sold the previous week. The remaining 3,204,500 coins constitute the highest number of unsold Silver Eagles per week since the allocation system began on January 11.

For most of this year, one million coins were allocated each week, but with the rise in silver prices many investors have been seeking to cash in. And with so much product for sale in the secondary market, the Mint's Authorized Purchasers have been ordering less and less of the available allotment - with the result that one week's unsold allocation has rolled over into the next.

For the time being, the Mint appears confident that it has enough Silver Eagle bullion coins in inventory that weekly allocations are unnecessary. The anticipation of exceptionally-high demand for the program's 30th anniversary issue, coupled with the experience of planchet supply chain problems in recent years, led the U.S. Mint to implement the allocation system from the beginning in 2016. Should demand outstrip supply at a later date, the system could be reimplemented.

Order Limits Removed

The Mint also removed order limits from two of its 2016 programs: the Nancy Reagan First Spouse 1/2-Ounce Gold Coin and the American $1 Coin and Currency Set.

As of July 17, the last date for which sales figures have been published, the 2016 Coin and Currency Set has sold 32,092 units out of a total mintage/product limit of 75,000. It was released just over a month ago on June 16, with an order limit of five per household.

Proof and Uncirculated Nancy Reagan First Spouse coins went on sale July 1 with an order limit of just one per household, but so far sales are relatively tepid considering the popularity of the recently-deceased Mrs. Reagan and the fact that hers is the 41st and final entry in the First Spouse program. 2,166 Proofs and 1,291 Uncirculated gold coins have been sold to date.
 


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