The Coin Analyst: Royal Canadian Mint Dazzles Collectors with New Coins for April, But Distribution Method Shuts Out Many Buyers
by Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………
I recently became a member of the Royal Canadian Mint Masters Club, which confers some special benefits on those who spend $1,000 in a year on coins from the mint. One of the benefits is advance notice about forthcoming numismatic coin releases, and the chance to pre-order them before non-members can place orders. They also receive free shipping.
There are 10,000 members of this club, and many RCM numismatic releases, including some of the most-coveted ones of recent years, have a mintage of 10,000 pieces. That presents some problems for the distribution of such coins.
For example, the RCM has a series of colored silver coins that depict various flowers, which also have animals hand-made of Venetian glass that sit on top of the coins. These coins, including the Ladybug from 2011, the Bumble Bee from 2012, and the latest release, the Butterfly coin, tend to double or more in value by the time the general public can order them, if not sooner.
Late in the evening of March 26 RCM Masters Club members received e-mails advising them they could place pre-orders for the Butterfly and other April coin releases. But the mint’s web site immediately started crashing, and many people, including myself, were unable to place orders for a couple hours by which time the Butterflies were gone and already appearing on e-Bay for twice the issue price.
However, what I did not know is that the telephone lines were staffed during the evening for new releases, and orders could be placed on a VIP line, which must be how a lot of people got their orders in.
The problem, in my view, was the two-coin limit for club members. All it took was 5,000 club members buying the two-coin limit for the coin to sell out, which occurred in less than two hours.
Given coin mintages that are already similar in number to the number of club members, I believe that a one-coin limit would be more appropriate in order to give more people a chance to order.
Some of each coin release are normally reserved for major retail distributors of the RCM, and I expect them to have the Butterflies next week, when the coins are officially released to the public on April 2, though probably at a premium over the Mint’s price.
In addition to the Butterfly, the Mint also released a slew of other new coins. In my view and that of many other collectors, the cream of the crop included two especially innovative coins. One is a coin marking the 250th anniversary of the end of the Seven Years War, an important milestone in Canadian history, that uses five different finishes. The other is a Grandmother Moon Mask coin that is done in ultra high relief that is also very impressive. There is also a gold version of the mask coin with a mintage of 500, and a kilo-sized silver coin for the Seven Years War.
Neither coin marks the first time multiple finishes or ultra high relief approaches have been used by the Mint, though perhaps never to such dramatic effect. Earlier this year the Mint issued an Arctic Fox coin with five different finishes as well as a $10 Year of the Snake coin with three finishes that when viewed from the right perspective shows the Chinese characters for the Year of the Snake. It has also issued ultra high relief coins before too.
The use of so-many different finishes might seem on the surface to up the ante on the U.S. Mint’s new enhanced uncirculated coins I just discussed in my last column (http://www.coinweek.com/
The RCM’s April releases also include two coins that are the first in new series, a Canopy maple leaf coin that is partly colored and provides a different perspective on the iconic Canadian maple leaf tree, and a Bee and Hive coin that depicts a honey bee against a honeycomb background of mathematically-perfect hexagons. The Canopy coin sold out during the day on March 27 to Masters Club members.
In addition, there is a new five-ounce colored silver coin with a mintage of 1,500 that honors the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II that bears a strong resemblance to a one ounce coin the Perth Mint issued recently, and which sold out within hours of pre-release to Masters Club members.
And the latest release in the half-ounce and one-ounce “O Canada” series in this case depicting polar bears were released as well as two sets of circulating coins that mark the War of 1812. One is presented in a very colorful folder full of historical information that Canadian school children would probably find useful for studying the war.
Several other coins were also issued.
That is a lot of coins for one month. The RCM issues very attractive and historically resonant coins using interesting and innovative technologies, keeps mintages low, which increases demand, and issues coins at a variety of different price points targeted at different collectors' budget. In addition, RCM coins issued in the past couple years have included a substantial number of issues whose aftermarket prices have held up such as the variety of coins issued to mark the end of the Canadian penny and the 25th anniversary anniversary of the Maple Leaf silver coin.
But the Mint also issues such a vast range of coins and series that even if one only collected RCM coins, and even if one also excluded kilo-sized and other extravagantly-sized and priced offerings, it would be impossible to keep up.
It seems like almost every month several new series are launched. It is becoming rather overwhelming and forces the buyer of RCM coins to learn to be selective about what they buy, especially if they also collect coins from other countries.
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.