2017 was an important year for the U.S. Mint that saw the release of a wide range of numismatic products, including several that broke new ground artistically or numismatically, as well as an unusually large number of low mintage pieces.
The year was in some ways reminiscent of 2008, the last year when many U.S. coins ending up setting new low mintages. 2008 was also the only year when fractional American Buffalo gold coins were issued, though earlier this year Mint officials indicated they were considering a possible resumption of that popular series.
A number of those releases were part of the Mint’s 225th-anniversary celebration, including the 2017-W American Liberty $100 high-relief 1-oz. gold Proof coin and accompanying 1-oz. silver medals issued with the same design in four different finishes with four different mintmarks, as well as the 2017 Enhanced Uncirculated coin set, the first set ever to feature all coins struck with an enhanced uncirculated finish.
The American Liberty gold coin and silver medals were especially significant in the context of how Lady Liberty has been portrayed on U.S. coins since colonial times. In addition to featuring only the second truly modern depiction of Liberty, these pieces were also the first to show her as a young African-American woman, a fitting way to pay tribute to how our society and country have evolved in the years since the Mint was founded in 1792.
The other significant trend for the year was the considerable number of coins with low mintages compared to previous years, in some cases setting new lows for a particular series.
In terms of the Mint’s flagship coin programs, American Silver and Gold Eagles, the year was notable for the steep decline in sales of bullion coins. The 2017 Silver Eagle with a little over 18 million coins sold to date will come in about 20 million coins lower than last year’s total for the same coin and the lowest since 2007. And the $25 Gold Eagle coin, whose sales for 2017 are 37,000 to date, will come in at about half of last year’s 71,000 coins sold, making it one of the lowest in recent years.
The 2017-S American Proof Silver Eagle, whose mintage is 123,906, including both coins sold in the 2017 Congratulations Set and those in the 2017 Limited Edition Silver Proof Set, will be fourth lowest mintage coin of the entire series, or fifth-lowest if the 2007-W with reverse of 2008 is included.
Next year the Mint will sell a 2018-S coin individually, as it does with the West Point Proof, which suggests that coin will not have a low mintage since Proof coins sold that way typically have mintages of several hundred thousand each.
The year also saw the release of the 2017-W American Platinum Eagle $100 Proof coin, which was issued to mark the program’s 20th anniversary and used the same design as the first coin in this series from 1997.
With respect to the 5-oz. silver America the Beautiful coins, we again saw some very low mintage coins in particular for the Frederick Douglass and Ozark coins, which both have mintages of 20,000, tying them with the 2012 Hawaii Volcanoes and Denali coins as the lowest for the bullion part of the series.
And the 2017-P George Rogers Clark vapor-blasted coin is expected to come in with a mintage a little under 15,000 and as the lowest or second-lowest mintage of these coins after the 2012-P Hawaii Volcanoes issue.
2017 also saw the recent trend of lower sales for U.S. Mint commemorative coins continue with each of the Boys Town coins, in particular, setting new lows. The most important new low is the $5 Boys Town gold uncirculated coin, whose sales ended several weeks ago rather than at the end of the year because the Mint produced a batch of 3,000 coins and there was not time to make more and have them ready for sale before year’s end.
This caught some buyers off guard and means the mintage for that coin will be 2,994 pieces (pending any further updates), which is not only a new low for all modern commemorative gold coins but is also lower than the previous low by about two thousand coins.
The Proof version of this coin also looks set to mark a new low for the Proof $5 gold coins, and the same is true of the clad half dollar and silver dollar
The Lions Clubs commemorative silver dollar sold better than the Boys Town coins did and will not set any new lows.
Perhaps the most important coin of the year, and the one which has outperformed all other releases for the year on the secondary market, is the Palladium American Eagle, the first coin ever issued by the Mint using palladium and the first new eagle program in 20 years since the launch of the platinum series in 1997.
The coin’s popularity comes both from its status as a new type of American eagle in a new metal and its design that combines the obverse of Adolph Weinman’s left-facing portrait of Liberty from the Winged Liberty gold dime with a reverse based on a medal the same artist designed for the American Institute of Architects in 1907 that features an American eagle perched on a rock.
Most experts and collectors ended up being surprised by how much demand there was for this coin – both raw and graded, and MCM sold out of its shipments quickly. Palladium has not yet established itself firmly as a metal that appeals to coin collectors, but the low mintage of 15,000 coins and the fact that this was the first coin of a new series combined with rising spot palladium prices helped push secondary market values higher.
Next year the Mint will release a Proof version of this coin and is expected to release the second bullion coin in the series, but has not yet confirmed that information. Mintages for both coins are likely to be higher than the number of 2017 coins produced now that the Mint has a better idea of the demand for these coins.
||Louis is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer specializing on modern coins. He has been writing a weekly column for CoinWeek since May 2011 called “The Coin Analyst,” which focuses primarily on modern U.S. and world coins and developments at major world mints. In August 2015 he received the Numismatic Literary Guild’s award for Best Website Column for “The Coin Analyst.” He is also a contributor to several magazines, including Coin World, where he writes a bimonthly feature;The Numismatist, the American Numismatic Association’s monthly publication, where he writes a monthly column on modern world coins; and American Hard Assets. He began writing about coins in 2009. He is a founding member of the Modern Coin Forum hosted by ModernCoinMart and has written articles for MCM since 2014. He has collected classic and modern U.S. and world coins since he was about 10 and first joined the ANA in the 1970’s. He was previously a congressional relations specialist and policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international politics and national security for a wide variety of publications. He has been writing professionally since the early 1980s.|