A year ago, the U.S. Mint held its first forum at the Philadelphia Mint with key stakeholders in the numismatic community to discuss the future of the Mint and of the numismatic hobby within the U.S.
On October 16-17, the Mint held the second numismatic forum, which brought together around 85 invited guests who met at the Mint’s Washington, DC headquarters to discuss the theme of “Numismatics: the road ahead.”
Participants besides officials from the Mint included major coin dealers, representatives of NGC and PCGS, American Numismatic Association President Gary Adkins, members of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, and staff and editors from several coin media publications.
During last year’s meeting those in attendance broke up into working groups to brainstorm and there was a greater emphasis on soliciting ideas from participants about the Mint can better meet the changing demands of collectors and buyers.
But this year attendees said there was greater focus on educating participants on how the Mint’s numismatic programs operate as well as sharing information on new products and some upcoming changes that are already being implemented.
Jon Cameron, the Mint’s Associate Director of Numismatic, Bullion, and Coin Studies was master of ceremonies. There were presentations from officials in the Legislative and Intergovernmental Office, the Office of Design and Management, and the Design and Engraving Office after an introduction to the meeting from Acting Deputy Director David Motl and U.S. Treasurer Jovita Carranza.
Motl will serve as the Mint’s top official until the Mint Director-nominee, David J. Ryder, is confirmed in his position, which is expected to occur fairly soon. On October 24 the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing on Mr. Ryder’s nomination in which he discussed his background, including his work on technology to combat counterfeiting, and fielded questions from the Senators.
Mr. Ryder said he would bring greater focus to the issue of counterfeit U.S. coins if he becomes director, which would be a welcome development for the coin industry. On October 27 a letter was sent from two members of the House of Representatives to the Mint discussing their concerns about counterfeit U.S. bullion coins and requesting more information about what the Mint is doing and plans to do in this area.
In the afternoon forum sessions various U.S. Mint department heads discussed the 2018 product schedule, which the Mint has already posted, and which includes a number of new products coming next year, as well as how the Mint’s e-commerce and marketing plans have evolved, changes coming to the bulk coin sales program, and related issues.
2018 coin program
Regarding the Mint’s 2018 program, some highlights include the January 17 release of the World War I American Veterans Centennial commemorative silver dollar; the launch on January 25 of the first coin in a new three-year series of American Platinum Eagle proof coins on the theme of Preamble to the Declaration of Independence; the Feb. 8 release of a 1/10th oz. proof gold version of the 2017 American Liberty/225th Mint anniversary $100 gold coin; the March 15 release of the Breast Cancer Awareness commemorative coin program, including a clad half dollar, silver dollar, and $5 gold coin that will be the first pink gold coin ever issued by the Mint (made of 85% gold, 14.8% copper, and 0.2% zinc; the summer releases of a 2018-S American Silver Eagle proof coin from the San Francisco Mint, marking the first time the Mint will sell both the West Point and San Francisco proof coins individually in the same year, plus a San Francisco Mint Reverse Proof silver coin set, another product that should be a winner with collectors; and the first Proof American Palladium Eagle coin in the fall.
There are also products that are still being considered such as a program in 2021 to mark the 100th anniversary of last Morgan dollar and first Peace dollar that may include two 1 oz. coins – one made of gold and one in silver.
Changes in how the Mint does business coming next year include a collector loyalty program; accepting Paypal for orders; possible free shipping options that may be available for those with subscriptions or those who place a certain number of orders; and the possibility of setting a household limit of 1 for all new products during the first 24 hours, which would then be lifted to enable dealers to purchase the items in the quantities they need. Such a change might impact whether a product sells out quickly, but overall it would be a good compromise between the needs of collectors and dealers.
Another focus of these discussions was the Mint’s bulk sales program, which saw some changes in 2017, including offering the 2017-W American Silver Eagle proof coin without the individual coin packaging in 5 rays of 42 coins each for those submitting the coins for grading. The Mint sold almost $3 million of these coins that way and bulk sales represented 22% of overall numismatic sales in 2017.
Starting next year, the discount for bulk purchases, which had been 4% in the past, will change to sliding scale of 3 to 5% depending on a dealer’s cumulative sales. For some dealers, this would amount to a decrease of 1% in the discount they receive, which some dealers at the forum said they were not happy about.
Another concern expressed by dealers in attendance is what they and many collectors view as overly high premiums charged by the Mint on some of its numismatic products, especially those made of precious metals. The dealers said that if the Mint lowered some of its prices on such coins, that would help those pieces to maintain their value over time, which would also be good for the Mint’s future sales since buyers whose coins maintain or increase in value are more likely to make more purchases.
The Mint’s response to this issue was that it does not factor in future value when determining the cost of coins, which is mainly based on their own production and related costs.
The Mint’s 2017 forum was another important opportunity to bring together members of the coin community to learn about the Mint’s programs and policies and how they are changing. But a greater emphasis on soliciting the recommendations of the participants, and finding ways to enable collectors to make their own suggestions and perhaps to follow the program with a webcast in future meetings, would be beneficial to all concerned parties.
||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.|