by Louis Golino for CoinWeek…
For collectors of modern U.S. coins this has been an exciting year that has been dominated by the release of the curved baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coins and the three-part Kennedy half dollar 50th anniversary products. These coins and sets included many unique modern issues that will continue to be demanded by collectors in the coming years.
As happened with the launch of the gold Kennedy half dollar in August, when the Mint at the last minute added a limit of one coin per person for in-person sales, the Mint has again made things more interesting with the four-coin silver set* that will be launched on October 28.
Until now everyone assumed the Kennedy Half Dollar 50th Anniversary Silver Sets would be minted to demand, but on October 24 it announced that these sets will have a mintage limit of 300,000 units. In addition, 180,000 sets will be immediately available in anticipation of the high-demand for these sets.
The Mint also announced that the two-coin clad sets launched in July will have a mintage limit of 200,000. So far sales of the clad set have reached 133,818 units. No limit was indicated for the gold coins, but given dwindling sales since the launch of that coin I suspect production is being ramped down and that sales will be halted before year’s end.
The announcement that the silver set is being capped at 300,000 is a significant development that I am sure will be welcomed by most collectors and dealers. This is the first high-demand product from the Mint with a limited mintage since the 2011 25thanniversary American silver eagle coin sets apart from commemorative coin issues, which have a congressionally-mandated authorized maximum mintage.
The specific level of 300,000 units strikes me as appropriate because it is hopefully high enough to give buyers a chance to get the product without being locked out by large buyers as happened to many people with the 2011 sets. But it is also significant because in the context of the Kennedy half dollar series it is low enough to give the sets the potential for aftermarket appreciation.
Prior to the mintage announcement I was of the view that in the short to medium term only 70-graded sets were likely to appreciate in value, but the 300,000 mintage is a game changer that responds to widespread concerns from collectors that the minted to demand approach has been overdone in the last couple years. As I have argued many times, minted to demand does level the playing field allowing everyone access to the product, but it also invariably destroys the aftermarket value of such coins. That is readily apparent from the stagnant values of the 2012 and 2013 two-coin American silver eagle sets.
Kennedy halves are a staple of modern American numismatics that are collected by millions of people to one degree or another. The silver sets have great appeal for these collectors for several reasons. First, they include the first and only enhanced uncirculated and reverse proof coins in the series. Second, they are the only silver coins since the inaugural 1964 coin to use the original sculpt of President Kennedy. These aspects sets these coins apart from the other issues in the series, though it should be noted that the clad and gold 50th anniversary coins also use the 1964 sculpt. Third, with a price of $99.95 a set these coins will be accessible to virtually all collectors of Kennedy halves or of modern coins more broadly.
Fourth, and perhaps of greatest importance, in the context of the Kennedy half dollar series the 300,000 mintage is low enough to immediately make the new silver issues series keys. Most Kennedy halves are minted in the millions, even hundreds of millions for the clad issues and some silver issues. The previous overall low mintage coin is the 1998 matte finish coins with a mintage of 62,000 that was only available to buyers who purchased the 1998 two-coin Kennedy commemorative set that also included the Robert F. Kennedy silver dollar. The next lowest mintage coin in the series until now was the 2012 silver proof with a mintage of 395,443. With a difference between that coin and the 2014 anniversary issues of almost 100,000, I have no doubt the silver sets will be a hot commodity, especially since the silver sets will also appeal to people who may not collect Kennedy halves.
Modern coin expert Eric Jordan is also bullish on the silver sets and told Coin Week: “If you look through the mintage charts for proof and silver proof Kennedy halves it’s obvious that the set is a mintage anomaly for the very popular Kennedy half series. It’s a set of mostly key/semi key issues, and they have the added attraction of being a finish type set. Serious collectors of moderns should have one in their collection in my opinion. They are well chosen Christmas gifts for young family members this year.”
The only possible downside I can foresee to setting the mintage for the silver sets at this level is that when combined with the five per household limit there will be an intense scramble to obtain these sets, especially on launch day. Buyers, including myself who previously planned to get a set or two will now want to purchase five sets. I anticipate a lot of orders for the full five, and in theory 60,000 orders could be placed in the first day or two for the full mintage. But at the same time, at least the mintage is three times that of the 2011 eagle sets.
The silver sets will be the first high-demand product launched through the Mint’s new retail web site and order management system that is designed to enhance the Mint buying experience, and streamline the process of fulfilling orders. The Mint advised its customers prior to the launch of the JFK silver sets to be sure to log on to the new Mint web site and re-set their passwords to avoid unnecessary delays on the 28th or whenever people decide to order their silver sets. They will also, if they have not already done so, need to re-enter their payment information, which was deleted before the new site was launched in the interests of security.
It is encouraging that the Mint has tried to strike a balance between allocating the silver sets to buyers in a fair manner while also giving them a low enough mintage to open the door to price appreciation when the sets are sold out. This shows the Mint is listening to its customers.
If the new site works as intended, that should give collectors to have a fair chance to get the sets they want. But many collectors remain skeptical and are concerned there will be the usual problems encountered on the release day of a hot product. Let us all hope for the best.
*The silver set will include four half dollars: a reverse proof struck at the West Point Mint that exhibits mirrored devices and frosted fields (the opposite of a regular proof coin); a proof coin struck at the Philadelphia Mint with frosted devices and mirrored fields; an enhanced uncirculated coin from the San Francisco Mint that uses differing degrees of laser frosting to achieve an appearance that so far has only appeared on the 2013-S American Silver Eagle that was part of the 2013 San Francisco Mint two-coin American Silver Eagle set; and an uncirculated coin from the Denver Mint.