by Louis Golino for CoinWeek…
Important Update: The U.S. Mint has resumed accepting orders for the 2014 Native American coin and currency set. They are listed as backordered with an expected in-stock date of December 8.
On November 20 the U.S. Mint began accepting orders for the 2014 Native American $1 Coin and Currency Set. This product, which when first released did not seem to attract much attention from collectors, includes a 2014-dated Native American dollar and a 2013 Federal Reserve $1 note in a colorful trifold presentation folder.
This year’s Native American dollar commemorates Native American hospitality during the famous Lewis and Clark expedition, and the product was designed to honor Native American history and includes images from the expedition. It was priced at $13.95 and had a product limit of 50,000 units. November is Native American History Month.
The Mint’s product description refers to the “distinctive pairing” of the coin and note, but the reason for including a 2013 $1 note was never explained. Some collectors have pointed out that a 2014 $1 note, or a $2 note since it depicts President Thomas Jefferson who was in office at the time, would seem to make more sense, but the note is not what really interests people about this set.
If that were the whole story this item probably would not have been a big seller other than perhaps for Christmas gifts. But once buyers began to receive their sets starting on Monday, November 20 they noticed that the $1 coin had a different appearance and finish than a regular Native American dollar such as those contained in the 2014 mint set. The coin in the set is actually an enhanced uncirculated coin with a special finish that has received different degrees of laser frosting so that the various elements of the design are more distinctive.
This is only the third time the Mint has issued an enhanced uncirculated coin, with the first being the 2013-S enhanced uncirculated American Silver eagle that was part of the 2013 San Francisco anniversary eagle set, and the second being the 2014-S enhanced uncirculated Kennedy 50th anniversary half dollar coin that is part of the special four-coin Kennedy set released last month and discussed extensively in this column.
Word quickly spread about the enhanced uncirculated coin in the blogosphere, especially after members of the PCGS Collectors Universe message board posted pictures of the coin. Sales of the coin then really took off and by the evening of Monday, November 24 the Mint temporarily stopped taking orders for the set. Based on the November 23 sales report 9,720 units had been sold, but that was before it was widely known that the set contained a unique coin. According to the November 30 sales report released on December 2, 14,073 sets were sold through the 30th, but the additional 4,353 sets were sold on the 24th before the Mint stopped taking orders.
As soon as the product became unavailable on the Mint’s site, speculation began to grow that it had sold out. Many people reported buying multiple sets and some even said they purchased hundreds of them since there is no household order limit for this item. A lot of people also speculated that once word was out about the special finish on the coin dealers started placing very large orders, and they argued that that made it more likely the sets were gone.
Prices on e-Bay immediately took off once the set was not available for ordering. At first it was selling for $20 or so, but within hours of the notice that the set was unavailable to order on the 24th, sales were concluding at higher levels. In the days since most sets have sold for $35-40.
The mint initially said the sets were “unavailable” but then changed the wording to “out of stock” and then to “temporarily out of stock.” But a lot of collectors and buyers remained convinced the product was gone for good.
The Mint has since provided confirmation that the coin does indeed have an enhanced uncirculated finish, and on the 26th it provided the following clarification about the finishes on the coin to coin editors:
“Being an Enhanced Uncirculated program, the base finish on the obverse & reverse was wire brushed. This was developed specifically for this program and implemented into production for the first time. This approach gives the coins a bright finish without appearing polished (like proof coins do).
On the obverse, standard laser frosting was applied to the field and particular elements of the artwork to accentuate the design. Specific elements of the artwork and all lettering are in the wire brush finish to further accentuate them against the laser frosted field.
On the reverse, standard laser frosting was applied to the field. A lighter level of laser frosting was then applied to particular elements of the artwork to enable it to stand out. Specific elements of the artwork, all lettering and the compass are in the wire brush finish to further accentuate the design.”
On December 1 the Mint sent another note to editors indicating that as of 2:00pm the set was out of stock, which means no inventory is available and there is no anticipated date when more will go on sale.
When I spoke to the Mint’s Michael White in the Office of Public Affairs last week about the set he said he had been receiving a large number of inquiries about it and whether it was really sold out. He said he expected more product to be available at some point and that he did not think it was sold out, especially since at that point the only data available on sales showed just under 10,000 units ordered.
Typically, the Mint does not produce the entire product limit for particular coins or sets except when the anticipated demand level is very high such as with this year’s 50thanniversary Kennedy half dollar products. To avoid long delays in shipping and because they expected to sell a lot of product right from the release, a significant portion of the mintage of those coins was made available before the launch, which made the process work much more smoothly than in the past.
But the Mint apparently did not expect the coin and currency set to be the hit it turned out to be once buyers discovered it had a unique coin only available in this set.
It is not hard to understand why this set has received so much attention in the past week with some people calling it the possible sleeper product of 2014.
First, the enhanced uncirculated Native American dollar is not only just the third coin to have this type of special finish, but it is the first of its type in its respective series, and the lowest mintage enhanced coin released so far.
Second, the sets are accessibly priced, and Native American themes and the Lewis and Clark expedition are popular with coin collectors.
Third, the temporary appearance of a sell-out, which in many cases seemed like wishful thinking on the part of buyers who ordered hundreds of sets to sell for a quick profit, really lit the fuse of speculation about these sets.
Even now that it is virtually certain more of them will be available at some point, many people remain very bullish about the sets and their potential for appreciation at least in the short-term and perhaps in the long-term as well.
Only time will tell how this plays out. But with not much else going on at the moment in terms of new U.S. Mint offerings apart from the Franklin Roosevelt coin and chronicles set scheduled to be released on December 22, modern U.S. coin collectors were eager for some excitement, and the news of the enhanced dollar in this set seems to have responded to that vacuum.
In addition, some collectors are concerned that large buyers and dealers will quickly scoop up the second half of the product limit when it is made available.
I know I can’t wait to get an e-mail from the Mint saying the sets are available for ordering since I missed out on the initial supply.