By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for Coinweek …..
Ever heard of “Land of the Free” State Quarters?
Probably not, unless you stumbled across a recent Danbury Mint Facebook advertisement selling these rebranded America The Beautiful Quarters under the label “Land of the Free State Quarters”. This particular advertisement raises eyebrows for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it targets low information collectors who have little marketplace knowledge about such coins and their lack of premium above face value.
The Danbury Mint primarily sells non-numismatic collectibles, but it’s been selling coins through its partnership with PCS Stamps and Coins of Norwalk, Connecticut for the past several years. Through this collaboration, countless coin sets, many consisting of common-date modern coins, have been sold to the unsuspecting public. Like most other Danbury Mint coin offers, the advertisement for the Land of the Free State Quarters is replete with urgent-sounding words and phrases such as “last chance” and “limited quantity.”
It’s the kind of ad that makes some novice collectors scramble for their wallets in the hope that by putting away these manufactured coin sets, they will realize untold profits from this investment/collecting opportunity. The sad reality is that many of those who sink their hard-earned cash into such offers often wind up at the nearby coin shop a few years later selling their as-seen-on-TV coin investments for pennies on the dollar.
Before this article went to press, CoinWeek made several attempts to reach out to the Danbury Mint, PCS Stamps and Coins, and parent company MBI, Inc. to learn why they are marketing America the Beautiful Quarters as “Land of the Free State Quarters” and to glean more information about some of the claims made in the advertisement. Every phone call I placed to the three companies promptly ended with representatives and supervisors saying that they “have a longstanding policy of not speaking to the media or conducting interviews.”
Of course, this only encourages more speculation about why the Danbury Mint feels compelled to sell America the Beautiful Quarters as “Land of the Free State Quarters”. Perhaps marketing execs believe the phrase “Land of the Free” evokes positive connotations with politically-conservative customers? Maybe the words “state quarters” recall the fervor around the actual 50 States Quarters the United States Mint issued between 1999 and 2008? Do they believe that Googling the search terms “land of the free state quarter” or “land of the free quarter” won’t lead potential customers to information on the America the Beautiful Quarters and their status as inexpensive common coins?
No matter what motivates the Danbury Mint’s rebranding of America the Beautiful Quarters, one thing remains the same: the circulating quarter-dollar series issued by the U.S. Mint since 2010 is officially known as the America the Beautiful Quarters program. The Mint even has a registered trademark on the name, which was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office under reference number 77823874 in 2009 and officially accepted in 2010.
U.S. Mint lawyers say the “America the Beautiful” name cannot be used in conjunction with the quarters unless the trademark is referenced. Is that why the Danbury Mint chose the “Land of the Free” moniker instead?
We may never know; they certainly don’t want to talk to us. But we do know that much of the verbiage in the Land of the Free State Quarters advertisement curiously misrepresents the actual America the Beautiful Quarters series it is meant to sell.
“The day it [sic] was introduced, the Land of the Free Quarters revolutionized American coinage,” states the Danbury Mint ad. It goes on to say that “halfway through completion, we are now entering the FINAL phase of this hugely popular series.”
When did this “final phase” officially begin? Did the United States Mint or the Treasury Department designate 2016 as the beginning of the “final” phase of the America the Beautiful Quarters series? Probably not, especially when the 12-year-long series that began in 2010 isn’t even supposed to end until at least 2021.
This leads me to my next area of concern with the Land of the Free Quarters ad:
“With no new program scheduled to take its place, this could be the LAST circulating coin series of its kind!”
Well, that’s exactly what the Danbury Mint may want its customers to believe. That these so-called Land of the Free State Quarters could be the last circulating coin series the United States Mint will ever issue…
While attorneys may argue that the “Land of the Free State Quarters” may indeed by the very last “Land of the Free State Quarters” initiative ever offered, there’s no way any seasoned numismatist could believe that the very coins offered through this advertisement – America the Beautiful Quarters – represent the last circulating coin series of its type.
If recent history is any indication of the marketing intentions at the United States Mint, the America the Beautiful (A.K.A. “Land of the Free”) Quarters program will certainly not be the last circulating coin series the United States will issue. In fact, the America the Beautiful Quarters series can be extended legally to 2032 at the discretion of the Secretary of the Treasury. The year 2032, coincidentally, is the centennial anniversary of the Washington quarter series – an event that could, in and of itself, hypothetically spur yet another series of circulating commemorative quarters.
One other note that must be made about the Danbury Mint’s Land of the Free State Quarters set concerns the format in which it is being offered. The Danbury Mint sells them in rolls of 12 coins when the standard number of quarters to a roll is 40. Given that each 12-coin roll of Land of the Free quarters sells for $19.95 plus $4.95 shipping and service fees, this means that each quarter costs $1.66.
Most 40-coin rolls of America the Beautiful quarters sell for less than $20 each.
But Danbury sweetens the deal a bit with a free “elegant” (it really is) wooden display chest for holding the complete 12-coin roll set of Land of the Free Quarters. Doing the math, however, one learns that a complete 50-roll, 600-coin set costs $1,245. I don’t know about you, but I feel there are other ways to spend $1,200 on coins than buying a wooden box and 600 America the Beautiful – err, Land of the Free – quarters. A Saint-Gaudens $20 gold double eagle is one of them.
Other Danbury Mint Coin Offers Worthy of Scrutiny
If you think the Land of the Free State Quarters set is the only product in the Danbury Mint catalog worthy of a consumer alert, think again.
I’ll give them props where they’re due, though… at least they’re selling Presidential $1 coins as “Presidential dollars” (and not as, say, “White House Hero Dollars”). But then again, Danbury Mint is “Presidential dollars” in 13-coin rolls. 13? Why not 11? Or 9? Or 81? Perhaps the number 13 hearkens back to the ol’ “baker’s dozen” or even the Last Supper? There’s no way to understand their roll quantity conventions (or lack thereof) because no one at the Danbury Mint is willing to elucidate the matter.
Which surely would be helpful: the price of these 13-coin rolls is $39.95 plus $4.95 shipping and service fees. The standard number of small-size dollars to a roll is 25 – the same number the United States Mint sells in one roll for $32.95.
Now, consider this claim from the Danbury Mint Presidential dollar ad:
“it’s official – after 10 years, the landmark Presidential dollar program is shutting down and there are only three more issues to be minted.”
“But you can still gain access to every coin in the series – including the controversial final dollar that was never supposed to be minted.” The satirist in me wonders if there’s some kind of Jimmy Carter presidential dollar included with this offer.
Alas, the controversial “final” coin is (of course) the Ronald Reagan dollar.
Still… no big deal, right?
Wrong. In August 2012, the United States Mint itself issued a warning on its website about Danbury Mint partner PCS Stamps and Coins:
The United States Mint has learned that PCS Stamps and Coins of Norwalk, Connecticut, is making the following erroneous claim in its marketing materials: “The U.S. Mint coin presses have been OFFICIALLY SUSPENDED for circulating Presidential Dollars.” PCS Stamps and Coins also has been mailing an “Official Settlement Notice,” asking consumers to mail in an “Official Settlement Claim Form” with a “Claim Number” within 10 days to “reserve . . . The Complete U.S. Presidential Coin Collection before supplies are exhausted.”
These types of statements are potentially deceptive and misleading to consumers because the United States Mint has not suspended the Presidential $1 Coin Program. To the contrary, the Secretary of the Treasury ordered only that the United States Mint suspend the minting of Presidential $1 Coins issued for circulation to the Federal Reserve Banks.
Speaking of presidents, just about every coin dealer knows a general readership advertisement featuring a Kennedy half dollar will bring plenty of leads and completed order forms. The Danbury Mint’s John F. Kennedy Presidential Dollar Collector Roll is one such offer that has probably brought a small windfall of cash for the firm.
The Danbury Mint offers a 35-coin roll of Kennedy dollars in a custom wooden display case. And guess what? The roll contains 35 coins, not the standard 25 of a typical roll of small-size dollars.
Maybe they think buyers will be confused by the math and not realize how high the price is? But I digress.
There’s no telling how much the wooden box is worth, but at $169 for 37 Kennedy dollars (plus $9 shipping and service), one might be inclined simply to buy a 25-coin roll of the same uncirculated Kennedy dollars from a local dealer for little if any markup over the original $32.95 United States Mint issue price.
Like the Kennedy half dollar, the Morgan dollar is another coin that many non-numismatists believe will afford them automatic early retirement or cover the costs of a once-in-a-lifetime Alaskan cruise. So it comes as no surprise that the Danbury Mint has an ad for rolls of Morgan silver dollars as well.
Of course, the ad mentions “silver” at just about every opportunity. Because, aside from the word “gold,” there’s probably no term that can singlehandedly better sell a coin than “silver.” It’s the type of word that taps into the whimsical bullion prospector in virtually everyone – whether they’re avid collectors or not.
So, silver stackers unite! For the Danbury Mint is offering a roll of 12 – yes, 12, not the standard 20 – circulated Morgan silver dollars for $579. The bonus? There are no shipping and service fees for this offer.
At $579, the effective price-per-coin is $48.25. Not bad for, say, April 2011, when silver was nearly $50 per ounce. But today? Silver is struggling to stay within the $15- $17 an-ounce price point.
Potential customers should always double-check silver spot prices before paying nearly $50 for a common-date circulated Morgan dollar.
At any rate, the Danbury Mint does offer an unconditional 45-day return policy for their products, which is more than can be said for some coin dealers.
Still, it pays to heed some advice from seasoned collectors before buying any coin, anywhere. We’re fond of saying “Buy the book before the coin” in this hobby. Perhaps we should all admit that it’s time to start saying “Search the internet before buying coins,” too. No matter what, conduct yourself with due diligence whether you’re responding to an online ad, newspaper pitch or slick TV commercial that urges you to BUY NOW before it is too late. There’s always time to do a little research, ask questions, check out the seller and compare prices.