By Louis Golino for CoinWeek ………
At the recently-concluded American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Illinois, the most important coin show of the year, a major highlight was the fact that the US Mint was selling the 2013-W American Reverse Proof Buffalo Gold Coin in person to show attendees. From the start of opening day long lines of buyers formed to buy the coin that first went on sale August 8. Online and telephone buyers quickly learned that their orders would not be fulfilled for weeks or longer, though in the past week some people were pleasantly surprised to see their orders have already been shipped.
The reverse proof Buffalo gold coin, which continues to sell briskly , was a big hit at the show. Two thousand units were sold, and the first thousand sold out by the middle of the afternoon of opening day. About half of the show coins went to three major coin dealers (according to a September 2 Coin World article), who paid show attendees up to a $100 premium per coin to buy the maximum per person number of coins for them, which was reduced from five to three when the second batch of coins was made available.
In addition, PCGS and NGC were onsite to grade the coins and give them a special ANA Chicago show label that was only available for coins graded at the show. While some collectors question the long-term value of such labels since there is nothing different about a coin purchased at the show from one bought online, plenty of buyers are paying huge premiums for the ANA label coins on e-Bay, where Proof 70-graded examples are fetching between $3,000 and $4,500 for a coin that cost the buyer $1690 plus the grading fee. The appeal supposedly comes from the claim that the show coins were the first ones struck, but they are really the first coins buyers got their hands on, not necessarily the first ones minted.
People who bought their Buffaloes online felt it was unfair to sell the coin at the show, and they were also disheartened by the fact that a handful of dealers scooped so many of the coins at the show, making it harder for people buying for themselves to make a purchase. In an article in Coin World that appears in the September 2 issue those dealers openly discussed how many coins they bought and the premiums they paid for people to stand in line for them.
Future Mint Plans
U.S. Mint Deputy Director Richard Peterson made some important announcements and comments regarding the Mint’s upcoming plans during the convention. These comments were made in remarks that preceded the opening of the show as well as in interviews with the numismatic press.
Director Peterson made it clear the Mint was very pleased with how well the Buffalo gold coin sold at the show and told Numismatic News that he “has decided that the American Numismatic Association is an event at which he wants to launch at least one new product each year.”
He also said that it was unlikely the Mint would issue another special silver eagle set in the near future, which will be something of a relief for silver eagle collectors who are concerned special sets are becoming not-so-special. The fact that he made this point shows the Mint is paying attention to what collectors are saying. He also said that the Mint will be using its new laser techniques to create special finishes on proof sets starting either in 2014 or 2015, and said the Mint will definitely issue a special set of half dollars next year to honor the 50th anniversary of the issuance of the Kennedy half dollar. Details about the set are still being worked out.
Director Peterson also said the Mint is considering bringing back platinum bullion American eagle coins because customer surveys show there is a market for those coins, but that fractional versions will not be made.
Probably more than any other major world mint, the United States Mint regularly solicits the views of its customers on the coins it sells. In addition to offering visitors to its web site customer satisfaction surveys, the U.S. Mint also periodically hires an outside marketing firm to conduct surveys of what coins collectors are most interested in. Such surveys helped lead to the issuance of a number of U.S. Mint products in recent years, including the special anniversary American silver eagle sets of the last three years and this year’s American Buffalo reverse proof gold coin. The 2014 Kennedy set is another idea that was proposed in a survey.
The Mint recently sent a survey to some of its customers asking them about future plans for the proof American platinum eagle series and the possibility of palladium eagles.
Survey respondents were asked what kind of themes they would like to see on platinum proof eagles now that the six-year Preamble to the Constitution series will be ending next year. The possible themes for the new series that will begin in 2015 are: documents of independence and freedom, emblems of freedom, classic eagles, revolutionary war sites, and classic coins. In addition, respondents were asked about a special anniversary coin to be issued in 2017
In March the Mint released the results of a marketing study that it commissioned regarding the demand for palladium coins, if the Mint were to issue them. The new survey does not discuss bullion palladium eagles, but is does indicate the Mint may issue a proof version for collectors next year. The market study found there is substantial interest among buyers in numismatic palladium coins, especially if it were a one-year only coin.
Whatever direction the Mint ultimately follows with respect to these coins and in general, collectors of U.S. Mint coins can look forward to a lot of interesting new products next year and beyond.
Online waiting room
On August 20 the Mint announced some major improvements for online buyers of its products, including a redesigned shopping cart, and a new online waiting room to make it easier to buy high-demand products during the first day of sales, when buyers frequently encounter long delays and web site crashes.
In particular, the Mint provided the following details about the waiting room:
“The new online waiting room will be used to assist customers who want to purchase high-demand products from the online catalog (catalog.usmint.gov) on the first day the product becomes available. As you know, the catalog website has often been overwhelmed by customers seeking to order high demand products on the first day of sales.
Customers who come to the online catalog during a high-demand product release can enter the waiting room to “get in line” to enter the website and make their purchase. The waiting room will tell customers how long they have to wait before entering the catalog website. While in the waiting room, they may open other tabs in their browser or another browser window to visit other websites.
Customers also will have the option to leave and come back later to shop when there is less traffic on the site. They will be informed that they will lose their place in line if they choose to close the waiting room browser window to leave the waiting room.
The waiting room concept has been tested with customers and received positive responses. It will be deployed on the Mint’s website for new products on a case-by-case basis.”
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.