By Louis Golino, special to CoinWeek …..
In the weeks since the first part of this piece–U.S. Mint Products for the Second Half of 2021 – Winners and Losers–was published, some of the predictions made there have already been proven to be correct.
The Air Force silver medal, whose sale was delayed from June 22 to July 13 and whose mintage was limited to 10,000, did not sell out instantly as was expected but it did become “Currently Unavailable” after about two weeks.
It is now bringing about $200 on eBay, with some sales below issue price and some others well above. Keep in mind that after fees, shipping, and taxes, sellers are barely making a profit at these levels – but that shouldn’t matter to those who bought the piece for the art and to support our military.
Proof Silver Eagles
The 2021-W American Silver Eagle Proof coin, the first silver Proof of the Type 2 or Reverse of 2021 Silver Eagle — whose release was delayed from July 1 to 20 — did sell out instantly. Some collectors were not able to place an order before the piece became unavailable after 18 minutes and are, as usual, writing about their ordeal in blog posts and letters to editors.
But it is important to remember that a major reason the coin sold out so fast–besides the high demand for silver and for the new design–is that, as I noted in part one of this article, the coin could be purchased through the enrollment program and 10% of the product limit was available to bulk purchase dealers.
The Mint had to cut off enrollment orders about a month before the release due to high demand, but that gave buyers who acted in time (including those who read this column) the opportunity to purchase the coin without any hassles. Moreover, the three-per-household order limit did not apply to enrollments.
Also, keep in mind the coin may be offered in another product later since it was sold only with a product and not a mintage limit. Total sales of 384,532 coins were just reported, which includes bulk dealer sales of 2,142 40-coin lots plus 298,852 individual coins. Apparently, the bulk orders are considered a separate product.
As for the aftermarket, raw coins are bringing around $150 each while Proof 70s are selling for $200 and more for special labels–a healthy premium over the $73 issue price. And major retail dealers contacted their regular customers with offers to purchase the coin for $125 each in one case I know of and a little less in another. I expect those prices to soften a bit as more coins come onto the market in the coming weeks, so those looking to sell probably want to do that soon.
It appears that recent efforts by the Mint to improve their retail site and go after bots had at least some positive impact. Most collectors I know were able to get orders in that day, which was certainly not the case in several other recent instances.
The remaining products to be offered from August through the end of the year include primarily the new silver dollars, the American Liberty gold coin, the American Palladium Eagle, and some others.
On August 3, the United States Mint will offer the 2021-D and 2021-S Morgan silver dollars to be sold with household limits of three per coin and a product limit of 175,000. Although they do not have a stated mintage limit, the Mint said on May 4 that it does not plan to offer them in another product (like a set) later this year and stressed how stretched it is in securing sufficient planchets for these coins in addition to the 2021 Silver Eagles of both types and other coins. Buyers should be prepared for an instant sellout, likely within 10 minutes or less, and should do whatever has worked for them before. Hopefully, the Mint’s recent improvements and the lowering of the order limit will enable more collectors to secure coins.
As for the aftermarket, as my colleague Chris Bulfinch recently noted, at the moment the only market for the coins offered in April, the 2021-CC and 2021-O privy mark silver dollars, is on eBay, and dealers are waiting to assess the market as we get close to the October shipment of these coins. I concur with his view that prices will likely rise after buyers see them in hand and after dealer promotions start.
The fact that the prices these coins have been selling for on eBay have been so consistent for months rather than dipping like most hot issues do after a period is also a good sign. Examples graded MS70–already presold for as much as $1,000 apiece in some cases–will also help support the market for these coins, which will probably not cool off much until next year.
Overall, I expect the Morgan and Peace dollars and the new Type 2 Silver Eagles to be the hottest issues of 2021. As for the bullion versions of the new Eagles, we finally have sales data from the Mint, which shows that only 13,106,500 Type 1 Silver Eagles were sold; 5,144,000 Type 2 coins have been sold to date. Type 1 numbers should not change, but Type 2 will increase over the course of 2021.
As for American Gold Eagles, Type 1 numbers are 426,500 1-ounce; 31,000 ½ oz; 56,000 ¼ oz; and 150,000 1/10th oz coins, while sales to date of Type 2 coins are 201,500, 25,000, 30,000 and 90,000 respectively. Of note is that the half-ounce and tenth-ounce Type 1 gold coins have mintages that are low for their types compared to prior years.
In particular, the tenth-ounce bullion of this type is the lowest for that size of the series, and the half-ounce is tied for the third-lowest with 1990. Both coins are difficult to locate now, and premiums for those in stock are higher than for Type 2 with the 2021 Type 1 tenth bringing $100 or more over spot per coin. Someday that might seem like a bargain if it continues to remain the lowest for that size and/or gold goes up substantially.
In addition, so far the number of fractional size gold Type 2 coins on the market, which will increase later, is quite small–especially with the demand for the new design, which helps explain the high premiums on them at the moment (other than the tight physical market and high demand for bullion).
First and Last Sale
Last week the Mint announced an unusual upcoming sale starting August 9 to its network of authorized bullion dealers of the final 200,000 Type 1 Silver Eagles struck and the first 200,000 Type 2 silver coins plus the final 15,000 Type 1 gold 1-ounce Eagles and first 15,000 Type 2 of that size that will be sold through retail bullion dealers. Undoubtedly, many of those coins will be sold graded at considerable premiums. While this is something other world mints have done often in conjunction with grading companies that note “First of 500 coins struck” and similar notations, it will be a first for the U.S. Mint.
And an even more unusual move is the Mint’s plan to offer, through a public auction, four-coin sets of Type 1 and Type 2 examples of the Silver Eagle and 1-ounce Gold Eagle that were personally struck by Mint Director David J. Ryder that will be limited to 500 four-coin sets.
After the sale of Proof Gold Eagles this week and then the 2021-S Proof Silver Eagle and special Eagle sets in August, on August 17 the Coast Guard 2.5-ounce silver medal will be offered. If limited to 10,000 like the Air Force medal, it should sell out but probably not immediately.
Then comes the first new design in the American Liberty program since the 2019 coin that resembles to a degree the $10 Indian gold coin of Saint-Gaudens because of the rays emanating from Liberty’s head.
This program has, from its start in 2015, been conceived to showcase new and moderns ways of depicting Liberty. Initially, many thought that meant only Lady Liberties of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, and despite plenty of naysaying from the blogosphere, those coins have mostly proved quite popular with the price of gold and premiums on 1-ounce gold coins being the main limitation on sales.
But after David Ryder became the Mint’s director, he signaled an interest in moving away from the allegorical representation of Liberty as a female as has been the practice since the Mint’s founding and which is rooted in the ancient Greek and Roman personification of ideals like liberty as deities.
For 2021, the Mint is launching the most unusual modern image of Liberty it has ever used: a Mustang horse bucking off a western-style saddle, designed to symbolize the American colonies breaking free from British rule. Although the design was met with some consternation and even criticism when first proposed and then reviewed by the design committees, now that we see what the design translated into a coin looks like from Mint photos, reactions appear to be more positive.
If the Mint issued another, smaller version, I would expect it to sell well, as did the 2018 tenth-ounce version of the 2017 American Liberty $100 gold coin, whose sales were about 9,000 higher than that of the larger coin. But with gold at $1,800 or so and the Mint’s premiums the highest ever at almost $1,000 a coin (the 2017 is still being sold at $2,765), it is hard to see a sell-out or much aftermarket potential.
No product or mintage limits have been announced, but something much lower than the 100,000 used in 2017 and 2019 would be a good idea. Half that would likely be sufficient even accounting for the historically positive reception to Western and animal themes on our coins.
In addition to issuing perhaps another tenth-ounce version of the 2021 coin, a silver medal would be especially popular in the larger 2.5-ounce format like the last Liberty silver medal was in 2019, as were the 1-ounce 2017 and 2015 silver medals. But neither 2021 product has been announced to date, and perhaps one or both will appear next year.
American Palladium Eagle
The fifth release of the American Palladium Eagle program comes on September 2, which like the 2018 coin will be a Proof issue. No details on product or mintage limits have yet been announced. It is unclear how a second Proof meets the requirements of the enabling legislation that created this program, which says each year’s coin is supposed to have a different finish than the prior coins unless it is something different such as an Enhanced Proof.
Sales have been declining for this series mostly because the price of palladium – the best performing commodity of the past five years — has shot up to about $2,700 an ounce today and reached $3,000 last year. With the Mint’s premiums, the 2019 and 2020 coins, which have respectively Reverse Proof and Uncirculated (Burnished) finishes, are still available from the Mint and priced at $3,350 each.
Most buyers who can afford to spend that kind of money on coins are likely to be buying high-grade and better-date $20 Saint-Gaudens pieces or rare coins from the 18th and 19th centuries. The conditions that pushed palladium to its lofty current level, which are mainly a supply deficit and increased demand for catalytic converters in cars, may change over time as more electric vehicles enter the market, making it somewhat risky to buy the Eagle version at current levels.
And that explains the sales trends. The 2019 coin was initially priced at just under $2,000 and has to date sold 18,228 units, compared to about 15,000 each in 2017 and 2018 because more coins were available and the finish is distinctive, but sales really slowed as the coin got to $3,000 and more and are not likely to ever reach the max of 30,000. It is likely the Mint produced 20,000 coins initially.
By the time the 2020 issue was launched, spot palladium and the premium had pushed the price of the coin to the $3,000-range, and sales to date have reached 9,314 of a max of 10,000. The Mint seems to have correctly gauged demand for this one.
Other than the latest American Innovation dollars and the 2021 Mint Set, the remaining highlights for the year are the 2021 Limited Edition Silver Proof Set (which will include the 2021 silver half dollar, two quarters and dime and either the 2021-W or 2021-S American Silver Eagle Proof coin – some years it is the West Point and some years the San Francisco coin), and on September 17 the George Herbert Walker Bush Coin and Chronicles Set.
I expect the Coin and Chronicles Set to be a strong seller and probably an early sell-out. Former President G.H.W. Bush remains broadly popular with the American public as the statesmen who guided the country out of the Cold War, and these sets have done well in the past.
Plus, it’s been five years since the last ones for Presidents Ford and Reagan were released. These sets are well presented and packaged with the $1 coin for the respective president, a silver version of their inaugural medal, and other items like postage stamps along with informative materials.
All told, 2021 will be a very strong year for United States Mint products, with something for all budgets and collector interests.
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Louis Golino is an award-winning numismatic journalist and writer, specializing primarily in modern U.S. and world coins. His work has appeared in CoinWeek since 2011. He also currently writes regular features for Coin World, The Numismatist, and CoinUpdate.com, and has been published in Numismatic News, COINage, and FUNTopics, among other coin publications. He has also been widely published on international political, military, and economic issues.
His column “The Coin Analyst”, special to CoinWeek, won the 2021 Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) Award for Best Numismatic Column: United States Coins – Modern. In 2015, “The Coin Analyst” received an NLG award for Best Website Column. In 2017, he received an NLG award for Best Article in a Non-Numismatic Publication with his piece, “Liberty Centennial Designs”.
In October 2018, he received a literary award from the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists (PAN) for his 2017 article, “Lady Liberty: America’s Enduring Numismatic Motif” that appeared in The Clarion.