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Pricing Controversy with New 5 oz. “America the Beautiful” Bullion Coins

The U.S. Mint’s Dec. 1 announcement that the new 2010 America the Beautiful 5-ounce .999 fine silver bullion quarter dollars were to go on sale December 6th was canceled earlier this week over Mint concerns and complaints that the much anticipated coins were being overpriced.

The US mint does not distribute its bullion products directly to the public, but rather uses a network of 11 “Primary Distributors” who purchase the coins from the US Mint at $9.75 over the spot price of silver, and then in turn mostly wholesale these out to retail dealers. Few of these Primary Distributors have retail facilities.

Here is a list of the Primary Distributors:

  • A-Mark Precious Metals
  • Coins ‘N Things Inc.
  • MTB
  • Scotia Mocatta
  • Dillon Gage of Dallas
  • Prudential Securities Inc.
  • The Gold Center
  • American Precious Metals Exchange, Inc. (APMEX)
  • Commerzbank
  • Jack Hunt Coin Broker
  • Fidelitrade

As part of the December 1st announcement, the Mint surprisingly drastically reduced the mintage’s for the much anticipated 5 oz America the Beautiful Bullion coins from an anticipated 100,000 coin (for each of the 5 designs this year), to a mere 33,000.

After the announcement, APMEX decided to offer the 2010 5 coin set to customers and allow them to pre-order the coins from their website. Apmex is one of the few Primary Distributors that maintains a retail presence through their website (which is excellent by the way). The 5 coin set was being offered at $1,395.

Obviously with such limited supplies, the large (3 inches in diameter) bullion coins were expected to be in hot demand .

However within hours of this pre-launch offering, complaints started to be registered with the US Mint because Apmex, responding to the anticipated demand and low mintages, had placed a $130.00 premium per coin on the set.

Apmex customers didn’t seem to mind the hefty premiums too much because within 19 hours after the posted pre-launch offer, they had sold 1000 sets. But the US Mint did mind. In fact they halted the release of the new 5 oz coins to review the situation.

In a statement released by the US Mint, and posted on CoinUpdate the Mint made the following statements:

The United States Mint is aware of reports of concern by many consumers about the high prices and premiums being charged in the market for the newly released America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins. We are evaluating these reports and collecting information in order to assess the appropriate course of action to make certain that our customers are best served in the distribution of the coins, and to ensure the widest possible availability, accessibility and affordability of these coins.

The same day, the US Mint sent the following memo to primary distributors:

The United States Mint issued a press release on December 1, 2010, announcing the December 6, 2010, availability of the 2010 America the Beautiful Ounce Silver Bullion Coins through the established network of Authorized Purchasers who, in turn, would make them available on the secondary market. Due to the limited availability of the 2010 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coin coins, public anticipation has been extremely strong. Since the press release was issued, the United States Mint has received numerous calls and inquiries from the public regarding premiums being charged for these coins. As a result, we are delaying the launch of this program. No America the Beautiful Ounce Silver Bullion Coins orders will be confirmed today.

New Terms and Conditions for Primary Distributors

1. Authorized Purchasers shall make available for sale to the public all 2010 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins that they acquire. The intention of this condition is to ensure that all 2010 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins minted and issued by the United States Mint are sold to the public.

2. Authorized Purchasers may charge to their customers a price no higher than ten percent above the price at which the Authorized Purchasers acquire 2010 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins from the United States Mint. Authorized Purchasers may charge their customers a reasonable shipping and handling fee; however, Authorized Purchasers may not charge any other fee, premium, or other expense to their customers to circumvent this ten-percent markup limitation. The intention of this condition is to ensure that members of the public can obtain these coins at a reasonable and affordable purchase price.

3. Authorized Purchasers must establish and enforce an order limit of one coin of each design for each household. A household is defined as all persons of a family, or living as a family, at a single mailing address. The intention of this condition is to ensure the broadest and fairest public accessibility to 2010 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins, which are limited-mintage United States Mint products.

4. Authorized Purchasers may not sell, either directly or indirectly, 2010 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins to their officers or employees. The intention of this condition is to ensure that 2010 America the Beautiful Silver Bullion Coins are available to the public and that Authorized Purchaser officers and employees do not have an unfair advantage over members of the public.

Bottom Line: The New America the Beautiful 5 oz Bullion coins are supposed to be released today, December 10th. The Primary Distributors have been restricted to charge no more than a 10% premium for the coins. Those Primary Distributors who do not agree with the New Terms and Conditions issued by the US Mint and/or do not purchase their allocation, with have the coins allocated to them re-distributed to other Primary Distributor no latter than December 20th.

All in all an interesting situation, and one that raises many questions that I am sure will be discussed for months to come. We will be doing a follow-up article on this in the near future.

Coinweek is the top independent online media source for rare coin and currency news, with analysis and information contributed by leading experts across the numismatic spectrum.

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