By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek….
According to CBS channel 4 (KCNC-TV) in Denver, coin dealers have hired numerous people to stand in line outside the Mint in order to purchase the first day issue of the 2014 50th Anniversary gold Kennedy half dollar.
The report, which aired August 5, explains how at least two dealerships managed their operations.
The Denver Mint has a one-coin-per-person policy in place for the sale of the gold Kennedy half. However, dealerships are not prohibited from using other means to procure more coins than the limit allows. Often, this is as simple as approaching customers who have just bought the coin and asking to buy it from them.
Hiring stand-ins is not unheard of.
In the video of the report hosted on the CBS4 website, Mint Spokesperson Jennifer De Broekert explains that dealers are doing nothing wrong by using such tactics. “Once we give the ticket out, we have very little control over what they choose to do with that ticket at that point,” she said.
Harry Metrano of Kevin Lipton Rare Coins of Beverly Hills spoke with CBS4 reporter Rick Sallinger about what they were doing, as did some of those standing in line.
Lipton Rare Coins paid cash to several homeless people and gave them a pre-paid credit card with which to buy the coin ($1240, retail) once inside. At least one man received $20 for his time, but the report doesn’t specify if this was the going rate, nor does it state whether that specific man was homeless or not.
He also said that people had been waiting in line since at least 10:00 PM the night before.
Coin in hand, the purchaser then heads to a station across the street, where the coin is transferred to an agent of Lipton Rare Coins while another employee checks a ledger containing the names of the people who had been hired to purchase the coins.
Kevin Lipton, owner-operator of Kevin Lipton Rare Coins, won the Professional Numismatists Guild’s (PNG) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. The PNG is a non-profit group of coin and currency dealers.
Additionally, over 100 army spouses from Fort Carson were paid $300 each by the Argent Group to stand in line and buy the coin as well. The report doesn’t say whether the Argent Group had employees present outside the Mint or not.
CoinWeek has left a message with the Argent Group’s corporate contact to confirm this story.
Again, it must be emphasized that the above transactions are not prohibited by the one-coin-per-person policy.
However, some people also told Sallinger that they were “lured” there to stand in line by ads looking for film and tv extras. Where these ads were located was unspecified, but at least one Denver-area company who regularly posts similar ads on Craigslist denied any involvement in or knowledge of such a scheme when they were contacted this afternoon.
Direct sales of the 2014 50th Anniversary gold Kennedy half dollar are brisk and demand is high, as evinced by the lines outside the mints in Denver and Philadelphia and mint headquarters in Washington, D.C.
UPDATE: In other 50th Anniversary gold Kennedy half news, the U.S Mint has suspended sales of the coin at the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money show in Rosemont, Illinois, as well as at mint locations in Denver, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., fearing for the safety of its employees.
According to unconfirmed reports, the police are aware of criminal activity in and around the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center where the ANA show is being held and where sales of the gold Kennedy half are taking place.
As stated on the front page of the convention website, customers can still order the coins on usmint.gov or call 1-800-USA-MINT (1-800-872-6468). Customers who order through the call center are limited to five coins per household.
The Mint is still offering the rest of its product line at the show and all other locations affected by this suspension.