Despite next to no publicity, the US Mint’s America the Beautiful 5-oz coin series turned into highly sought after items when the Mint announced their release. Unfortunately, the situation quickly turned ugly.
When the Mint announced that only 33,000 sets (five coins to a set) were going to be minted, demand exploded. Coin collectors were anticipating something like 100,000 bullion coins for each design, and the coins went from being bullion coins to being limited-edition collectibles. Not only did the hundreds of thousands of collectors of US Mint products want sets, but so did huge numbers of promoters and “eBayers” who sought to pocket quick cash by flipping the sets.
Originally, plans were for the coins to be sold through the same distribution channels as the Mint’s Gold Eagles and Silver Eagles, and CMI Gold & Silver Inc. expected to handle the coins. However, demand was so great that the APs doubled prices. That is, they were going to charge dealers such as CMI Gold & Silver Inc. double what they had to pay the Mint.
However, the uproar over the pricing caused the Mint to delay release and to lay out guidelines as to how the sets are to be sold.
The most restrictive guideline calls for sales to be limited to one only set to a household, with the Mint reserving the right to audit the APs’ books to verify compliance. Another guideline restricts the APs to a 10% markup. Being a US Mint Authorized Purchaser is highly prized, and I doubt that any AP will jeopardize its relationship with the US Mint by selling in the sets in any manner other than as the Mint guidelines call for.
To comply with the guidelines, one major AP is setting up a website through which the sets will be sold; another AP rep told me that they do not yet know how they will handle sales of America the Beautiful sets. There is a chance that some of the APs will not handle the sets.
Readers interested in learning more about obtaining America the Beautiful sets can email firstname.lastname@example.org with America the Beautiful sets in the subject line. When the website goes up where the sets can be bought online, we will reply to those emails. If sets can be bought through other sources we learn about, we will make that information available as well.
A final note: Will America the Beautiful sets remain sought-after collectibles that carry high premiums, or will interest fade as the sets are distributed?
Collectible coins are not my expertise, but over the years that I have been a gold-silver dealer I have observed the collectible coin market and can make a somewhat educated guess. I suspect that for a few years the coins will carry premiums above the value of their silver content. (They will be highly promoted by telemarketers and on eBay.) However, the series will face obstacles as it goes forward.
One, the series is set to run eleven years, which is a long time to keep collectors interested, especially with such a high-priced set. Additionally, four to five years out I think the price of silver will be much higher, which will reduce the number of collectors willing the lay out the thousands of dollars it will require to collect all the coins.
Further compounding the situation, the Mint plans a numismatic version (dubbed the “uncirculated” version by the Mint) of the 2010 designs—27,000 coins for each of the five 2010 coins—available for purchase directly from the US Mint during the first quarter of 2011. The numismatic versions will have a different finish, although not a proof finish, and bear the “P” mint mark for the US Mint at Philadelphia. Consequently, there will be two sets out there: the numismatic version with the “P” mint mark, which initially can be bought only from the US Mint, and the bullion version, which will be distributed through the Mint’s Authorized Purchasers.