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America the Beautiful turns ugly

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 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.

6 Responses to “America the Beautiful turns ugly”

  1. Tom

    America the Beautiful turns ugly.

    That’s probably what is actually going to happen. If the 50-state quarters series is any accurate indication of things to come, the designs on this new series will be so crappy and poorly executed that nobody in their right mind will want to collect them anyway. The mint needs to resurrect Adolph Wienman from the grave.

  2. Mark Sparks

    I was able to get a set (confirmation) by way of an online pre-sale. When I ordered the set I paid $1,400 for the set and subsequently was (I think, reluctantly) refunded about $550 when I received the coins. In my opinion the coins are very high quality, especially if these are considered “bullion” coins. It will be interesting to see how the value of these coins will be perceived going forward… Mark

  3. Michael

    From what I have seen, the authorized distributors are holding onto the coins and not responding to inquiries — waiting on prices to rise or figuring out how to charge the highest price while still remaining in compliance with the new guidelines? I thought distributors were supposed to distribute. As usual with anything related to the Mint, it is the citizens that pay through the nose.

    I saw the Home Shopping Network offering them for $5,000 a set yesterday evening (January 5th). They said they had 210 sets. This system is working out great for the middle men.

    I called the Mint and was told to call (202) 354-7500 if I had a complaint. I was told this was the office in charge of bullion coins. There was a recording, but you can leave a message.

    • Bill Haynes

      This series was supposed to have been for the bullion market; however, when the Mint — for whatever reasons — decided to produce only 33,000 sets of the first coins, it immediately became a collectible for which there was (still is) a huge demand.

      Any of the Mint’s Authorized Purchasers that choose to sell their allotment outside the Mint’s guidelines jeopardize their standing with the Mint.

      I have no idea how the Home Shopping Network came up with 210 sets; I hope no one reading this is stupid enough to pay $5,000 for a set.

      One AP is setting up a website to sell its allotment within the Mint’s guidelines. I suspect those 3,000 sets will be gone within hours of the site’s launch. Readers interested in knowing when the site will be launched can email info with America the Beautiful in the subject line.


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