Human nature fascinates me. I wouldn?t have this job if I didn?t like people. I especially like meeting them at shows and club meetings and having a chance to talk. Telephone calls are also interesting, as are e-mails.
Over and over in my experience I learn that one way or another, we have all been there and done that, no matter what the issue. I was reminded of this when I received an e-mail telling me the U.S. Mint had suspended sales of proof gold American Eagles because the market price of gold had shot up so high. The writer wanted to know if the Mint had the right to do that. (See Letter.) I assured him that the Mint indeed has that right. He thanked me.
With gold leaping, it is not surprising that the Mint would suspend sales of proof Eagles. One more day of large gains would have put the Mint into a hole. The Mint has enough problems with cents and nickels and meeting the needs of commerce without making taxpayers take a hit on selling gold for less than market price.
I don?t blame the e-mailer for asking why he couldn?t get the potentially cut-rate gold. At another time, I would probably would have tried it myself. It is human nature. We all want a bargain. We all want to be clever.
My first order for proof sets was mailed to the U.S. Mint as the order period opened Nov. 1, 1968, for 1969 sets. This was in the aftermath of the return of proof sets in 1968 after a gap of four years. The hobby was excited. This was demonstrated by a rising price of 1968 sets.
I ordered two sets at $5 each. The order period lasted just six days. The hobby flooded the Mint with orders.
When I heard of the sellout, I sent in another order. I figured that the Mint had received an avalanche of mail, perhaps this order would get through also. It didn?t. It was rejected. It was not surprising. But the fact was that even though I knew the sets were sold out, I tried it any way. What could I lose? It is human nature. I can also blame it on the fact that I was 13 years old at the time. At least that is what I tell my older self.
Fortunately for me, the order that I had sent in in a timely manner was accepted and eventually I got my two sets. Prices on the secondary market went up. I should have sold them both, taken the profit and bought them back later. However, it also is human nature to think the sets would go up more. I had a bad case of it. The sets eventually fell below issue price and remained there for many years. Wow, two lessons in life in just a few short months.
But now let me address the other side of the issue. If I wanted to get proof sets for a price that I knew was less than the secondary market would be willing to pay, and the e-mail writer wanted to buy American Eagles for what would likely be below gold value (at least on the day the order was to be placed), does that tell us that we all want to buy below market?
Well, consider this. About 20 years ago, we had a promotion at our booth at the Long Beach convention. We offered to sell anyone who wanted one a current $2 bill for $1.75. We had a nice photo of the then current $2 Federal Reserve Note and the price clearly marked.
While working the table, I tried to induce people to come and take advantage of the deal. It is amazing how many persons refused. What was to consider about making an immediate 25-cent profit in acquiring the $2 bill?
Well, an awful lot of people thought there was a catch somewhere. They just knew it. The catch, of course, was they had to sign up for the $2 with their full name and address and then they could walk away with the $2 for $1.75. It is understandable that some would not want their address revealed, but I do not remember a single person refusing to register for the $2 once they got to our table and learning they had to give us their name and address. The reluctant ones just dismissed the offer out of hand without stopping and learning details.
So human nature urges us on to try to buy stuff below market, but if this below-market price is freely offered, it raises suspicions. We humans are strange, aren?t we?