This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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The U.S. Mint lost 25 percent of its customers last year, but don’t blame it all on high prices.
A Numismatic News poll question in the last issue asked readers if high prices kept them from buying Mint products. Dozens of readers responded with a decisive “Yes,” while others cited the economy, quality, customer service and difficulty obtaining desired products as reasons for cutting back on orders.
“As a long-time collector, I think the Mint is just putting too many products out and flooding the market,” said Don Frederickson of Salem, Ore. “I would like to see fewer things being brought out and maybe better designs.”
For Gary M. Brown, a coin dealer in Las Vegas, Nev., the resale value of the Mint products, or lack thereof, is an issue.
“Why would people want to purchase (invest in) Mint products only to lose money after time goes by?” Brown asks. “They wouldn’t. As bad as bank rates are these days, at least they’re paying half a percent interest.”
Tough financial times, a decline in quality and the high cost of sets, bags and rolls have probably led to a decline in customers, said Mike Shea of Englewood, Fla.
“Just got an e-mail from the Mint telling me that 2011 silver proof sets are on sale at only $67.95 each,” wrote Chip Pruzik of Sycamore, Ill. “If I had false teeth they would have fallen out. I am done with the Mint’s products.”
Stephen Album, a dealer in Santa Rosa, Calif., sees two reasons for the drop in customers.
“The most obvious is the recession and its aftermath,” he wrote. “But perhaps the second and most intriguing likelihood is that the Mint is offering too many ‘what’s its’ beyond what is of interest to the traditional U.S. coin collection.”
“Good grief! Just read the previous issues in NN and you’ll get your answer,” said Ken Kassen of Shawnee, Kan. “It seems that for every high praise letter about the Mint I read three who complain of poor customer service.”
But don’t think the Mint isn’t trying to make things better, said B.B. Craig, Mint associate director of marketing.
The order management system will get a complete overhaul in the next eight months, Craig said. No more just putting new paint over old paint, he said.
A U.S. Mint customer wants the same buying experience Amazon offers, he said.
“They don’t compare us to other Mints, but to other industries,” Craig said.
And because of that, an executive level team has been formed that meets weekly to address customer concerns.
“Our business belongs to the American public. This is not Craig, Inc.,” he said. “We are trying to make everyone happy.”
That’s going to take some work to win back Debra Hubert of California, who calls herself a long-time buyer from the Mint.
The lack of a 2009 proof silver Eagle, and distribution of the 5-ounce silver America the Beautiful coin have left her mad and disappointed.
“I feel like I’ve been let down by a good friend,” Hubert said. “The Mint has a lot of work to do to repair the mistakes they have made.”
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