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Sellout opens all the same wounds

The Mint achieved a sellout of its 25th anniversary American Eagle set in a few hours Oct. 27.

Collectors ponied up over $30 million to snap up 100,000 sets. They jammed the Mint’s phone lines and spiked traffic to the Mint’s website.

Naturally, I have to comment about it, but what more can I add to what I have already written about other Mint sellouts in similar circumstances in recent years?

It seems to be the same broken record played over and over again.

Some might say it is like the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. I was tempted to write that, but then I remembered the plot. Bill Murray repeated the same day over and over again, but he finally realized that reliving the day should be used to make the outcome better and better each time. That’s absolutely the opposite of what collectors feel happened with the Eagle anniversary set sellout.

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The good news is the Mint’s website didn’t crash during the order onslaught, unlike what happened in some prior cases. When silver American Eagle proofs were offered last November, the Mint posted a warning of the potential website bottleneck, but then 2,200 orders were accidentally deleted.

Late next year the Mint’s website is supposed to be seriously upgraded. That’ is good news, but it seems far off in the future.

What about now?

Collectors who experienced delays in getting their anniversary set orders entered were inconvenienced, but if they were successful in doing so, they feel pretty good about buying something so many others wanted. It’s the numismatic version of standing in front of an Apple store for a couple of days for a new iPhone. It becomes a badge of honor.

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However, collectors who failed to get through and as a result were unable to buy any of the anniversary sets are not happy, because they feel the website and phone delays stopped them.

The failed buyers also question the 100,000 set limit and the household order limit of 5, which means 20,000 buyers could scoop up the entire supply. Obviously, there were more buyers than sets. It is logical to insist after the fact that the Mint should have had more sets available. But how many more?

The Mint has many programs where collectors can have all they want. The result is they don’t want all that many and 100,000 can seem adequate.

The Mint should have known this would be one of the better offers, disappointed collectors will retort. These disappointed collectors have a case. Part of marketing is knowing historical demand patterns and anticipating outcomes – correctly.

When the 2009 Ultra High Relief gold $20 was offered, the order limit was one per household, gradually raised and then abolished as the Mint became confident it could fulfill all demand for the special coin.

Perhaps it can be Groundhog Day. What will happen when collectors wake up again for the next likely sellout?

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