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Mint set’s time has passed

Today the U.S. Mint will begin selling the 2016 uncirculated coin set, which features an uncirculated example of all current coinage.

Using the term current coinage is fraught these days because half dollars and dollar coins basically do not circulate. Can they be current? If they are, does that make commemorative coins and bullion coins current? They are actively produced this year and are actively marketed, but they do not circulate.

Should we perhaps rename the uncirculated coin set?

The shorthand hobby name is mint set, but its name is not really a definition of what the set is either.

Base metal coin set would be closer to the mark, but it would also apply to proof sets. But it would rule out most commemoratives and all bullion coins by definition.

Base metal uncirculated coin set perhaps would be best of all, but anyone who wants to market these coins would probably not be happy.

Where’s the pizzazz in such a name?

Whatever it is called, this year’s set is priced at $26.95, which is a dollar less than last year’s set.

The reduction reflects that there are only three Presidential dollar designs in it this year rather than the four in sets going back to 2007.

Take away a Philadelphia and a Denver Presidential dollar and subtract $1 from the issue price. Right you are.

The 26 coins in the set have a face value of $11.82. Issue price is 2.28 times face value.

Collectors purchased just over 300,000 of the 2015 sets.

That is a far cry from the 2 million to 3 million sets routinely sold annually in the 1968-1981 period.

No sets were made in 1982 and 1983 as part of a government cost-cutting exercise.

While this was not the cause of the long-term decline in collector interest in these sets, I sometimes think with the benefit of hindsight that it might have been better to have left the sets abolished.

Uncirculated coin sets are something from another time with different collector attitudes. That means only question to ask about this year’s offering is how few will be sold.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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